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While 'Saturday Night Live' warns against ordering seafood at a diner, Food & Wine's restaurant editor reminds us lobster doesn't have to be fancy.

Adam Campbell-Schmitt
April 16, 2018

It's safe to say if you've ever sat down for bite to eat at a standard American diner (especially those in the greater New York City area) you've more than likely seen a few items on the menu you wouldn't expect—pizza, duck, maybe even sushi. But when it comes to diner dish options, limitless isn't necessarily what you're looking for. Burgers and fries, a tuna melt, or a stack of pancakes at 5 p.m., these are the things good diner menus are made of. For some reason—perhaps a sense of pride or besting the competition—a few diners like to throw in high-end items amongst the triple-decker turkey clubs, including, yes, lobster. But who would decide a greasy spoon is a perfect place to treat themselves to the, typically, white tablecloth establishment fare? On this past weekend's Saturday Night Live, we get to see just such a person and the epic musical aftermath of their order.

Pete Davidson and Chris Redd's characters are seated at a diner, ready to order their dinner from a waiter played by the episode's host, stand-up comic and former SNL writer John Mulaney. While Redd's character orders the grilled cheese with a salad, Davidson's character goes all in—he's got some extra cash in his pocket to burn and he's going for the lobster special. Redd, like any sane friend the exact same situation, advises Davidson against the choice given their choice of eatery. "No one orders a lobster in a diner. The whole seafood section is on the menu as a joke. The word 'seafood' is in quotes." Despite the warnings, Davidson insists on the lobster. "As you wish," Mulaney's waiter replies. And that's when the music swells.

In a parody of the musical Les Misérables, a lobster dressed like Jean Valjean and played by Kenan Thompson emerges from the back of the room singing about his impending doom after decades of waiting to be ordered. The finale takes the exquisite lyrics of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's "One Day More" and replaces them with a poetically explicit description of what happens to your digestive system when you eat lobster from a diner.

But hang on! While it's true, there are certainly sketchy situations where ordering seafood is not advised, casual lobster isn't such a bad bet. After all, some of the best seafood you'll find is served from small beachside shacks and walk-up windows. Food & Wine restaurant editor Jordana Rothman (who just selected our Restaurants of the Year) recommends a few less-than-fancy places where you actually should order the lobster and other seafood this summer:

Abbott's Lobster—Noank, CT

This local hotspot located on near the mouth of Long Island Sound has been serving up lobster and other shellfish for over 70 years.

117 Pearl Street, Noank, CT 06340; 860-536-7719

Bagaduce Lunch—Brooksville, Maine

Despite the humble digs and a menu unchanged since 1946, this family-run establishment is the recipient of a James Beard Foundation Award.

145 Franks Flat Brooksville, Maine 04476; (207) 326-4197

The Lobster Roll—Amagansett, NY

The Hamptons know how to party, and do so with an eye for the upscale, but this South Shore eatery on the end of Long Island is all about the classic lunch shack vibe.

1980 Montauk Hwy, Amagansett, NY 11930 ; (631) 267-3740

The Place—Guilford, CT

With a wood-slatted menu board and tree stump seating, the perennial summer favorite opens on April 27 this year.

901 Boston Post Rd. Guilford, CT 06437; (203) 453-9276

Swan Oyster Depot—San Franciso, CA

Belly up to this raw bar (literally, with just bar seating) located in San Francisco's Nob Hill neighborhood.

1517 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109 ; (415) 673-1101

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