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The Lobster Trap Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

The Lobster Trap

5300 North Park Drive

Pennsauken, NJ

For three years, I have driven by the Lobster Trap Restaurant on the banks of the Cooper River in Pennsauken nearly every day.  I have parked in the parking lot they share with the playground so many times, I have lost count.  But I have never had a desire to stop in and eat there.  The outside of the restaurant is a little shack looking – like a snack bar on the beach kind of feel.  It really looks like you could walk out of Cooper River, all Creature from the Black Lagoon looking, and walk right up to the restaurant and eat.  And who wants to eat next to the Creature from the Black Lagoon? 

So we are a year away from our middle daughter’s First Holy Communion.  For the oldest daughter’s celebration of her First Holy Communion, we went to Yesterday’s, located on the Intracoastal Waterway in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  Well, we lived there then, and there were any number of restaurants to choose from with a waterfront view.  I was hoping we would find something just as nice here, with an interesting view, and as we were walking around Cooper River during a regatta a couple of weeks ago, we thought it might be worth looking into the Lobster Shack, um, I mean Trap after all.

Can I just say that you could have knocked me over with a feather when we walked in late last Thursday night for our dinner.  You walk across the boardwalk entry ramp into a restaurant that is bright, crisp and clean looking.  Simple but elegant in decor, I am quite surprised at how busy this place is at this hour.  It is almost 9 PM when we walk in, and there is still a pretty good dinner crowd.

We are offered a table in the dining room or out on the deck, and even though it’s too dark to really see or appreciate the view of the river during our meal, Jim asks for a deck table.  We have our middle daughter with us, and even though the deck has heavy plastic “walls” keeping the cool evening breeze out, she is cold from the ceiling fans.  The deck itself is adorable, if a little kitzchy.  The wooden frame is adorned with white twinkle lights, and decorated heavily with silk plants.  There is plenty of room out here for a party of our size (we are estimating anywhere from 25 – 40 people), and the manager tells us that he can keep an area separate for a larger party, even while he still seats other diners out here.

I am a little taken aback by the prices listed on the menu.  Having recently eaten at the more upscale McCormick & Schmick’s, the Lobster Trap prices seem a little steep even compared with the fresh menu from McCormick & Schmick’s.  We see a range of prices that go from $20 for chicken and shrimp or chicken stuffed with crab to $45 for King crab and lobster tail.  I’m on a scallop kick, so I order the grilled sea scallops ($22.50).  That’s when I find out that you also get a soup or salad, a potato, and a vegetable with the meal, so it really makes it seem much more reasonably priced than it did a minute ago.  I order mine with salad, as the only soup offering is New England clam chowder, which can be a bit tough to eat after gastric bypass surgery.  I opt for the baked potato and grilled vegetables.  Eilis selects the flounder, which is broiled with lemon and butter for $18.50.  She also chose the salad and had french fries and apple sauce as her side dishes.  Jim had the special of the night, which was a Chilean sea bass, and ordered the clam chowder, garlic mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables.  We start the meal with one of Eilis’ favorites – fried calamari.  At $10.50, the platter was piled high with lightly breaded rings of calamari and a delicious marinara sauce.  Some of the calamari was a little tough to chew, which is more of an issue for me post operatively than it is for anyone else at the table, but we manage to scarf down the appetizer in short order. 

Our super friendly waitress brings a warm loaf of soft, delicious bread that Eilis and Jim both enjoy enough to want to bring the leftovers home with them, if there are any leftovers!  Jim only drinks water with his meals, and the waitress is very quick to refill his glass, which is a big plus in his book.

Eilis flounder is delivered, and looks and smells delicious.  She digs right in and enjoys the broiled to perfection fish so much that she all but ignores the big mountain of fries on the plate next to her.  The fish is perfectly seasoned, and the portion is pretty generous, but the fries are DELICIOUS!  I know, I know, you’re saying “What the heck is she doing eating fries after gastric bypass surgery?  What a fat ass!”  Get over yourself.  It’s not like I gobbled down the whole plate.  I merely sampled the fries, which were crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and boasted just the right amount of salt.  No ketchup needed to hide the taste of these fries!  The apple sauce didn’t get eaten, except a quick bite for Eilis to determine it tasted funny.

