Bringing fast-casual shellfish to Vegas
When the Las Vegas-based LEV Restaurant Group was considering its next venture, its partners noticed Sin City was particularly under-crustaceaned. So they opened Lobster ME, a fast-casual concept that aims to bring the taste of New England to the desert. Located on the Vegas strip in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, this past August Lobster ME debuted a walk-up counter-service eatery open for three meals a day.
The décor at Lobster ME utilizes traditional colors, signage and materials of Maine, along with iconic coastal elements such as a buoy chandelier, onion-shaped lights and functional lobster traps. Creating, developing and operating innovative F&B concepts like this one is the hallmark of LEV Restaurant Group, which was founded in 2002 by Jeffrey Fine. The group owns iburgers and operates 32 units of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Jamba Juice, collectively.
The menu at Lobster ME is a mixture of traditional and non-traditional New England dishes. Lobster bisque and lobster and shrimp ceviche are offered alongside lobster mac & cheese; lobster grilled cheese; lobster, eggs & tots; lobster rolls; the lobsicle — fried lobster on a stick; and for the sweet-toothed, lobster ice cream. The dishes range in price from a $4 lobster shot to a $22 lobster roll combo, with most entrées in the $9-to-$15 range.
With only 1,000 square feet in which to work and up to eight staff at any one time, there’s no place for live lobster tanks. Instead the crustaceans are harvested in Maine, processed and frozen in Prince Edward Island, Canada, and shipped to Vegas six days a week. Zachary Conine, VP of development for LEV, would not disclose information on the company’s lobster supplier.
“Because the concept is so new, we are effectively month-to-month on lobster purchasing,” he says. “As we better understand volumes and usage, we intend to extend that.” The LEV culinary team had planned a sourcing trip to Maine this fall to discuss Lobster ME’s actual needs. “We also like seeing the operations we work with; how they present themselves, how their employees feel about the company and whether or not they’re good stewards of the sea,” Conine says.