Truckee couple opens new fish market
The first time we ate at Morgan’s Lobster Shack, downtown Truckee’s new fish house and fresh fish market, we forgot to take pictures of the food – because we were so eager to eat it.
We weren’t disappointed.
The food tasted as advertised – fresh. Everything was packed with flavor, and tasted like it was prepared from scratch and made to order. Fresh fish in Truckee. Who knew?
We started with the lobster mac ‘n cheese, which came with a generous helping of Maine lobster, house prepared bacon, a fontina cheese sauce and pasta. It was surprisingly light, with all the ingredients melding to near perfection. A touch of salt in the preparation would have sealed the deal, but that’s quibbling.
Our second entrée was the California lobster roll. It came with large chunks of lobster, a touch of mayonnaise and avocado stuffed into a small grilled bun and dusted with a hint of sriracha sauce. The bun was plain white bread – New England style. Morgan’s might consider offering an earthier version more in tune with California cuisine and packing a bit more oomph.
The roll came with two sides, and we chose the homemade chips and the coleslaw. The chips didn’t knock us out. We were expecting light, super thin potato slices but got thick ruffles instead. They were fine, but they were the only item we tried that didn’t scream “home made!” The slaw was a delight, however – a little cup of carrots and cabbage in a tangy marinade, no mayonnaise.
Feeling gluttonous after a day of swimming and biking, we also ordered a side of fresh salmon cakes that were some of the best fish cakes we’d ever eaten. The salmon was smoked and the breading was just thick enough to cover the fish, and no more. They were so light they seemed to be floating over the bed of greens that came with them. The lemon aioli on the side was a perfect complement.
Our final item was the kale and spinach salad, which came topped with parmesan and a lemon garlic dressing. We gobbled up the ample serving.
Some other items that tempted us but will have to wait for another visit: fish and chips, sea scallops, wild shrimp and fried clams. And of course the house’s namesake, fresh Maine lobster.
The tab for this feast of fish came to just under $50 – a hefty bill for a cafeteria-style lunch but, considering the extra side orders and the freshness of the product, not out of line with North Tahoe prices.
Morgan’s owners, Shawn and Heather Whitney, are both from New England, and Heather comes from a long line of Maine lobstermen. Shawn moved to Tahoe 12 years ago and worked in the restaurant industry along the North Shore and in Truckee for years until he decided that his craving for fresh fish, shared by many friends, was not going to be satisfied unless he took matters into his own hands.
So he rented a refurbished historical building on West River Street and spent about a year preparing to open the restaurant and fish market. The style is very informal, with patrons ordering at the counter and then grabbling a seat at a long bar facing one wall or at a table on the partially shaded back deck. Fresh fish is sold retail from a refrigerated case next to the cash register.
The lobster is shipped from Maine daily.
“We put in an order at 6 in the morning, it’s on a plane at 4 p.m. back there and it arrives at our door at 10 am the next morning,” Shawn Whitney said.
The rest of the fish arrives daily from San Francisco, and it adheres to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s guidelines for sustainable fisheries.
“We were expecting to do every other day, but it might be every day in the summer,” Whitney said, adding that he sold 40 pounds of salmon the first Saturday the shop was open.
Morgan’s head chef is Michael Plapp, who comes with a long pedigree in Tahoe dining, including stints at Moody’s Plumpjacks and Baxter’s.
“We’re lucky to have him,” Whitney said.
Like the lobster, the restaurant’s name is imported from Maine. Heather Whitney was a Morgan before she and Shawn married recently.
“Morgan’s dad recently passed away, and we figured this was the best way to honor the family name,” Whitney said.