But for a lobster roll to be a lobster roll, and not a lobster salad or some other concoction, it shouldn’t stray too far from the classic archetype; you can bend the lobster-roll rules, but you shouldn’t break them. For example, the bun can be any shape as long as it’s brushed with butter and slapped on the griddle to cook to a golden-brown; stale buns, freezer-burned buns, and ungrilled buns will ruin the roll. The meat, ideally a mix of knuckle and claw, with maybe a little bit of tail, must be picked from the bright red shells of freshly cooked lobsters, not leftover or dead ones. It’s best chilled but not quite cold; tossed with salt, black pepper, and a little bit of mayonnaise; and packed tightly and neatly into the bun. A pickle on top is traditional; so are a lettuce leaf (Bibb is best), a sprinkle of celery salt or paprika, and maybe a squeeze of lemon juice.
Most Maine lobster rolls fit some variation of this description. Some are better than others, some are a lot worse, but context is what really separates the best-in-show from all the other mutts. At its best, a lobster roll is an edible excuse to drive down some long road to some big view and to take it all in with seagull sounds and a side of onion rings. Here are five classic lobster-roll spots where the sights are just as good as the grub.