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Best Lobster Rolls in Maine

Best Lobster Rolls in Maine
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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.

Maine Lobster Roll

Photo/Art by Jim DarrochThe best Maine lobster rolls consist of chunks of lobster meat stuffed into a toasted bun.

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

Red’s Eats

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

Bagaduce Lunch

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;

J’s Oyster

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;

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;

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;


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9 Responses to Best Lobster Rolls in Maine

  1. George Sheets September 1, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    I really enjoy the lobster rolls at Five Islands on Georgetown Island!!!

  2. Warren September 1, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Last summer, my wife and I took a late luch at J’s Oyster. That day they offered a special. One whole lobster with slaw and fries. We both enjoyed it.

    A day or two, further up the road we came across Red’s Eats, Main St. & Water St., Wiscasset, ME – (207) 882-6128. We enjoyed the best lobster rolls that we ever had, which leads me to ask, why have you not included them in your story?

  3. Ron July 2, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    The Landing Store in Kennebunk is a great choice for lobster rolls.

  4. Arch Grieve, Jr. July 2, 2013 at 10:25 am #

    Though I haven’t tried the places listed, it is very difficult to believe that they are better than Red’s Eats. In all my visits to Maine, I have never tasted a lobster roll that compares to the ones at Red’s. The freshness of the lobster, and the perfect bun, always makes it worth waiting in line.

  5. Bidney July 3, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    “The Best” is Red’s in Wiscassett!! Never disappoints…always delicious.

  6. Sarah July 18, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    I’m from England and it’s my one wish to come to New England one day, it’s always fascinated me. The lobster looks incredible.

  7. Lonnie July 18, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    We will be in NE the endof September. Will shocks and lobster fool stands still be open for sandwiches?

    Thanks fornyour reply in advance.

    Lonnie Waldman

    • Brenda Darroch July 19, 2013 at 9:27 am #

      Hi Lonnie,
      Many lobster shacks operate on weekends only or close up completely after Labor Day, so it’s best to call ahead to see if they’re open. You’ll still be able to find a great lobster roll in New England at that time, though.

  8. Maribeth September 25, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    Pine Tree Seafood & Produce in Scarborough is my all time favorite lobster roll. Big, buttery and delicious. Yum!!

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