New England Lobster Rolls

Cut and paste from the Boston Globe-kind of long…but I think I need to spend some time in RI!

These lobster rolls top all the ‘best’ lists. But how are they, really? We tried them all

We ate our way through the ones that rule the ‘best’ lists.

By Diane Bair and Pamela Wright Globe Correspondent,Updated June 9, 2021, 12:00 p.m.

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Views of boats and the Boston skyline — plus a killer lobster roll. Belle Isle Seafood delivers, all right.DIANE BAIR

“You know that lobsters are related to spiders, right?” a Debbie Downer-ish friend recently remarked. Whatever. Nothing can squelch our love for all things lobster. But whence the humble lobster roll? According to food historians, the lobster roll originated at a restaurant called Perry’s in Milford, Conn., in the Roaring Twenties. Perry’s hot grilled lobster sandwich was served in a long sub roll, not the squishy split-top hotdog bun we know and love today. Portable, edible lobster. Genius!

How did the lobster roll become an American classic? The tale gets murky, as food-origin stories often do, but Boston chef Jasper White played a role in the elevation of this simple concoction; he served a gourmet version with a saffron bun, fancy pickles, and house-made chips at Jasper’s (now Summer Shack) in the 1980s.

As every crustacean connoisseur knows, there are two kinds of lobster rolls: The Connecticut type, served warm with melted butter, and the Maine version, served chilled and lightly dressed with mayonnaise (a.k.a. lobster salad). A little crunch, from lettuce or a toasted bun, is the perfect foil for the sweet, subtle flavor of lobster. “Lobster rolls are the perfect sandwich because they offer the taste of summer — chunks of sweet Maine lobster meat — and you can eat them on the go,” says Marianne LaCroix of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative.

We ate our way through the lobster rolls that rule the “best” lists, deeming some too puny, some too pricey (our Inner Yankee balks at $40 sandwiches), and some too mayonnaise-y. Herewith, the rolls that were heads (and tails) above the rest. Note: Prices are subject to change, and some spots close in bad weather.

Knot Norm’s plate with crinkle-cut fries: They finish the lobster meat in lobster butter at Knot Norm’s. No wonder this Newport newcomer is a favorite of folks in the food industry here.DIANE BAIR

Rhode Island

Knot Norm’s, Newport: When we walked into the hole-in-the-wall spot on Thames Street, there was a massive pile of fresh lobster meat on the counter, awaiting transformation. It took major self-control not to fling ourselves onto the pile and start stuffing our faces. Our waitperson apologized for the price of their lobster roll ($30) — ”Lobster prices are insane right now!” she said — but this one is worth it. They finish the lobster meat in house-made lobster butter, and serve it with a sweep of aioli, some micro greens, and lemon, on a toasted hot dog bun. Also on the plate: Cape Cod Potato Chips, house-made pickles, and slaw. We gobbled it right down and didn’t offer to share, a testament to its deliciousness. They’ve got a couple of indoor tables, but the patio out back is more festive. This one opened last October; get here before everyone discovers it. Also in Norwalk, Conn. $30; 401-619-7220; www.knotnorms.com.

Easton’s Beach Snack Bar, Newport: If you believe “too much is never enough,” wrap your mind around this concept: the double lobster roll. This beachfront snack bar serves twin lobster rolls with a pile of fries for the best price in town: $19.97, at this writing. These are the lobster-salad type, made with about a third-pound of lobster meat. They also sell a “plain & simple” version — just chilled lobster (the meat of one entire crustacean, they say), served with drawn butter and fries, for $21.97. Eat on the deck overlooking the beach, and wash it down with Del’s Lemonade. 401-855-1910; www.eastonsbeach.com.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Matunuck Oyster Bar, South Kingstown: Oyster, schmoyster, order the lobster roll, featuring large chunks of meat, light mayo, and chopped celery on a grilled buttery split-top roll, served with fries or a salad. $22.95; 401-783-4202; www.rhodyoysters.com.