Jim’s Chilean sea bass is beautifully presented alongside a heaping portion of the garlic mashed potatoes.  This is a wonderful piece of fish.  Thick and delicately flavored, this is easily the highlight of the table.  He eyes my baked potato and suddenly does not remember ordering garlic mashed potatoes, but he says they are good and gets through a good amount of them before getting too full. 

My scallops arrive in what looks like a spun sugar bowl – except it’s more of a string potato type thing.  It’s very pretty, but I don’t taste it because I know I’m not going to have room as it is for the good sized portion of scallops.  I am a little disappointed that the flavor of the scallops doesn’t quite match the two fish dishes.  They are a little bland, and I add my own salt, but the potato is steaming hot and light and fluffy; while the grilled vegetables are a nicely seasoned assortment that are really enjoyable.

By the time we finish with our meal, Eilis is cold and we are all stuffed.  We grab the info on the banquet menu, and we are warned that because our event is a year away, with the way prices are going up, there is a good likelihood that the prices on the current menu will not be honored next year at this time. 

We enjoyed the meal overall, and the interior of the location was a very pleasant surprise.  On a scale of 1-5, I would say the Lobster Trap is a solid 3, with some things (french fries) definitely scoring higher.  The service was pleasant, the atmosphere is comfortable and relaxed, and this is definitely on the list for the First Holy Communion party.

Cafe TuTu Tango A Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

As a person who has had a gastric bypass procedure, it can sometimes be challenging to find something on the menu at a mainstream restaurant that I can – or want to – eat.  As an overweight person, I didn’t realize how absolutely HUGE the portions can be at restaurants, so no matter where I go now, I end up taking most of my meal home with me – and even doing that, much of it ends up going to waste.  I try to steer clear of the things that are fried, things that have rice or pasta, anything with bread.  It really does wake you up to the fact that my options are limited wherever we go.

Cafe TuTu Tango was one of our favorite places to get a bite to eat when we lived in Orlando.  Jim even organized an office Christmas party there one year, and everyone had a blast.  While driving down International Drive in Orlando during our recent trip, thinking we might find a new restaurant to try, Cafe TuTu Tango popped up and a quick decision was made to revisit our old stomping grounds.

The “theme” of Tutu Tango is “Food for the Starving Artist”.  Everything here is served tapas style – or appetizer sized.  This keeps the cost of getting something to eat at a reasonable level, and it allows you to try a couple of things, or a table to try several things, that can be passed and shared.  This place is a gastric bypass patient’s dream come true!

On our lunch visit, we walked in to find the restaurant virtually empty.  We were quickly seated, and both girls given crayons and pictures of Backyardigans characters to color.  Granuaile LOVES the Backyardigans, and she was thrilled.  Jim and I browsed the menu, and quickly discouraged Eilis from ordering off of the children’s menu and allowing us to pick some things we thought she might like to try.  The kids’ menu at Cafe TuTu Tango is similar to every other children’s menu you’ve seen – heavy on the fried and fatty.  Any kid would be glad to have something – corn dogs, chicken strips, the usual fare.  But we’re emphasizing healthy eating, and the adult menu has a bigger variety of better for you choices.

The specials menu features a hummus with pita chips, and it’s only $3 for a good sized portion.  I order that, as I currently love hummus, but Eilis apparently enjoys it as well and is scooping up quite a bit of it on the tiny pitas and pita chips.  Jim orders a bowl of black bean soup for he and I to share, and I have to say, of all the foods we ate, this was the one disappointment for me.  There was an overwhelming citrusy taste to it, and very little of any other flavor.  I felt like I should add salt, but then didn’t want to add salt because it tasted so citrusy that I thought the salt would make it taste funny.  Jim ended up with the whole bowl after I braved a second bite to determine I really didn’t like it.

The kids practically devoured the shrimp and chicken potstickers, which you can order steamed like we did or deep fried.  Eilis didn’t even try the sauce until the very end, and then was dipping everything into it.  We also ordered a chicken pizza to give the kids something familiar.  The flavorful, thin crusted pizza had chunks of chicken, carmelized onion, and three cheeses.  The chicken pizza is a white pizza with a nice garlicky flavor.  Another big hit was the scallops – broiled to perfection and with a lime sauce that was really tasty.  Scallops are one of the foods I can easily eat, and after sharing one of the large scallops between Granuaile and Eilis, I ate one whole one myself and split the last one with Jim. 

