Best Lobster Rolls in Maine
A lobster roll is a simple thing: basically, cold lobster meat stuffed into a warm bun. It’s the street food of the rocky Maine coast–a vernacular masterpiece served high and low, at lobster pounds, cookhouses, and seafood shacks, at supermarkets and gas stations, at fast-food chains and in home kitchens.
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 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. Read on for our list of the best lobster rolls in Maine.
Best Lobster Rolls in Maine
Anyone driving up Route 1 through Wiscasset, Maine, will have noticed the small white and red shack with the endless line out front. The crowd is so large and the number of visitors looking for parking so substantial, it tends to slow traffic to a crawl. Which begets the inevitable question: Is Red’s really worth the wait? Yes, actually, it is. First, there’s the quality of the lobster meat, whose freshness and sweetness is matched only by its abundance. Then there are the fixings, or lack thereof. Red’s lobster comes unadorned, served with mayo and/or butter on the side, so you can customize the roll to your preferences. What may seem like a cheat is actually its strong suit. By not being mixed in with sauce ahead of time, the lobster retains its pure flavor. The buns, meanwhile, are tender, buttery, and perfectly griddled. With all this delicious customizability, butter lovers can sit down with mayo aficionados in peace and enjoy the water view and the salt air at one of the outdoor picnic tables. 41 Water St, Wiscasset; (207) 882-6128
For 60 years folks have been slinging seafood, fried and steamed, from a little red-and-white shack perched on a hilltop overlooking the tidal Bagaduce River. Watch for eagles fishing in the falls. 145 Franks Flat, Penobscot. 207-326-4729, 207-326-4197
The Cod End
It’s right on a working wharf, with views out to the Muscle Ridge Islands, the bubbly granite shore, and pointed firs: foggy, soggy, and piratey. 12 Commercial St., Tenants Harbor. 207-372-6782; codend.com
J’s may be the last of Portland’s salty, divey seafood houses. Casco Bay and the urban working waterfront are right outside the door: condos, cruise ships, and bait houses. 5 Portland Pier, Portland. 207-772-4828; jsoyster.com
The Lobster Shack at Two Lights
Don’t miss this one for the atmosphere: open ocean, battered cliffs, foghorns, wind, and crashing waves. 225 Two Lights Road, Cape Elizabeth. 207-799-1677; lobstershacktwolights.com
Thurston’s Lobster Pound
End of the road, end of the earth: Look for mountain views, bluebloods, bluehairs, and swarms of fishing boats. Steamboat Wharf Road, Bernard. 207-244-7600; thurstonslobster.com