Blount Clam Shack on the Waterfront, Warren: This worthy roll is made with a half-pound of meat on an extra-long roll. Get it undressed with a side of melted butter or chilled and tossed with dill-flecked mayonnaise. Half-pounder, $26.99; quarter-pound roll, $17.99; 401-245-1800; www.blountretail.com.

New Hampshire

Rye Harbor Lobster Pound, Rye: This family-owned dockside spot goes against the tide by offering a hot-buttered roll, swimming in a sherry-spiked butter sauce. Holy mother of Neptune, that’s good! No wonder Yankee Magazine, WBUR, and others rave. Make sure that someone in your party orders the award-winning “fluffy” chowder too — clam chowder studded with chunks of that sherry-soaked lobster meat. $20; 603-964-7845; www.facebook.com/ryeharborlobsterpound.

HONORABLE MENTION

The Beach Plum, North Hampton: Got dainty eaters plus lumberjack-ian appetites in your bunch? The Beach Plum (also in Portsmouth, Salem, and Epping), a New Hampshire Magazine favorite, offers its formidable roll in five sizes (from 4 ounces to 10 ounces of lobster meat). Prices range from $18.29 to $33.29. 603-964-7451; www.thebeachplum.net.

Connecticut

Lobster Landing, Clinton: “Best lobster roll in New England,” they claim. That’s pretty cheeky. But wow, the lobster rolls served up at this cheery waterfront shack are darn good — definitely the best we sampled in the Nutmeg State. The Long Island Sound setting is spectacular, and the hot lobster roll lives up to the hype — it’s a quarter pound of warm meat, liberally drizzled with melted butter and a splash of lemon on a slightly-charred bun. $19.75; 860-669-2005; www.facebook.com/LobsterLandingLLC.

Maine

McLoons Lobster Shack, South Thomaston: There’s no shortage of killer lobster rolls in Maine, but this Spruce Head spot seems to be the instant favorite of all who discover it, including food writers from Maine Eater and GQ. What’s not to love about lobster freshly plucked from nearby crates and served with a slick of mayo on the bun — not mixed into the lobster, so that the sweetness of the meat really shines — or warm butter. (Possibly both, if you ask, but c’mon.) Add a whoopie pie, and you’ve got the most perfect summertime meal in Maine. $21.55; 207-593-1382; www.mcloonslobster.com.

Bite Into Maine, Cape Elizabeth: This food truck, a fixture at Fort Williams Park near Portland Head Light, won raves from USA Today, Gourmet, Food & Wine, so expect a wait. They sell an epic XL lobster roll, with 6 ounces of meat (add an extra $6) or a 4.5-ounce roll, served five ways: Maine Style (with mayo and fresh chives); Connecticut Style (just warm butter); Picnic Style (with coleslaw and celery salt), and three spicy mayo versions, if you hanker for a lobster roll with a kick: chipotle, wasabi, or yellow curry. Other takeout locations: The Commissary in Scarborough and at Allagash Brewing Co., Portland. $24; XL, $30; 207-286-6142; www.biteintomaine.com.

Eventide Oyster Co, Portland (also in Boston): This hip seafood shack in Portland’s Old Port District does a lobster roll with a twist: They dress the meat in brown butter, lemon, and chives, and serve it in an Asian-style steamed bun. No wonder Outside Magazine and Down East Magazine lavished it with praise. You’ll be dreaming about this one come January. $17 (Portland); $16/$23 (Boston); 207-774-8538; www.eventideoysterco.com.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster, Freeport: Skip the outlet stores and head to this modest seafood shack on the harbor, where they’ve been slinging lobster meat into rolls since 1970 . Maine Eater loves this place and so will you. $17.95; $18.95 with fries. Bonus points for the tasty home-made desserts. 207-865-4888; www.harraseeketlunchandlobster.com.

