Major changes are occurring at the former Eat Smart stir-fried eateries in Lee and Collier counties although ownership of the restaurants has not changed.
The Eat Smart “rock the wok” venues are ditching the wok to rock a new lobster roll concept. After a brief hiatus, the restaurants in Fort Myers and East Naples reopened Saturday as Lobster Rolls No. 1. The new menu features four varieties of lobster rolls—classic, Connecticut, lobster BLT and lobster salad—a shrimp roll, a crab roll, lobster bisque, clam chowder and sides such as coleslaw and potato salad.
“It’s very simple compared to what it was before,” said Ross Miller, who owns the local restaurants with Monika Lehr-Hotaling. The couple permanently closed the original Cape Coral location of Eat Smart last spring when the lease expired and then they planned changes to the other two locations. Eat Smart had operated since late 2018 in Cape Coral, 2019 in Fort Myers and early 2021 in East Naples.
Changes were made because of the rising costs for food and the propane to fuel the woks and because of the difficulty in obtaining fresh ingredients. Staffing played a role in the decision too. Eat Smart’s customizable stir-fried concept required more people working each shift, while the simplicity of Lobster Rolls No. 1 improves the staffing issue.
New branding appears in the store’s windows but exterior signs are not up yet, Miller said. “We kind of got the cart a little ahead of the horse, but we’ll get to the rest of the signage,” he said.
The new lobster roll concept is off to a good start in the new year, Miller said. “We are doing all right so far. Nowhere to go but up,” he said, noting that they are considering a location on Fort Myers Beach.
After researching different lobster rolls and places, Miller came up with a couple of his own recipes beyond the traditional Maine and Connecticut versions of the popular seafood sandwich. The classic and Connecticut versions, though, are still the top sellers. Both feature buttered top-split hot dog rolls packed with lobster, but the Maine version includes mayo and is usually served cold, while the warm lobster meat in its Connecticut counterpart is dressed with butter.
“I’m from New England,” said Fort Myers manager John Smith, who knows a thing or two about lobster rolls. “So, it’s the best I’ve had down here.”
The new Lobster Rolls No. 1 restaurants are in College Plaza, 8595 College Parkway, Fort Myers; and at Berkshire Commons, 7083 Radio Road, East Naples. Both locations are open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. To place an order, go to LobsterRollsNo1.com.