With drinks – a very nicely flavored unsweetened ice tea for me, and sodas for the kids (Jim only drinks water), and a magnificent looking dessert of banana pizza (bananas, caramel, and ice cream atop a pizza crust), the bill came to about $50 for the 4 of us.  Because the portions are smaller sized, there really is no waste for someone who has a compromised gastrointestinal tract like we do after weight loss surgery, and you really can choose from a good selection of proteins, salads, the soup (there are two on the menu).  I would have been more than content with the scallop dish and a small salad (there are 5 salads on the menu, and 3 contain some form of protein) if I was there eating alone, but had PLENTY to eat even in choosing foods I knew the kids would like.  The pizza crust is thin enough that I could easily eat it without getting sick, which a lot of pizza crust can do to me, and there are many other options on the menu I could have tried with a table full of WLS patients that would have skipped any type of bread/crust at all. 

The added bonus to Cafe TuTu Tango is they feature art work throughout the restaurant from local artists.  You can purchase any of the pieces on display, and you really get a good sampling of local talent – in everything from sculpture to painting. 

This is definitely a must do restaurant for Gastric Bypass patients – and anyone who is looking for a menu filled with delicious surprises, international flavors and eclectic flair.

Kunkel’s Seafood and Steakhouse Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

Opened in June, 2005, Kunkel’s Seafood and Steakhouse restaurant is like finding the pearl in the oyster from the looks of it.  Standing alone at the end of a mostly abandoned strip of stores who’s primary resident is Tony Soprano’s Pizza, Kunkel’s looks like a charming little restaurant that you would find in a much more upscale neighborhood.  When you walk inside, you really are transformed into what you might think of when you think of a dinner club – rich woods, warm colors, roaring fireplaces.  Everything from the beautiful mahogany bar to the lovely yet subtle paintings on the wall gives you a feeling of warm and cozy.

Back in September, we ate at Kunkel’s for my birthday.  At the time, we found service to be a bit lacking and the food needing a heavy hand with the salt and pepper shakers.  That was okay.  The atmosphere was lovely, we were out of the house without our children, and we had a nice, leisurely meal that lasted nearly 2 hours. 

When we were trying to decide where to eat on this particular evening in February, 2006, Jim decided he wanted to go back to Kunkel’s.  It was, afterall, much cooler now, so those roaring fireplaces would be roaring and making the place even more comfortable.  We arrived just after 8 on a Thursday evening.  The bar had a couple of patrons seated there, but the restaurant was virtually empty.  There was one couple just finishing their meal, another couple close to finishing, and one couple who must have arrived shortly before we did.  By the end of the night it was just Jim and I, leaving at about 9:20.  We were seated immediately, and after a couple minutes of a wait, our waiter came over to introduce himself and describe the specials.  Jim interrupted him and ordered drinks right away (It should be noted here that Kunkel’s is a BYOB restaurant).  Another few minutes passed, and he came back with the drinks, then gave us the list of specials.  We placed our order, and after some confusion with the clams Jim ordered, a large plate of a dozen top stone clams was delivered to the table. 

I want to mention that when we were here last, they spoke of the awesome raw bar that they would be putting up at the front of the restaurant.  I think one of the reasons Jim wanted to go here was because of the raw bar, that would surely have been up and functioning by now.  Well, the waiter explained that the raw bar was closed because of the smell and because it was just easier for them to open the seafood in the kitchen.  That was disappointing.  Jim had not really looked at the raw bar options, so he placed an order for “cherrystones” – meaning clams.  Our waiter finished taking our order and said, “I’ll be right back with your oysters.”   I waited patiently to see if that was just a mix up in vocabulary, but a minute later, he came back and told Jim which kinds of oysters they had, since they did not have cherrystone oysters.  Jim told him they were clams, so the guy set off again.  I heard someone giving him a lesson on clams and clam sizes, and he came back yet again to let Jim know that they had no cherrystones, only little necks and top necks.  Jim settled on the top necks, and eventually, they showed up.