Five Islands Lobster Co., Georgetown: Got a manly-man appetite (regardless of gender)? Consider the Big Boy, featuring 10 ounces of meat, lightly dressed and stuffed into a sturdy potato roll. This Outside Magazine favorite comes with chips, or add a basket of fries for two bucks. Price not available. 207-371-2990; www.fiveislandslobster.com.

Massachusetts

Belle Isle Seafood, Winthrop: We loved our wise-cracking server (“I support you on your hydration journey,” she said solemnly, handing over our beer), and the setting is perfect: Cool views of the Boston skyline across the water, and lots of action at the yacht club next door. This one is no secret — Phantom Gourmet has been here a few times — but it is definitely a fun place to hang out and eat yourself silly. Indoors, they’ve got picnic tables, a bar, and TVs tuned to sports; outdoors, there are tables under an awning or in full-on sunshine. You can pay extra and get all tail meat, but the regular lobster roll is quite generous, featuring a half-pound of chunky meat lightly tossed with mayo, and a bit of lettuce, tucked into a char-marked bun and served with a choice of sides. (Get the onion rings.) Cash only; ATM on site. Regular lobster roll, $30.99; 617-567-1619; www.belleisleseafood.net.

The Wicked Lobster Roll served at The Skipper is made with a half-pound of meat and served with . . . butter. That’s it. Plus extra butter, if you are in total indulgent mode.DIANE BAIR

The Skipper Chowder House, South Yarmouth: The folks at the Cape Cod Chamber tipped us off to this one. Since 1936, the Skipper has been ladling out award-winning chowder, including a “fried clam chowdah” that was featured on the Travel Channel. But the lobster rolls! They offer three versions: a traditional one with four ounces of lobster salad and green leaf lettuce on a grilled brioche roll ($22.99), a Lobster Roll Supreme (a half pound of lobster salad on a French roll ($30.99) and finally, the “Wicked Awesome” version — a half-pound of fresh lobster served hot with butter— with extra butter on the side ($31.99) if you’re in that “Treat Yo Self” mode. Bonus: The onsite ice cream shack. Extra bonus: Views of Nantucket Sound, right across the street. 508-394-7406; www.skipperrestaurant.com.

Lobster roll at Neptune OysterWIQAN ANG FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/FILE

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Neptune Oyster, Boston: This tiny, upscale North End joint serves a hot buttered, or cold-with-mayo lobster roll on a toasted brioche roll that wins raves from pubs like Bon Appetit, served with first-rate fries. That sound you hear is a roomful of foodies moaning with pleasure. $34; 617-742-3474; www.neptuneoyster.com.

Little Harbor Lobster Co., Marblehead: It’s worth a drive to M’head to seek out this tucked-away fish market overlooking Little Harbor. The lobster is caught daily by one of the owners, Tim O’Keefe, so it couldn’t be fresher. Bonus points for fantastic rolls, made by artisan bakers A & J King of Salem. $28.99; 781-639-1961; www.littleharborlobster.com.

Sesuit Harbor Café, Dennis: This lobster buoy-bedecked shack, overlooking a marina, looks like a movie set. But the “world famous lobster roll” is the real deal, featuring lobster salad, green leaf lettuce, and sliced tomato tucked into a toasted roll. Served with fries and slaw, it’s perfection on a plate, according to our foodie friend, Ernie Daman of Mashpee: “It had tail meat, it was huge, and it was fantastic.” $24.50 (cash only); 508-385-6134; www.sesuit-harbor-cafe.com.

Little Harbor Lobster Company’s lobster rollDIANE BAIR

Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at bairwright@gmail.com

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Is it just me or does only some of this sound like first-hand experience? The rest sounds like aggregated content from other sources, to me anyway.

FWIW, many friends in the greater Rockland, Maine area agree that McLoons is the best. It is certainly picturesque and has a nice view. (Old photo.)

