Apartment Dweller Turns Underground Chef

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Who says you need a fancy space filled with crystal and china to make a go of it as a restaurateur? One enterprising Brooklynite started up a pop-up lobster shack in his basement apartment, which has since spun into the first great underground food sensation of 2010.

Boston transplant Ben Sargent makes one thing, but makes it well: the lobster roll. He laments that the humble combo of lobster meat and mayo on a buttered bun has gotten too "fancy" in recent years, with artisanal versions served up slathered in infused aioli and wrapped in handmade baguettes.
So Sargent's Lobster Pound is on a mission to give the lobster roll back to the people, with simply steamed chunks of meat served up on a store-bought bun ("with high fructose corn syrup. I'm not going all organic or enriched blah blah blah, or gluten free"). His stripped-down version became a cult hit among friends-of-friends, and he soon found himself sliding the $14 rolls through the mail slot of his sandwich speakeasy.

But when the NY Daily News ran a profile of the lobsterman-slash-cookbook-author (a tome on chowder is in the works) in early February, the NY Fire Department shut him down over the illegality of his cooking setup: an apartment-unfriendly propane stove. His solution? Take the show on the road, with lobster rolls now prepared on-site for hungry customers who phone in for delivery on Sargent's hot-plate-equipped scooter.

Even though he's managing (for now) to keep the Fire Department - and presumably the Board of Health and the I.R.S. - off of his back, what does his landlord think of the illicit fish shack running out of his building? Sargent has that one covered too. "My landlord knows," he said. "But he also knows he'll get a lobster roll out of it."
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