Two of our food writers put their heads together to narrow down the very best lobster rolls in New England in 2023.
By Amy Traverso
May 24 2023
McLoons Lobster Roll | South Thomaston, MainePhoto Credit : Mark Fleming
We have published many stories about the best lobster rolls in New England, some organized by geography (“Best Lobster Rolls on Cape Cod,” “Best Lobster Rolls in Maine,”) others by setting (“Best Rolls with a View.”) We’re lucky to have two writers on the lobster beat: senior food editor Amy Traverso and author Mike Urban, who has written six books on New England food.
Amy and Mike don’t always agree on what makes the perfect lobster roll (Mike likes lettuce on his rolls, Amy can’t abide it), but they do share many picks in common. So in anticipation of the coming summer season, Amy and Mike compiled a list of their shared favorite lobster rolls. And they added a few new favorites for good measure. Read on for our guide to where to get the best lobster rolls in New England in 2023.
Lobster Landing‘s Lobster Roll in Clinton, Connecticut
Amy calls this beloved Connecticut shack “a paradigm of hot-and-buttered excellence” and credits owner Enea Bacci for using “a very light hand in the poaching of the meat, guaranteeing perfect sweetness and tenderness.” Mike loves the “unique Italian spin on their hot, buttered lobster roll,” by using “hefty Italian grinder rolls that have been toasted on a standard-issue, propane-fired backyard barbecue grill. The result is a warm, buttery, crispy-crunchy lobster roll that pleases in both quantity and quality.”
Bite into Maine‘s Lobster Roll in Cape Elizabeth, Portland, and Scarborough, Maine
This Maine mini-chain has several locations, but the food trailer parked at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth is a favorite for both Mike and Amy. “Not only is the view of Portland Head Light fantastic, but the lobster rolls (six different kinds) are equally breathtaking,” raves Mike.
The Clam Shack‘s Lobster Roll in Kennebunkport, Maine
Amy and Mike are equally enamored of this Kennebunkport landmark. Mike calls it “arguably the best of the best lobster rolls in New England” while Amy praises the “big chunks of meat, claws, and tail.” A bonus: Being located in Kennebunkport, the Clam Shack is a much easier day trip for most New Englanders. Lastly, Amy notes that even though this lobster roll’s griddled hamburger bun “may not be doctrine, it’s one very good and very accessible roll for (comparative) southerners.”
Eventide‘s Lobster Roll in Portland, Maine, and Boston, Massachusetts
The Eventide hot-and-buttered roll, one of the most unusual in New England. is made using clarified brown butter and served on a house-made, Chinese-style steamed bao bun. “Though diminutive in size, its flavor stands tall and distinctive,” Mike raves. Amy loves how the Eventide team adds a bit of powdered milk to the butter before browning to intensify the nutty, caramelized flavor.
Five Islands Lobster Co.‘s Lobster Roll in Georgetown, Maine
“It’s hard to beat the sight of islands dotting the mouth of the Sheepscot River.” Amy says, while offering a tip of the hat to Five Islands’ cooks, who toss the meat in just enough mayonnaise. According to Mike, “the lobsters here arrive throughout the day, fresh from traps sitting at the bottom of deep, coldwater Sheepscot Bay.” He praises the generous portions but notes that there’s no hot-and-buttered option here, only cold..
McLoon’s Lobster Shack‘s Lobster Roll in South Thomaston, Maine
“Imagine the lobster shack of your dreams” Amy raves. “Not only can you get a half-and-half roll (one side butter, one side mayonnaise, sliced crosswise), but also they put the mayo in the bottom of the bun…The lobster tastes like lobster, the bun tastes like butter, and the sauces enrich the lean meat.” Mike agrees. “Housed in a cute red shack with a tiny kitchen inside, this place serves up some outstanding homemade fare…The cold lobster roll is excellent, served with mayo slathered on the inside of the bun or with melted butter on the side…Rounding things off is the gorgeous setting, on the shores of an inlet dotted with pine trees.”
Red’s Eats‘s Lobster Roll in Wiscasset, Maine
Mike sums the Red’s experience perfectly: “If you can handle the hour-plus wait in line on the sidewalk along busy U.S. Route 1, your sweet reward will be a magnificent lobster roll that’s known far and wide as one of the best lobster rolls in Maine. With tail, claw, and knuckle meat from a 1+/-pound lobster, this roll is bigger than most and may be had with mayo, warm butter, neither, or both.” Amy also appreciates the quality, though she notes that Red’s cash-only policy and pricey rolls mean that you’ll need to bring a good deal of green with you..
Dive Bar‘s Lobster Roll in Boston, Massachusetts
“The food at Tiffani Faison’s seafood bar in the High Street Place food hall has a New Orleanian accent (think po boys, blackened salmon, and a barbecue shrimp bowl).,” says Amy. “As befits the theme, the incredible brown butter lobster roll has a whiff of sherry, a flavor combination that brings to mind Lobster Newberg—-a reminder that classics are classics for a reason.”
Row 34‘s Lobster Roll in Boston, Burlington, Cambridge, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Amy praises the quality of Row 34’s lobster meat, which is wonderfully sweet and fresh (chef-owner Jeremy Sewall comes from a lobstering family). It’s enhanced, she says, “by a buttery split-top New England hot dog bun and just-right applications of butter or mayo (along with some diced celery, pickle, onion, a bit of celery salt, and lemon juice).”
Sesuit Harbor Cafe‘s Lobster Roll in Dennis, Massachusetts
According to Mike, “this gem of a seafood shack with a hefty lobster roll and a waterside location near Cape Cod Bay is well worth seeking out.” The roll is hearty, clocking five to six ounces of lobster meat, and comes with fries and coleslaw. Amy adds, “Grab a shaded table and watch the boats sail in and out of Sesuit Harbor.”
Rye Harbor Lobster Pound‘s Lobster Roll in Rye, New Hampshire
Down by the town dock in Rye Harbor is a tiny, sunny shack that serves some of the most innovative lobster dishes anywhere in New England. From Lobster Gazpacho to Lobster Pizza, there’s plenty to try here. Don’t miss the hot lobster roll with the meat bathed in a warm butter-and-sherry sauce and served on a buttered split-top bun that’s toasted on a plug-in griddle. There’s also a cold roll with mayo, a touch of celery, and a hint of lemon.
The roll at this fabulous estuarine eatery features five ounces of super-fresh lobster meat tossed with a bit of mayo and diced celery, ladled onto a lettuce leaf tucked into a toasted, buttered bun. One of Mike’s favorite features: The adjacent organic vegetable farm, much of which is under glass, offers year-round fresh veg on the side.
In your opinion, who makes the best lobster roll in New England? Let us know in the comments below!