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Can’t say I got that but there are 2 bylines so maybe they affected the tone?

Well is is the Globe, and most of their food writing seems to crib liberally from other sources (including these forums). Good research I suppose?

I’m always hoping for new finds in terms of lobster rolls. I didn’t find any here unfortunately. The places that do seem the result of firsthand experience tend to value atmosphere as much as product. Anyone who says oysters, schmoysters has likely never dined at Matunuk Oyster Bar, which rivals any seafood restaurant anywhere.

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Talking about lobster rolls - we will walk around World’s End (Hingham) on Sunday. Any good /decent lobster rolls (bonus points for one with hot butter and not mayo) around the area (willing to drive around a bit)

I was disappointed that Matunuck was not included but not that much…they don’t need much more publicity. Definitely my happy RI summer place. And the lobster roll is awesome.

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Green Harbor Lobster Pound in Marshfield has the best rolls I have had on the South Shore. Alas, it is not of the hot buttered variety. A bit closer to World’s End is Hingham Lobster Pound. It’s a very nice 30+ min drive down 3A from World’s End.

My dogs and family love World’s End. Make sure you do a tick check when you get home.

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Matunuk was included in the article as an honorable mention. It sort of dismissed everything but the lobster roll, which made me suspicious if the author had actually been there. Their roll is good, however the rest of the seafood and produce is so pristinely fresh I have a hard time imagining that wouldn’t be alluded to in some way.

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Thanks - Green Harbor looks good. Are the lobster rolls at Hingham Lobster Pound served in a hamburger bun ? Some photos look
like it but it’s not clear

hmmm, this is another place that somehow I’ve never made it to despite annual Narragansett trips. I’ve clearly got work to do.

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I honestly have not been to the Hingham Lobster Pound in years, I just mentioned it as something closer.

If you go to Green Harbor, call to order when you are leaving World’s End as orders can take a bit. Green Harbor has picnic tables, but you can also walk a block up Beach Street and eat them there.

I couldn’t say enough good things about Matunuk. It is definitely worth prioritizing on your next visit. They source from their own oyster farm, own vegetable farm and local fisherman. Combine that with a beautiful location (roof deck is spectacular) and talented chef who let’s the ingredients shine. It’s a gem.

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Oh geez @passing_thru I thought for sure Matunuck was on your radar so didn’t even bother to mention it to (and thanks @uni for pointing out that it got some mention in the Globe article…I’m such a scatterbrain lately and do a lot of my “fun” internet scouring at 4 am). @passing_thru Get thee to Matunuck but it’s all about timing. It can be a shitshow to get a table there. I suggest going right at opening (11 or 11:30 am? I dunno know).

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During COVID we definitely made reservations for Matunuck. We were there last week. They are full capacity, but reservations still seem like a good idea.

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Oh right…reservations. Pandemic. Oh yeah.

I took the article as lazy when it came to the Maine recommendations. Maine Eater hasn’t existed in years so why use that website as a resource when it’s clearly dated. There’s numerous spots they could’ve listed.

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haha, I know about Matunuck, I’ve just never made it there. I sometimes get lazy on these Narragansett vacations and end up just reading and lazing around all day instead of venturing out to go do things! so there’s some holes in where I’ve gone to down there.

I feel like this year there’s gonna be a lot of this, what with everyone in the world finally going out. I’m thinking that I may end up with a lot of Plan B home cooked seafood meals this vacation as I flee in terror from restaurants with too many people and not enough help.

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Two years ago my wife and I had a lobster roll at Fresco’s in Malden, and the next day at Matunuck. The one at Fresco’s was much better.

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Just as a follow up - After our hike at World’s End (great as always) we ended up for different reasons at Lobster Barn in Abington which turned out to be a very tasty lobster roll (even though it wasn’t butter based) with very large chunks of fresh lobster. The only small complain might be that the roll was relatively small for the price.

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