Willie T’s Lobster Shack closes in Dupont

willie t
1511 Connecticut Ave, NW

A reader reports:

“I walked by Willie T’s this morning and it is closed for good. There is a big commercial “for rent” sign in the window. I’m sad, but not surprised. They never seemed to be busy.”

Ed. Note: You will find no better lobster roll in DC than at Luke’s Lobster.

21 Comment

  • alissaaa

    Not surprised at all. Luke’s is far, far superior. When I went to Willie T’s earlier on, they were constantly out of things, and the service was very slow.

  • I’m shocked it lasted as long as it did. It always looked like a ghost town. Multiple times I remember walking by thinking what was going to become of it, but then noticing a lonely employee or two inside.
    .
    Also, Luke’s is really good but you can’t go wrong with Red Hook either!

  • I thought that lobsters were relatively inexpensive to catch, but that they are marketed as a luxury food item and are thus wildly expensive. Spending $16 on a small lobster roll is not something that will interest a large enough audience to justify as expensive a location as Dupont.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      They are actually pretty cheap up north when they are in season (4.99-7.99/pound or sometimes even cheaper), but to get lobster to DC requires shipping, etc. I never really understood the excessive restaurant prices (even in the north), as they require pretty much no skill or effort to cook. That said, “small” lobster rolls actually contain a full lobster worth of meat, which is why they cost a fair amount.

    • I think I read somewhere that in recent years, the wholesale price of lobster had gone way down, but restaurants kept prices the same out of fear that lobster would no longer be perceived as a “luxury” item.

      • This is for the most part true. Many lobstermen are really hurting. When they can sell their catch for a couple dollars a pound, they really have to catch a lot of lobsters to pay for fuel, traps, and boat upkeep, much less make a profit. When I mam in Maine, I make it a point to try to buy from lobstermen co-ops, rather than typical retailers.

  • Good riddance. Talk about a place that ignored the desires of their potential patrons. The restaurant group that owned it, Thompson Hospitality, was clearly operating in a niche market outside of their expertise. It appears they are also part of the scandal-prone DCPS contract for supplying the K-12 food.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/dc-public-schools-lawyers-tell-food-vendor-it-cant-quit-contract-is-binding/2015/07/15/ed8ce8dc-2b17-11e5-a250-42bd812efc09_story.html

  • With all due respect, Dan, I disagree with your note. I think the rolls at Hank’s and the defunct Freddy’s in Bethesda are better.

  • Their lobster rolls were ok but your basically up to $20+ for a small lunch. It’s also not something you crave on a daily basis. I thought that was a bad idea from the beginning.

  • That stretch of Connecticut north of Dupont is absolutely brutal for restaurants. SO many recent casualties…

    • You’re absolutely right. When I landed here in 2010 north Dupont was still relatively happening and 14th st was just starting to make noise. Makes me wonder if Dupont will recover before hitting a total rock bottom. Honestly, the overall the offerings in Dupont simply can’t compare to the increasingly “hip” options from 14th St and eastward. Hopefully north Dupont landlords see the casualties, recognize they can’t charge a premium any longer, and lower rents to attract some of the new crop of DC restaurants…

      • “When I landed here in 2010 north Dupont was still relatively happening and 14th st was just starting to make noise.”

        Funny, I “landed here” in 2004 and would probably have said that 14th st was just starting to make noise back then. But people who landed here before me might disagree and say it was even earlier. I suppose it’s a matter of perspective, but by any measuring stick I would never, ever say that 14th st just started making noise in 2010. I ran or walked through it every day for several years before that and can even remember people on this blog complaining about its hoity-toityness back in 2010. In other words, your perspective may not be wide enough.

        • Who called the perspective police? Who cares? Point still stands – Dupont is trending down and commercial rents should adjust accordingly. Congrats on being here longer – 1.2x internet credibility multiplier.

      • I’ve been in DC for 25 years and I have yet to see Dupont Circle relatively happening. It has long been a hotbed for mediocre businesses and reason to keep moving to another neighborhood, outside a few stalwarts.

    • Except for directly across the street – Shophouse, Sweetgreen, BGR, and Beefsteak (am I missing any) are still going strong. So is Triple B Fresh (behind Kramerbooks). Willie’s would have been competing with these fast casual spots, and couldn’t keep up.

    • There has been some good news as well. Le Mirch, Madrid (in the former Odeon space), Glen’s, Mission, but yes the rent is just way too high. Too much at stake for most restaurateurs.
      .
      There is also a lot of dreck weighing the neighborhood down… Alero, la tomate (although the cafe is nice), bistro bistro, bucca di beppo, etc. This is food that might fill you up but it’s not refined or interesting.

    • Agreed that Glen’s, Teaism, ShopHouse, SweetGreen, Bistro Du Coin, Nora, etc., are probably doing fine, but in general that stretch just chews restaurants up. SmashBurger, Cosi, Potbelly, Fuel, and lord even Five Guys couldn’t survive.

      But you’re right, it comes down to quality. There’s just a lot of overpriced meh there (and all over DC, quite frankly).

  • The sign on the door says they’re “not down for the count:” and are finding a new location to reopen in Dupont.

    I’d be surprised if they follow through. Every day I walked by I wondered if that was the day they’d close. Very strange business model and price point – above already borderline expensive fast casual but below sit-down restaurants where you’re not hunched over a ledge eating.

    Not really sure who they thought the market would be but it didn’t show up whenever I was near.

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