Summer in New England is a season of passions. From baseball to blueberries, we’re willing to sweat and swoon for the things we love when it’s hot outside, but perhaps the largest share of our summer affection is reserved for lobster. Yankee recently ran a list of the 12 Best Lobster Shacks in New England, and it’s been getting a lot of comments from readers sharing their favorite lobster spots to hit (and some to miss).
As a New Hampshire resident, I thought it was only right that I check out the list’s sole Granite State nod — Brown’s Lobster Pound in the coastal town of Seabrook, just a half hour south of the Maine border. Family-owned and operated since 1950, Brown’s serves up seafood favorites year-round (everyday from April 15 – November 15th, weekends and holidays otherwise) to hungry visitors, whether local, on vacation, or just passing through.
Perhaps the most unusual thing about Brown’s is that there’s another popular seafood spot right across the street. Markey’s Lobster Pool (named by Yankee as one of the 10 Best Clam Shacks in New England) has its own set of faithful fans, but for many first-time visitors, the difference between the two comes down to beer and parking. Markey’s has wine and beer for sale while Brown’s is BYOB and has the bigger parking lot, which can certainly make all the difference on a busy summer Saturday.
Outside, a sign announces that fried food orders (which, a little confusingly, includes lobster rolls) are taken at a window outside. After you order, you wait until your number is called and a tray slides out with your food. Two large menu boards bracket the windows, and include everything from fried clams and chowder to steamers and fresh lobster.
If I’ve learned anything in the last few years it’s that there’s no agreed-upon consensus for how any regional New England dish should be prepared, whether it’s baked beans or clam chowder, and the lobster roll is no exception. Comments proclaiming that the best lobster rolls are made with cold lobster and a little mayo are usually countered with something like “Then you must hate lobster. Hot and buttery is the only way!”
Of course, everyone is right.
The Brown’s lobster roll comes on a buttered and grilled top-split roll, lined with a little lettuce for crunch, and then topped with chunks of cold lobster (did I already lose you?), freshly picked, and lightly dressed with mayo. A dash of paprika and classic red/white cardboard sleeve completes the order. I have to say, it looked pretty darn good to me.
Brown’s might not be everyone’s top lobster roll, but as many of our fans on Facebook are happy to point out — “Is there really a WRONG way to enjoy fresh lobster?” We Yankees forget sometimes the good fortune of our geography. How lucky we are to disagree about where to find “the best” fresh lobster, when a lot of people can’t find any at all!
Once you’ve got your food, head inside to the large dining hall. Seating is cafeteria-style, and the chatter in the room coupled with the smell of fried food only deepens the feeling of culinary communion. Since it was a beautiful day, I made my way to the back of the room (passing trays heaped with piles of golden brown onion rings, brothy bowls of steamers, and customers carefully cracking open lobsters as I went), where a door leads out to a deck overlooking the tidal Blackwater River.
Settling myself on one of the deck’s picnic tables, with the bright sunshine and salty ocean breeze as my lunch dates, I enjoyed one of New England’s finest (and most delicious) summer pleasures — sweet lobster meat on a toasted buttery bun, complete with a water view.
Are you a fan of Brown’s Lobster Pound? Do you prefer the roll at Markey’s across the street? Would you toss them both in favor of a hot, buttered lobster roll? Let us know your lobster thoughts!