During my recent trip from Charlottetown, PEI to Biddeford, ME, Boston, MA and back, I was on a mission. I gave myself the task of finding the best (or at least my favorite) lobster roll along the Eastern Seaboard. Born and raised in the west, lobster is definitely a special treat. I can honestly say that it failed to grow old, even after eating it religiously for nearly three weeks straight.
In order to determine the winner, I had to come up with a criteria for judging each roll. I based it upon three categories: the roll, the lobster itself and the overall value. In the end, it came down to three rolls, all of which I ate at places in Maine. I guess it's fitting considering the state's reputation for this tasty crustacean.
#3 - Pool Lobster Co. in Biddeford Pool, ME
Located in the secluded village of Biddeford Pool, this seafood market would have passed me by had it not been for the magnet I noticed on the fridge at our beach house rental. You know the lobster is going to be good when it is coming direct from ocean to plate. The roll was a toasted New England Style hot dog bun. Warm and doughy but golden brown and slightly crisp on the exterior. But the lobster meat was what truly caught my attention. It was the first roll I consumed in which only tail and claw meat were used. And it was so lightly dressed, that at first, I didn't realize that there was even any mayo at all. This allowed the sweet, delicate lobster flavor to come through. The only other addition was a dusting of Old Bay Seasoning on top. Taste-wise, I cannot say this added anything. However it did elevate the vibrant, red color of the meat, making the sandwich more appealing to the eye. At $13.95 with no side, the price was average, not ridiculously high but not cheap either. All things said, it was enough to take 3rd place.
#2 - Alisson's Restaurant in Kennebunkport, ME
I actually chose Alisson's after reading an article about the best lobster rolls in the New York Times. If it's on their radar, it better be good, right? Although I hated the restaurant itself, with it's family oriented vibe and poor service, I can't complain about the quality of the lobster roll. For $18.95 it was pricy, but the roll itself was one of the longest I have seen and it was filled to the brim. It also came with your choice of side (the usual fries, coleslaw, corn, etc.). Again, the New England style roll was freshly toasted. I appreciated how liberal they were with the butter. It may not be too good for the arteries but it sure complimented the chunks of claw meat, tossed in a light coating of mayo. Their twist was the addition of shredded romaine at the bottom of the roll. It provided good texture without taking away from the lobster. I would love to try their lobster roll again, but next time, I would take it to-go.
#1 - Federal Jacks in Kennebunkport, ME
I must admit, this brewpub was the last place I expected to find my favorite lobster roll. The place was absolutely packed and after waiting over 20 minute for a table I just wanted food, any food. Needless to say my discover was a pleasant surprise. Federal Jacks uses, you guess it, a traditional New England hot dog bun. It may have been shorter than average, but don't let the size fool you. Rather than skimping on lobster, it allowed for a more favorable meat to bread ratio. I'm talking so overloaded that you almost had to tackle this baby with a knife and fork. The massive bites of tail and claw meat (no knuckle in sight) tossed lightly in mayo had the tendency to jump overboard - make sure you don't waste any of the precious morsels! The lettuce leaf had the important function of lining the bun, preventing the sog factor. Still, you must be prepared to get messy. The saucy juices stream down your hands and face, making you feel like a child all over again. For a mere $12.99, with a side of creamy coleslaw, the only cheaper option is to make one yourself. What a small price to pay for something so utterly delectable!
On my journey I tried some pretty unique lobster rolls. From rye bread and to hoagie buns to pineapple, cilantro salsa and homemade aioli, every place had a different take on this east coast favorite. But at the end of the day, it is another classic example of "simple is best". Lobster rolls are exactly as they sound, nothing fancy, nothing fussy. It may sound boring but the best of these sandwiches contain no more than succulent chunks of lobster, a touch of mayo and a toasty bun. Just like your parents always told you, "some things are perfect just the way they are".