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Best Lobster Rolls in Maine

Best Lobster Rolls in Maine
8 votes, 4.00 avg. rating (79% score)

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.

reds lobster roll

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Red’s lobster roll comes unadorned, served with mayo and/or butter on the side, so you can customize the roll to your preferences.

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.

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 roll 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 (Now Closed)

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;

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

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26 Responses to Best Lobster Rolls in Maine

  1. Dawn July 8, 2014 at 7:40 am #

    The 99 restaurant is the best place for lobster rolls

    • Brian August 8, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

      You must be kidding? 99 uses frozen lobster meat and the presentation is horrible along with a serious lack of flavor! Go to a real fish restaurant and get fresh lobster.

  2. Cynthia July 8, 2014 at 8:03 am #

    I lived in Maine for 21 years , and I loved Lobster in any fashion. I still have the Lobster pots, but have no use for them down here in Florida. I know all the places for lobster. There was a restaurant in Gorham that had a lobster dinner ( 2 -1 lb lobsters) and corn on the cob for $6.00! I miss the strawberry , blueberry, and apple picking when the weather was just right. Autumn is a postcard in color. The coastline is dramatic. the rural towns with their antique stores have much to offer. But the winters after all the years were too much for me… Too long and too severe. A beautiful state, nonetheless.

  3. Ben July 8, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    You forgot the Lobster Shack in Kennebunkport…just saying!

    • Kathleen July 9, 2014 at 9:49 am #

      I AGREE: Lobster Shack in Kennebunkport!

  4. Doreen July 8, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    Now that is a Lobster Roll…so many restaurants I went to served the ones with Mayo and celery etc and called them Lobster Rolls. I used to smirk and say No Way Jose ‘ these are Lobster Salad Rolls. These were restaurants in New England and I couldn’t understand just how a New Englander didn’t know the difference. Oh to have a real Lobster Roll now! Not heard of here in TN. I miss New England. :)

    • Linda July 8, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

      OMG I want to fly up there right now and get me some/ none down here in Mobile, AL. We used to go to a place in Rockland ME.

  5. Pat July 8, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    Sprague’s across the street from Reds is just as good! They pack it with fresh lobster from the same boat as reds! Cheaper, line not as long! Just as good!

  6. dan July 8, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    the small lobster shack at porpoise point,past the Bush compound……………….my favorite lobster rolls

  7. Maureen July 8, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    My husband and I go to Red’s Eats (drive up from Portland) every few weeks. We love it. Just FYI, Bailey’s on Pine Point in Scarboro puts together a good lobster roll at a good price (really good shrimp roll too).

  8. Greg Firlotte July 8, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

    Yes, there are many amazing lobster rolls and lobster shacks to be found all across Maine….but you have to give kudos to Red’s Eats for giving the people what they want: lobster, lobster and more lobster on their roll. Pure and unadorned. And that’s a good thing, ayuh!

  9. Bob July 8, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    Pine tree seafood in Scarborough and OOB has the best lobster rolls in New England.

  10. Lori and Heidi Norman July 8, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    Love Reds Eats! Missing New England and suffering through the heat I. Atlanta, Ga!

  11. Charles July 9, 2014 at 5:45 am #

    I don’t know anything about the places listed here,except for Thurston’s. I’m from MDI, But if your ever in this area, I would recommend a visit to Saywer’s Lobster Pound in Seawall!

  12. Resident July 9, 2014 at 7:15 am #

    Those people you see standing in line at Red’s? Tourists. Because locals know better places with shorter lines and killer views. Soooo over-rated.

    • bob July 9, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

      Please don’t say sarah’s cafe… frozen lobster meat with mayo celery and way to much pepper, yack!!!

      At least at reds you get fresh maine lobster.

    • Marilyn August 22, 2014 at 8:43 am #

      Red’s Eats, you got to be kidding. As far as I am concerned their’s is frozen meat as well. If you want a really good lobster roll, try Shaw’s in New Harbor. Think that is the best I have ever had. A little more expensive, but well worth it. Do ask for it without the lettuce though they do not use much.

  13. Diana Potter July 9, 2014 at 8:16 am #

    Helen’s in Machias–if it’s still there.

    • Michele August 17, 2014 at 11:02 am #

      Helen’s burned down this summer, but I hear they are going to rebuild. We come every summer.

  14. shawn July 9, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    mac’s downeast seafood in auburn has the best lobster rolls. especially for the price

  15. Richard August 11, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

    Bob’s seafood restaurant on 302 in north Windham. Make sure you ask to have the roll grilled. Packed with very fresh knuckle and claw only. For those that know, this is the secret. Yummmmmmmmm

  16. Douglas White August 21, 2014 at 8:32 am #

    Side Street Cafè, Bar Harbor.

  17. Catherine August 26, 2014 at 1:07 am #

    Chase’s Restaurant in Winter Harbor makes the best. I hope they still exist. Have not had the pleasure of getting to Maine for several years.

  18. Jean September 12, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    The best is all fresh lobster at Young ‘ s Lobster Pound in Belfast. Mound of lobster. We get one every time we go to Belfast.

  19. Gayle September 13, 2014 at 7:20 am #

    Try the Eagle’s Nest in Brewer, ME. The lobster roll is yummy as well as their other menu delights!!!

  20. Claudia Davis March 1, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

    Reds does not use frozen lobster and half the line is locals.

    I also love Fisherman’s Grill in Portland as well as J’s.

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