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At Amherst's 2 Forks Up, a lighthouse for lobster

Lobsters are big bugs. Stuffed with flesh that approaches the sublime when dipped in melted butter, sure, but still resembling nothing more than an aquatic insect with a thyroid issue.

If that isn’t enough to scare off potential eaters, enjoying a whole lobster takes work. In a world where some diners choose chicken fingers because wings are just too much trouble, lobster is the ultimate throwback dish.

You crack it open with a visceral crunch, preferably while it’s steaming hot. You risk bloodying a finger on a shell edge, getting juice in your lap, spattering neighbors. They give you a nutcracker and Wet-Naps when you really want a pair of pliers and an oxy-acetylene torch.

Either people are willing to put in the work, or they’re not. A lobster offers no middle ground. A lobster is a commitment. So when a reader asked about 2 Forks Up, the Getzville seafood specialist drawing lobster lovers from miles around, I donned my chainmail and went to work.

Fried calamari at 2 Forks Up restaurant. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

2 Forks Up is in one of those buildings that started as someone’s house before it became a tavern, which was long before anyone considered retrofitting it into a modern restaurant. It used to be DACC’s, then the Getzville Grill. Its age shows; a wheelchair could get inside the front door, but not to the bathroom.

Owner Al Green has been dealing with audiences of various denominations for years, as the last owner of the Comedy Trap on Hertel Avenue and then in the radio business.

2 Forks Up opened in 2016 with a less seafood-focused lineup. The Maine lobsters became a menu mainstay last year, and are offered in permutations like a lobster with a 6-ounce sirloin steak ($25), two lobsters with sides ($27) and three lobsters with sides ($39). The lobsters are 1-1.25 pounds each.

There’s lots more fresh seafood, with appetizers of steamer clams (12/$10.99), fried calamari ($7.50) and grilled shrimp skewers ($9.50) with poblano and General Tso’s sauces. Linguine with clams ($16.95), broiled cod ($11.99), and shrimp scampi ($16.95) were more sea-sourced entrees.

Server Courtney Laderer shows off the double lobster dinner at 2 Forks Up restaurant. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Fried Reuben bites ($7) were nuggets of sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and corned beef served with Thousand Island dressing. Their heavy crust and unfavorable crumb-to-filling ratio made them unworthy of the calories. The fried calamari came closer, with tender squid hoops in a whisper-light coating, albeit one dimmed by a floury aftertaste.

Shrimp chowder ($6.50) had plenty of chopped shrimp, fresh corn kernels and diced potatoes in a thick, creamy broth that made for homey satisfaction once it was pointed up with black pepper.

Steak tacos ($15) were three flour tortillas loaded with sirloin steak. No temperature was solicited, but the beef came out admirably pink, topped with diced fresh tomatoes and coarsely chopped scallions. A roasted garlic paste under the steak made for a robust bite.

Steamer clams came out warm and juicy, not rubbery. We could have put away a second dozen after we doused the little pillows-of-the-sea with melted butter, but we had other fish to fry.

The Lobster Roll at 2 Forks Up restaurant. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Or lobster, to be more precise. A double-lobster dinner came out with rubber bands on the claws. We grappled with the flinchingly hot beast, applying the nutcracker, but eventually it was hand-to-hand combat that cracked the case.

That’s when I decided the best was to enjoy lobster is to invite someone else who doesn’t mind the dirty work and make them the designated crustacean wrangler. There was plenty of sweet meat inside, and we murmured our thanks as we slid it out of the shell and into the butter bath.

An 8-ounce strip steak that was part of a surf-and-turf option ($30) was cooked accurately, coming out plenty pink and rimmed with char.

The lobster lasagna at 2 Forks Up restaurant. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Of the side dishes, sweet corn on the cob was simply delicious, it being the season. Cole slaw was sticky-sweet mayonnaised cabbage, which I understand is a thing, just not my thing. Sidewinder fries, potatoes that look like they’ve been sliced, twisted and fried, got savoriness from a seasoned coating, but I wasn’t convinced they were better than good old French fries. Potato salad was a pile of bland.

2 Forks Up also offers a bevy of ways to get your lobster fix without encountering a single shell. On the night I visited, those included bacon-wrapped lobster bites, a lobster roll ($19.95), lobster tacos ($19.95), lobster ravioli ($18.50), and lobster lasagna ($21.95).

After trying the roll, the tacos and the lasagna, I’d stick to the lobster au naturale. The roll was packed with meat, but it had wilted on reheating. The tacos tasted mostly of garlic applied to the flour tortillas, the lobster’s subtlety overshadowed. The lasagna was nuggets of lobster drowned in cheesy white matrix that could have benefited from some of that garlic.

A pair of lobsters at 2 Forks Up restaurant. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Lobsters, simple seafood and steak hit the mark at 2 Forks Up, while the more involved dishes from the lobster stockpile didn’t thrill. For fresh lobster at a respectable price, I'd consider returning.

The lobster trail goes right through Christmas, the owner said. If 2 Forks Up offers gift certificates, it seems likely some lobster lover should expect their holiday to include sandy claws.

DINING OUT

2 Forks Up – 7 plates (out of 10)

Location: 3175 Millersport Highway, Amherst (689-3675)

Hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday, 4 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday, Monday.

Prices: appetizers, $6.75-$9.95; sandwiches, $5.50-$15; entrees, $11.99-$39.

Parking: lot

Wheelchair accessible: no

Gluten-free options: numerous choices, ask server.

The dining room at 2 Forks Up. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

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