Shawn and Heather Whitney have the inside claw on lobster.
The couple owns the new Morgan’s Lobster Shack & Fish Market scheduled to open Nov. 3 in Midtown (as well as the original Morgan’s in Truckee). Heather Whitney hails from a Maine family with three generations of lobster fishermen. And friends of her family are in the lobster business, too.
All of which means the couple knows from lobster — and has the connections to bring sweet lobster meat from chilly Maine waters to the sagebrush and Sierra for whole lobsters or lobster mac and cheese or a lobster roll with meat spilling from a split-top bun.
MORGAN'S LOBSTER SHACK & FISH MARKET
Address: 1401 S. Virginia St.
On the web: www.morganslobstershack.com
When the Whitneys — East Coasters turned West Coast ski bums turned Tahoe restaurateurs — decided to launch the first Morgan’s in 2013, “everyone said it was stupid to open a fish market in Truckee in the mountains,” Shawn Whitney said. Three years later, he added, the restaurant does about $1 million annually.
Still, business in Truckee is highly seasonal, even for successful concerns, so when the owners began to consider expanding, they looked down-mountain to Reno.
“We were seeing the growth going on down here,” Shawn Whitney said. “Reno is becoming more of a food town, so hopefully we’ll have nice steady growth here. We want to combine our East Coast touch with West Coast flair.”
Morgan’s Lobster Shack in Truckee is about 900 square feet. The new Midtown Morgan’s encompasses about 3,800 square feet, with a main bar upstairs and dining room downstairs. An 1,800-square-foot terrace faces west, “so there are amazing sunsets,” Whitney said. A fire pit is set to be installed.
At the back of the new 1401 S. Virginia St. building Morgan's partly occupies, there's a roomy parking lot, always a plus in Midtown, where beards far outnumber parking spots.
The menu is provisioned by four purveyors from the East Coast, six from the West, Whitney said, with dishes ranging from $11-20 (that's excluding market price seafood).
Taking pride of place? A classic lobster roll: chunks of meat, a touch of mayonnaise, salt, pepper, spurts of lemon juice. Anything else would be heresy.
Whitney is keeping secret the Reno baker he said is making the essential split-top buns that are often hard to find out West.
For fried clams, another seafood standard, “we use Ipswich full belly clams. We do them with the soft tender belly like back East, so they’re not wicked chewy,” Whitney said, using the intensifier common to parts of New England.
The menu also will offer dishes like lobster French onion soup, clam chowder, seafood nachos, seafood pasta, cioppino and a lobster reuben. Morgan's "fresh pick" features a 6-ounce portion of seafood that can be steamed, grilled, sautéed or fried for a salad, sandwich or wrap.
The main bar (and oyster bar) upstairs will have late-night fare; weekends at Morgan's will see brunch. One brunch item being planned: a three-shot bloody Mary layering Maryland king crab, smoked shrimp, hard-boiled egg, celery and asparagus.
“It might be served kind of mug style,” Whitney said. “When it goes by, you’re gonna be, ‘I want one of those.’ ”
On the fish market front, product will be rotated seasonally and with availability.
“Every day, we’re restocking, re-cutting, re-portioning,” Whitney said. “We’ll be ordering in small batches,” like 50 pounds of salmon at a time. “We’ll butcher it in house, scrape it to make salmon burgers, use the fish every possible way we can.
Depending on the day and season, look for market product like Alaskan halibut, wild king salmon, sushi-grade ahi, snapper and more.
One thing you won’t find at the new Morgan’s Lobster Shack is paper plates. Those are used in the Truckee restaurant. In the snazzy new Reno location, we’re getting plates.