In its early weeks, Knuckle & Claw had a hard time with supply. The first time I visited, I was greeted with a sign on the door saying that, due to weather in Boston, the day's lobster shipment had not arrived. There would be no lobster at the lobster roll shack. The second time, lobster was not a problem, but when I tried to order a bowl of clam chowder, the guy behind the counter said they were out. "We might have some by tonight," he said, "if we have time to make it today." Such are the hurdles of moving from a farmers market stand to an actual restaurant. With business hours on the door and a menu on the wall, supply and demand becomes way trickier.
Knuckle & Claw, which opened a few weeks ago, is the work of Chloe Dahl and Nikki Booth. The pair previously sold their rolls at the Brentwood and Beverly Glen farmers markets and now aim to bring the feel of a New England seafood shack to the heart of Silver Lake. While many others have voiced similar goals (the folks behind littlefork, Connie & Ted's, Fishing With Dynamite and the forthcoming Catch & Release), Dahl and Booth are keeping it simple. This is just a colorful little shack serving lobster rolls, some other seafood rolls, grilled cheese sandwiches and soups (when they've had time to make them).
To that end, they've done a swell job of making this little slot of a space next to a car lot feel very much like a sunny beach eatery. The walls are a pleasing dark blue; the nautical prints on them and the wood-benched patio out the side create a distinctly oceanside vibe. You can sit out front and look out over the busses whizzing by on Sunset Boulevard and the graffiti across the street, but the interior is pleasingly transportive.
The lobster roll itself is a purist's dream. As the name implies, they serve only knuckle and claw meat — no tail. And it's dressed incredibly simply. There is a light smear of mayo on the bread itself, and the meat is drizzled with butter. There's a sprinkle of spice mix, the contents of which the owners won't reveal, but it's subtle enough that my guess is the main spices are salt and pepper. You get a couple of lemon wedges for squeezing, and that's it. No celery, no filler. Just lobster and bread.
It's a sweet, bouncy experience to eat one of these things, and it makes you realize how much obfuscation is taking place with so many other lobster rolls. This generosity and purity will cost you: A lobster roll here is $19. You can get a mini version for half the price, but it's barely a few bites' worth. There's a shrimp roll for $9 if you're slumming, and a Dungeness crab roll for $22 if you're feeling flush. Or you could just shell out $40 and get two lobster rolls.
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Word is a liquor license is in the works, but you know how that goes in L.A. For now, there's lemonade and Mexican Coke. One day recently, when food was taking an awfully long time to come out, one of the owners made the rounds, passing out free bottled water in apology. Restaurant ownership is hard, but with hospitality like this it looks like they're getting the hang of it.
Knuckle & Claw, 3112 W. Sunset Blvd. Silver Lake; (323) 407-6142, knuckleandclaw.com