What does it take to make perfect Maine lobster rolls? Here’s the criteria and the places that serve some of the best rolls in the state.
I don’t consider myself a foodie, but whenever I end up in Maine, I’m constantly in search of the seafood shack that serves up the best lobster roll. So when it was announced that Yankee Magazine would run a story about Maine lobster rolls in the May/June issue, I hoped that some of my personal faves would make the list. They didn’t, but they still deserve a bit of recognition.
Mainers know that there are basic elements that make up a great lobster roll: The meat must be fresh; it should have only the lightest dressing of mayo or butter, with absolutely no fillers, such as lettuce or, worse, celery (fillers can turn a lobster roll into lobster salad); and the bun should be buttery and crisp from a quick turn on the grill. Here are my three favorite Maine lobster rolls (right now) that fit the bill:
Sue’s Seafood: Freshest Lobster
33 Old Post Road, Kittery, ME
Sue’s Seafood, an authentic fish market, is a bit hard to find, but it’s worth the extra effort to bypass the construction that currently blocks the most direct route. Sue prepares the roll in front of you while she fills you in on all the local news, and the small batches of chilled lobster meat she keeps on hand ensure that whatever she serves is fresh. Although there’s no seating at Sue’s, her location on the Maine/New Hampshire border provides you with your pick of scenic picnic locations within a 10-minute drive. And because she doesn’t charge for ambience, her prices are a bit more reasonable than most.
Bayley’s Seafood Restaurant: Best Lobster Roll/Chowder Combination
165 Pine Point Road, Scarborough, ME
When traveling through the Scarborough/Old Orchard Beach area, I try to plan my day so that I’ll be heading down Pine Point Road around lunchtime and can stop at Bayley’s Seafood Restaurant. In addition to fresh made-to-order rolls, they also serve seafood, haddock, and clam chowders, any of which makes a perfectly filling combination. I’m partial to the seafood version, which is filled with chunks of shellfish and has a traditional Maine chowder base that hasn’t been thickened with too much flour. There’s both inside and outside seating, or you can grab your lunch to-go and head on down to the beach with it.
Shaw’s Fish and Lobster Wharf: Best Atmosphere
129 State Rte 32, New Harbor, ME
If you’re willing to trek a bit farther up the coast, Shaw’s Lobster Pound in New Harbor is worth the trip. The lobster is “wicked” fresh, and their deck seating consists of picnic tables overlooking a picturesque harbor. The accommodations are casual, and the locals will tell you that this is the real lobster-eating deal. I have to admit that this one also gets a nostalgic nod from me, as this was the place where I first learned to love lobster on our annual journey there with my grandmother.
I even forgive them for those thin strips of lettuce (easily removed) that they lay beneath the succulent lobster meat.
Note: Lobster lovers will be quick to point out that Red’s Eats in Wiscasset didn’t make my list. That’s because I haven’t had the chance to try their roll yet, but it’s on my summer to-do list.
Update: We braved the line at Red’s Eats to sample one of their famous lobster rolls, and it was indeed worth the wait. The meat from a one-pound lobster atop a lightly buttered bun and served with a side of drawn butter or mayo. This is the lobster roll that converted me to a hot lobster roll lover.
Where do you get your favorite Maine lobster rolls?