EAST MANATEE -- A haul of New England seafood has docked in East Manatee.
Lakewood Ranch Lobster Pound & Fresh Seafood Market just opened in the Ranch Lake Plaza, 8740 State Road 70 E., beside Full Belly Stuffed Burgers. The market focuses on carry-out items for hearty feasts at home.
"When someone wants excellent quality to have a wonderful dinner at home with their family, this should be the place to go to," said owner Brian Arnold, a Rye Wilderness resident who grew up in Fort Wayne, Ind.
The market features imported New England specialties like lobster and clams, and domestically caught salmon, muscles, swordfish, mahi-mahi and cod, as well as ribeye and filets from The Butcher Block in Sarasota.
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While the restaurant focuses on fresh seafood orders, Lobster Pound offers call-ahead orders for cooked and steamed lobster, shrimp and take-and-bake items like lobster mac and cheese and shepherd's pie.
"It's allowing families some simplicity so they can eat at home with their family and to help when they're busy, so all they have to do is bake it to have a great meal," Arnold said of his take-and-bake menu.
As the market is set up primarily for take-out orders, inside diners will find only a couple of chairs near the fish and meat case. The live lobsters aren't floating in display, but kept in the kitchen in a cold tank.
His signature to-go item is the Wife's Clam Chowder, based on a recipe from Arnold's wife, Marilee Arnold.
Melissa Forrister, a na
tive of the Boston area and a former emergency medical technician, tweaked the recipe. She has lived in the Bradenton area for 11 years, getting a taste of both Florida and New England delicacies. What makes the Wife's Clam Chowder authentic, Forrister said, is the light stock.
"Some places make it really soupy, and that's not New England clam chowder," Forrister said.
As Arnold gets accustomed to opening a new business, he probably chose one of the more volatile food businesses where market prices can vary daily and inventory can only be kept in stock so long. Maine lobster is at market price while swordfish is going for $13.99 per pound, snapper at $17.99 per pound and jumbo shrimp at $15.99 per pound.
"It's a very perishable product, and to always have the fresh seafood, it's a balancing act," Arnold said. "You have enough product so when people come in here, you have what they're looking for and to not wait. It has to be fresh or else I can't put it out. You won't get repeat customers that way."
To help let customers know what's in daily, the restaurant is posting updates at Facebook.com/LWRLobsterPound.
He has had frequent requests for haddock and acknowledged it's challenging to find the right supplier to bring it fresh to Florida.
"The frozen is easy, but I don't want to do frozen," Arnold said.
Lobster Pound should be buoyed by more activity taking place in the Ranch Lake Plaza. The plaza changed hands this past week for $11.6 million, picked up by Montreal investment firm Coltera Capital. The plaza is home to the successful Full Belly Stuffed Burgers next door and will soon see Goodwill move into the former Sweetbay. Michigan-based Erbelli's Gourmet Pizzeria, Italian Bistro & Pub will move into the former Sopranos of New York two doors down.
"There's quite a variety for people to come here for more than one thing depending on their interests," Arnold said. "Goodwill, just from the shopping and the drop-off, will hopefully bring more people from the community and really get this plaza rejuvenated."
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.