I do not eat clams, but I did order a salad, which Jim did not.  It would have been nice if the waiter had brought my salad while Jim was eating his clams, but perhaps he thought we would share the clams.  After the clam plate was cleared away, he brought our soup.  Jim ordered the winter vegetable soup and I ordered the crab soup.  I only took a bite of Jim’s vegetable soup, but was completely unimpressed.  The crab soup, however, was a huge disappointment.  The broth was tomato based, but there was so little crab in the soup that there was absolutely no crab flavor.  There was a ton of corn in it, so most of what I tasted was the corn.  In addition to lacking crab flavor, the soup was terribly bland, and I was grateful for the salt and pepper shakers to add my own bit of spices. 

About mid-way through my cup of soup, my salad arrived.  It was a mixed green salad and I ordered the poppy seed dressing.  The dressing is essentially honey mustard dressing with poppy seeds in it.  It had a nice flavor, but I am a big salad dressing lover.  The tiny portion that was served in a cup next to the salad barely covered the top layer of greens and one or two of the grape tomatoes.  The rest of my salad, I ate dry 🙁  

Next up, the entrees.  I have to say, the menu here, although it calls itself a seafood and steak house, is rather limited in both options.  Jim asked me several times to check the menu for a broiled seafood platter or something more than just one type of fish.  I could find nothing.  He settled instead for one of the pasta dishes – billed as spaghetti with lump crabmeat.  I ordered the chorizo encrusted Mahi-Mahi, which was served with greens and chipotle sweet potatoes.  Jim’s “spaghetti” turned out to be more of an angel hair pasta, and the thin tomato sauce, which seemed to have been mixed in with the pasta, had just a hint of crabmeat.  There were definitely no “lumps” of crabmeat – more like strings of crabmeat mixed in.  The biggest pieces of anything we found were a few pieces of sliced garlic, which really were the only flavor powerful in the dish.

The Mahi-Mahi was a bit of a mixed bag.  The fish itself tasted fine – if a bit bland.  The problem was, as soon as the fork was set to it, the chorizo crust crumbled and fell apart on the plate.  You had to scoop up the fish, then scoop up some of the chorizo to get both flavors together.  And can I just say, continuing on with the bland theme of the evening, I have never had a more mild chorizo in my life.  I am not a spicy food lover, but I don’t mind a little kick to things.  I enjoy a nice chorizo mixed in with seafood, rice, pasta, but this had literally no true flavor.  The mashed sweet potato did have a bite from the chipotle peppers – almost too much for me.  Again, not being a lover of hot and spicy foods, I thought the peppers in this dish over powered the sweet potato.  But, knowing that lack of flavor was one of the problems we encountered on our last meal here, I never expected there to be as much heat in the potatoes as there was.

That brings me to the greens – the highlight of the evening.  To use an old Southern saying, the greens were so good, they made you wanna slap yo’ momma!!   They were smokey and delicious, and I could have eaten a whole plate of just those and left the fish and potatoes behind.  YUMMY. 

Because we were enjoying being in each other’s company, we took a chance on dessert.  We ordered the caramel apple and pumpkin strudle.  The strudle was almost egg roll in shape and was cut into two generous pieces.  It was served drizzled with caramel and next to a small scoop of a maple ice cream.  Oh man, the ice cream was so good – and served topped with a few sugar coated nuts.  The strudel was okay – I only tasted one bite of apple in the half I ate, and the rest was basically a pumpkin pie filling.  I’m not sure I like warm pumpkin pie, but when you took a bite of the strudel with the cold ice cream, it was very good.  The ice cream was the star on this plate.

Service – well, considering the fact that we were the only table our waiter had, it was awful.  Our drinks were never refilled in the nearly hour and a half that we were there until we ordered dessert and asked for them to be filled.  During the whole time, our waiter only came over once to see how everything was.  Dirty plates were left there too long, and when dinner was served, I had to clear away my salad dish myself, even though it had been sitting empty for quite some time. 

It really is a shame that such a beautiful restaurant is so disappointing.  You really want to love the food here, because you love the atmosphere.  I am sorry to say we won’t be back – and I mean that.  I love the cozy, warm ambience the restaurant has, I just don’t love the food.  And since for two of us to dine, without alcohol, it cost nearly $90, I would have to LOVE the food to go back.