“I was like a cross-dresser,” says Sargent, who’s also been known to take people sport fishing along the East River after dark. “Every single night, I’d put on this soundtrack, like ‘Pusherman’ [by Curtis Mayfield] -- I didn’t have makeup, but I always kept a chinstrap [beard], and even [groomed] my eyebrows. It was like a total transformation.” Think Ali G with a Boston accent, a giant gold lobster claw hanging from an oversized neck chain, and a lobster tail-inspired, custom-designed glove on his hand.
“I’m not bragging, but I do think my lobster roll is by far the best lobster roll in New York,” says Sargent, a culinary school dropout who first started hawking rolls at his erstwhile chowder/sandwich shop Hurricane Hopeful, which he opened in 2001 with a former girlfriend. The restaurant, which he had envisioned having a New England/cold water/fishermen/surf theme, and which New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton described as “strange and maddening, almost wonderful,” existed for a few years in desolate Williamsburg and offered $12 lobster rolls, long before they got popular (Sargent says customers deemed it too expensive at the time). By the time Dr. Klaw emerged, lobster rolls had hit high tide in the New York restaurant scene. “My entire life was New England. All these chefs were making lobster rolls, and I didn’t think these guys knew what a lobster roll was. I just woke up one morning and thought, ‘Fuck this, I’m going to show these guys what a lobster roll is.’”