You might be tempted to believe Viking Lobster Company is closed for business when you first drive by it. Located at the corner of Tonawanda and Austin Streets, inside a repurposed, three-story home, it doesn’t show many signs of life from the outside. But press on, despite any initial misgivings.
We did on a recent Friday night and were pleasantly surprised by our experience. After taking a few pauses to figure out which door to enter (the one at the top of the rough-hewn ramp!), we made our way to a time capsule of a dining room that portended the old-school seafood meal we were about to be served.
The menu isn’t particularly lengthy, but our server—a warm, wonderfully brassy woman who playfully asked my permission to slap my companion within five minutes of meeting him (I emphatically granted)—rattled off a handful of unlisted appetizers (lobster arancini, fresh oysters, stuffed peppers, peel-and-eat shrimp, bacon-wrapped scallops) that made our decision making process more difficult.
“What can I say, we aren’t very good at counting,” was our server’s sassy, wink-wink response.
They were good—not because they were fancy or delicate, but because they were simple and straightforward and salty and smoky. The freshness of the product was paramount. According to a server speaking to a nearby table, Viking’s seafood is flown in weekly—on ice, so it is never frozen—direct from the waters of Boston. The restaurant buys its seafood wholesale depending on the number of reservations it has for the week, which means calling ahead to let them know your intentions to dine there and party size is helpful. We left a voicemail indicating the time and date we desired to come in, and received a text message confirmation from the restaurant within a day. That message also noted important dining policies, including the fact that Viking does not accept credit cards or checks, so a trip to the ATM is necessary before arriving.
Our entrées came with soup AND salad (no one-or-the-other bullsh*t here) and a choice of side. Our server felt compelled to warn us that the lettuce for the salads would be more bitter and a different texture than, say, classic, crisp romaine, owing to the fact that it was grown at Viking’s organic farm in Niagara County. Music to our ears. They also came with a choice of homemade dressings—basil Caesar vinaigrette or creamy clam. We got one of each and enjoyed both, but agreed the creamy clam was the winner. We put the accompanying, butter-saturated garlic bread to good use, sopping up every last bit. A table nearby must have shared our sentiments, as they were overhead asking their server if the kitchen was willing to sell a bottle of it to go.
For the soup course, my companion chose the housemade gumbo, which featured chunks of crab, along with rice and parsley, in a porky, peppery broth. He called it tasty but not mind-blowing. My allergy to crustaceans (nerd alert!) precluded me from partaking in either of the available soups, but I negotiated an extra side dish out of the deal, so win.
That my chosen sides—kale sautéed with bacon and yellow summer squash—also featured organic produce from the restaurant’s farm was evident in taste in texture. They were noticeably fresher than conventional, well-traveled vegetables, and perceptibly earthy.
They were perfect alongside my large piece of haddock, which was expertly cooked and only lightly seasoned, reflecting the kitchen’s respect for its ingredients. The fish was wonderfully buttery in texture.
My companion’s piece of salmon (lead image), ordered Cajun style, was nicely seasoned but a little overcooked, which meant it wasn’t as luscious as the haddock. His choice of brown rice was simple, not exciting, but prepared with just the right amount of salt and fat to make you keep going back for forkfuls.
Servings were so ample that we could not finish our meals, and half of everything went home in a box. All told, our bill hovered around the $70 mark—not including tip or alcohol, because Viking doesn’t serve it. The restaurant is, however, BYOB and will provide ice buckets and glasses for whatever you bring in. So come prepared with a bottle or a growler—heck, bring in a cooler or a keg, if it suits you. A seafood feast awaits, and you don’t want to be left wanting for drink.
Editor’s note: The filet mignon and the French fries are, hands down, two of the tastiest morsels in all of Buffalo.
Viking Lobster Company | 366 Tonawanda Street | Buffalo, NY | (716) 873-1079 | Facebook