A visit to “Lobster Dave” Taylor’s mail-order seafood shop reveals that he’s living up to his name. The place is packed to the gills with all things Maine lobster: saltwater tanks containing the real deal, all kinds of crustacean-related memorabilia, and a huge lobster that Taylor carved out of Styrofoam hanging from the ceiling.
“I got sick of people coming in here asking, ‘Is this the lobster place?’ ” he says, laughing, motioning to the upside-down shellfish.
There’s no shortage of quirky stuff inside GourMaine Lobster (3045 Rosecrans St., Suite 212, Point Loma), like the poster of a pin-up illustration depicting a sexy waitress with — you guessed it — a lobster on a nearby serving tray, its claw ever-so-slightly lifting her skirt.
“You know, more women like it than men,” Taylor’s wife, Gail, says of the poster. “It’s tastefully done, isn’t it?”
The Taylors are a real hoot, and they are crazy about lobster. Both have tattoos of the shellfish — Taylor on his bicep, Gail on her foot. When they aren’t selling it, the two collaborate on artwork to pass the time, with Gail painting her husband’s Styrofoam fish sculptures.
Dave Taylor has been a lobster salesman for five years, taking phone orders and picking up 40-pound shipments from the airport. He’s become known around the neighborhood as “Lobster Dave,” with personal chefs, sushi chefs, and East Coast transplants – his most loyal regulars – among his customers.
“Flavor-wise, the Maine lobsters are a lot sweeter,” he says. “People from back East come in here because of that. It’s an unreal difference. To me, California lobsters are like shrimp.”
Taylor says a good week is when he pushes 600 pounds of the sweet flesh, which happens around big holidays. Prices per pound fluctuate; currently, it’s $18. Call Taylor with weight specifications and a credit card number, and in a couple of days, he’ll have lobsters ready for you, alive and kicking.
Taylor does have a warning for lobster buyers: “If you don’t cook ’em right, you’re going to think, ‘What did I waste my money on?’ ” He often recommends taking the lobsters live to one his clients, Kyoto Sushi, where owner Michael Lei will prepare the shellfish any way you like.
“I’ve eaten so much lobster, I’ve kind of given up on it,” Taylor said. “But when Michael cooks it, you’ll want to eat the shell. I’m not kidding!”
Kyoto Sushi (3166 Midway Drive, Suite 108, Sports Arena) opened around the same time as GourMaine Lobster, and it’s since become a destination for Dave and Gail Taylor to feast on their East Coast delicacies Japanese-style. The couple also sends a mix of inexperienced lobster cooks and adventurous eaters over to Michael Lei’s restaurant, where he’ll do all the dirty work for $20 and up. Call ahead, choose a preparation — Lei says he’ll use any ingredients — and bring him the live lobster 30 minutes before you want to eat it. Avoid Fridays and Saturdays, Lei says, so he can ensure that your special meal gets the attention it deserves.
Lei’s salt and pepper lobster is a hit. He cuts the meaty tail into three-bite chunks, leaves the claws intact, and then coats it in a light batter before frying to a golden brown. When the platter of hot, juicy lobster arrives, your table will erupt in shell cracking and slurping as everyone tries not to miss a bite.
Amy T. Granite is a dauntless eater who's written about food in San Diego since 2006. Granite enjoys using alternative storytelling approaches in the hopes of not only entertaining readers, but educating them as well. You can follow Granite and her tasty adventures on Twitter and Instagram @saysgranite. Send your mouth-watering ideas to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.