How would you like to score a really good crab cake or a lobster roll without having to make the drive to Baltimore or schedule a vacation in Maine?
Watch for two new food trucks trolling the food truck scene: Cousins Maine Lobster, which came to national attention on the show "Shark Tank," arrives in Charlotte today with a couple of quiet stops, then opens officially April 27. The other is the Baltimore Crab Cake Company, which has been dipping a toe in the waters for a couple of months.
Baltimore Crab Cake is more local than it sounds: Co-owner Mike Olert is known in barbecue circles as one of the Scout leaders who puts on the annual Boy Scout Troop 33 barbecue. That's the popular one at Sardis Presbyterian Church every year on Super Bowl weekend.
Olert was in sales for Proctor & Gamble for years when he retired in 2014 and decided to start a culinary career. First, he went to Johnson & Wales University for a year, then he followed that with a six-week course at Alain Ducasse's cooking school in Paris. When he came back, he was casting around for something to do with all that food training. Olert is a native of Baltimore, and his brother Stephen, who still lives there, also was looking for something new to do.
"What do we know? We know crab cakes," Olert says. They decided to set up a small, fast truck with a limited menu so they could serve customers faster: Cream of crab soup ($8 and $12), crab cake sandwiches ($10) and housemade remoulade sauce and cole slaw. You can also get a "drunken crab cake," covered in the cream of crab soup, for $15.
How is it? I'm picky about crab cakes, but I know Olert's barbecue work, so I was keeping an eye out when I ran into both Olerts one day at Unknown Brewing a few weeks ago. I only managed to get a couple bites away from the brewery crew, but what I tried was enough to make me start watching for another BCC sighting.
Those may be getting more common: After starting quietly, they've been lining up spots, including food truck rallies and a semi-regular stop at 525 N. Tryon St. on weekdays. They also ship crab cakes and cater events.
Meanwhile, Cousins Maine Lobster has tapped Charlotte for the latest location of one of their trucks. After starting in Los Angeles, owners Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac have expanded to brick-and-mortar restaurants in 15 cities and a whole fleet of food trucks. Their trucks include video displays showing the Maine lobster world.
"We try to tell a story about Maine," says Tselikis. They serve lobster rolls ($15 to $16), as well as other lobster specialties, including lobster tater tots, lobster grilled cheese sandwiches and New England clam chowder. The price range is $4 to $16.95.
Both Baltimore Crab and Cousins Maine Lobster have a lot of brewery stops lined up. Cousins will be at South Park Mall today until 9 p.m., then at Ballantyne Corporate Plaza Friday from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and at Divine Barrel Brewing, 3701 N. Davidson St., from 5-9 p.m. After April 27, the schedule includes Sycamore Brewing and Blue Blaze.