Surf and turf

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Lobster and steak at a Canadian restaurant in Prince Edward Island.
Surf and turf: steak and three prawns, served with spicy mayonnaise and side salad.

Surf and turf or surf 'n' turf is a main course in American cuisine which combines seafood and meat.[1][2] It is particularly common in British/Irish-style pubs in North America and North American steakhouses,[citation needed] The "surf" part refers to lobster, prawns, or shrimp, which may be grilled or breaded and fried. The "turf" part refers to a steak.


It is unclear where the term originated. Some claim the Atlantic coast of North America; others the restaurant Sky City in the Seattle Space Needle during the 1962 World's Fair,[citation needed] but this is not possible since the earliest known citation is from 1961, in the Los Angeles Times.[1]


Surf and turf is often considered to symbolize middlebrow "Continental cuisine" of the 1960s and 1970s,[3] with (frozen) lobster and steak as ersatz status foodstuffs for the middle class.[4]

The name has been reappropriated ironically by more recent chefs such as Thomas Keller.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition, March 2012, s.v.
  2. ^ McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs, 2003, s.v.
  3. ^ "Obama's Can't-Miss Banquet Menu", Restaurant Hospitality, January 24, 2011. [1]: "Let’s see, surf and turf, glazed carrots, double-stuffed potatoes, apple pie—this meal seems to ignore every dietary and culinary trend of the last 30 years."
  4. ^ George H. Lewis, "The Maine Lobster as regional icon: Competing images over time and social class", Food and Foodways: Explorations in the History and Culture of Human Nourishment 3:4 (1989) doi:10.1080/07409710.1989.9961958, reprinted in Barbara G. Shortridge and James R. Shortridge, eds., The Taste of American Place, p. 79. "As one moves downward in the American socioeconomic class structure, one sees lobster retain its image as a status foodstuff. To be affordable to the middle class, however, the actual lobster eaten usually takes the form of frozen Australian lobster tail, many times served along with steak as part of a standard middle-class status meal known as "surf and turf". Thus the image of rarity and status is retained, but a cheaper product that has no relationship to substituted for the authentic foodstuff."
  5. ^ Michael Ruhlman, The Soul of a Chef: The Journey toward Perfection, 2000, ISBN 067089155X, passim: "When he began cooking, surf and turf...was served at the best Continental restaurants, the apothesis of class back then.... Surf and turf, then, can only be used ironically in light of what we now consider sophisticated food."