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Amid coronavirus reopening restrictions, Howard County restaurants celebrate National Lobster Day

Ten Oaks Tavern in Glenelg is hosting a contest on Monday in celebration of National Lobster Day. Owner Matt Best purchased a large lobster, weighing between 6 and 10 pounds, and plans to post a picture on social media and the restaurant’s website for customers to guess the weight.
Ten Oaks Tavern in Glenelg is hosting a contest on Monday in celebration of National Lobster Day. Owner Matt Best purchased a large lobster, weighing between 6 and 10 pounds, and plans to post a picture on social media and the restaurant’s website for customers to guess the weight. (HANDOUT)

As restaurants adjust to their new normals with coronavirus restrictions in place and staggered reopening schedules, many in Howard County are searching for creative ways to engage with the community and bring in customers, regulars and newcomers alike.

Last week, Gov. Larry Hogan announced restaurants in Maryland could open indoor space at 50% capacity beginning Friday, just in time for Monday’s holiday: National Lobster Day.

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For this year’s National Lobster Day, several Howard County restaurants, yearning for ways to get more business, have pulled out all the stops.

The Walrus Oyster & Ale House, located in The Mall in Columbia, is offering make-your-own lobster roll kits for customers to take home. The lobster roll, a New England style sandwich with lobster meat, butter sauce, lemon and chives, is an overwhelming favorite and best-seller, according to Ben Nichols, culinary director at the Walrus.

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“[The kit] has everything you need to make the lobster roll at home,” Nichols said. “[It’s] a really fun package that people can take home and make for themselves whenever they want.”

After offering takeout Mother’s Day dinners, the Walrus was in search of other possibilities to bring in business amid the pandemic, National Lobster Day presented the perfect opportunity.

“Right now is a really good time to introduce this package and feature [the lobster roll] to the public,” Nichols said. “The need for take-home and carryout with different ideas has really taken hold.”

On the other side of Howard County, Matt Best, owner of Ten Oaks Tavern in Glenelg, has a big surprise in store for his customers to celebrate Monday’s holiday.

Best purchased a large lobster, weighing between 6 and 10 pounds. On Monday, he posted a picture on the restaurant’s Facebook page for customers to guess the weight.

“If the pandemic wasn’t around, I would have [the lobster] in the restaurant so people could see it for themselves,” Best said.

Customers will have from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. to guess the exact weight of the lobster and call the restaurant to enter their guesses in the contest. The first correct guess will get the lobster (prepared by the restaurant), the second correct guess will get a Ten Oak Tavern’s lobster dinner and the third correct guess will get a free appetizer.

“It’s hard to get a lobster that big,” Best said. “For me to get it, it’s a specialty order item. Sometimes you order something that big and it takes a week to catch.”

Best said he was lucky; it took two days from the time he put in the order to the time the fisherman caught a Maine lobster big enough for the contest.

Nichols and Best are hoping promotions like National Lobster Day and the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions will bring more Howard residents to their businesses.

Ten Oaks Tavern opened its indoor seating at 50% capacity Saturday and has 28 seats available on the outdoor patio, and as customers return, Best is slowly bringing back more employees to work.

At the Walrus, it hasn’t been easy to sustain the operation, according to Nichols, but the community’s support and reaction to the unprecedented times have given him hope.

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“We put a lot of the [customer] experience on the social factor. When that all went away, that was a big hit for us,” said Des Reilly, partner at the Walrus. “People [have been] ordering the food they love and sitting in lawn chairs in the mall parking lot.”

The Walrus is set to open indoor seating at 50% capacity on June 23. Reilly said they wanted to ensure guests and employees were safe before they opened their indoor dining area. Currently, the Walrus has 66 seats in their outdoor area after taking advantage of a patio extension.

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