Few foods are more singular to New England than the succulent lobster roll. Far from being one note, the interpretations of the dish are as particular as the eateries serving them. Opinions run high, akin to barbecue loyalties in the South.
It’s generally accepted that there are two primary styles: the cold, or Maine, lobster roll, dressed with mayonnaise and piled into a simple, white-bread bun; and the hot, or Connecticut-style, drenched in butter. However, the variations are nearly endless. Sally “Lobster Gal” Lerman sampled more than 250 unique sandwiches to write her 2014 book, Lobster Rolls of New England.
“If you’ve had one, you definitely have not had them all”, she says. “Restaurants can use different parts – tail, claw, knuckle, fresh or frozen, plain bread or specialty… All of those decisions result in very different sandwiches.”
A Few of the Best Lobster Rolls
CONNECTICUT – City Fish Market
This market is in Connecticut. but the owners generously offer both a hot lobster roll option and a “lobster salad” roll, Maine-style, lightly tossed with mayonnaise.
NEW HAMPSHIRE – The Ice House
Warm buttered lobster rolls have been this family-owned restaurant’s house specialty since 1980. Finish the meal with one of their famous ice cream cones.
MASSACHUSETTS – Neptune Oyster
While this North End restaurant does serve Maine-style rolls, it has a near-cult following for its succulent warm version: fresh-steamed knuckle, tail and claw meat piled into a grilled brioche bun.
RHODE ISLAND – Anthony’s Seafood
Fresh-picked lobster tossed with peppered mayo and thinly sliced celery in a grilled hot dog bun is the house specialty.
MAINE – Bite Into Maine
This food truck manages to turn out six different versions of lobster rolls, including the signature “Picnic” style, which comes Layered with coleslaw, warm butter and celery salt.
FRESH IS BEST
If the menu doesn’t explicitly say “fresh-picked,” ask! A good lobster roll shouldn’t be made with previously frozen meat.
MIX IT UP
A lobster roll should be like eating a lobster dinner, but on bread with all of the parts mixed in — tail, knuckles and claws. Think of it as a “lazy lobster dinner,” because someone else does the work for you.
Look for whole chunks of tender meat. The lobster shouldn’t be shredded and mashed like tuna salad.
The roll itself should be a vehicle for the for the sweet meat, without competing for the taste spotlight.
SKIP THE SIDES
You might spend close to $20 for a sandwich, which can be a half a pound of lobster meat. Without fries and slaw, you’ll have more room to finish your roll.