The food truck made famous by Shark Tank brings the real thing to landlocked Columbus.
Should we risk making Cousins Maine Lobster more popular by writing about it? Word is already spreading quickly, and the food truck's lobster rolls are high-quality, as advertised. So sure, we'll jump on the bandwagon.
Cousins was founded in 2012 by Maine natives and actual cousins Sabin Lomac and Jim Tselikis. The photogenic duo started their food truck in Los Angeles with the idea of bringing their childhood food to the masses. They launched into the startup stratosphere after appearing on the ABC show Shark Tank and scoring a $55,000 investment from “Shark” Barbara Corcoran. The company has since expanded into 16 major U.S. cities and Taiwan.
The franchisee responsible for bringing the Cousins truck to Central Ohio is Dr. Kathryn Nuss, who continues to do her day job as an emergency-room physician at Nationwide Children's Hospital, where she's worked since 1992. The Hilliard resident and Shark Tank fan became interested in Cousins after seeing Lomac and Tselikis on the show. She was looking for something to invest in, had fond memories of dining on fresh lobster on Cape Cod and took the leap into owning a small business for the first time.
Before you go tracking down the truck, consider two questions: Are you willing to spend some money? And do you suffer lines well? When I was in line for Cousins one day near Campus, I met Amy Kanuth and Michael Shawley, a married couple who were both patient and willing to spend some cash to check it out for themselves. They joined me for a picnic table lunch that set the three of us back $75 and required 20 minutes in line (not bad, since I've heard stories of one- to two-hour waits). Granted, we had a lot of food—fresh lobster rolls, tacos, tater tots, whoopie pies and root beers.
Cousins offers two types of sustainably sourced Maine lobster rolls on real-deal, New England-style buns for $15.50 each: the Maine roll (refreshing and served chilled with a touch of mayonnaise) and the Connecticut roll (served warm with the lobster meat bathed in butter). Nuss tells me the Connecticut roll is her best-seller—it must be something about butter. The rolls are on the small side, and I suspect a lot of people will be tempted to buy one of each.
I ask Nuss whether customers are turned off by the prices. In short: no. “They want the fresh seafood, and we all know lobster has a higher price point,” Nuss says. “People don't seem to care.”
Cousins has several other menu items that feature lobster in untraditional ways, like a lobster grilled cheese ($14), lobster quesadilla ($14) and lobster tacos (three for $14). For something heartier, there's the highbrow-lowbrow combination of lobster-topped tots ($15).
Tselikis calls himself a New England clam chowder guy, so the cousins developed a version that riffs on a family recipe. The food truck offers both a clam chowder and a lobster bisque for $7 per cup or $9 per bowl.
For dessert, Cousins sells two flavors of Wicked Whoopies brand whoopie pies ($3.50): classic chocolate with cream filling and a chocolate with peanut butter cream filling (Nuss' nod to the Buckeye state). Although fun novelties, at 740 calories each I'd save those for another Connecticut roll.
Look for Cousins in the suburbs and at festivals this summer, but not parked on city streets. At 32 feet bumper-to-bumper, Nuss' truck exceeds the city's public right-of-way limit of 25 feet. However, you will find Cousins at Columbus Commons every Thursday in August during the Food Truck Food Court.