It’s widely accepted that most of the best lobster rolls in America can be found in Maine. Why? There’s no shortage of lobster there, for one, and there’s something about the sea breeze, the salty air, and the even saltier fishermen who you’ll find at the best lobster shacks that make a Maine lobster roll not just an amazing sandwich, but a life-affirming experience (click here to see our picks for the Best Lobster Rolls in Maine). Thankfully, that experience isn’t exclusive to Maine, and elsewhere in the country there are not only incredible lobster rolls to be eaten on patios overlooking the water, but at fine restaurants as well.
If there’s such thing as a perfect food, a great lobster roll could very well be it. First of all, it’s lobster, one of the most gourmet — and delicious — foods in existence, democratized in a sense by removing it from the shell and sticking it inside a bun. The best lobster rolls are ones that boast heaping helpings of super-fresh lobster, kept in large chunks, served warm or cool, moistened with a little bit of mayo or butter, accented with some salt, pepper, and other spices of the chef’s choosing (or none at all, but as long as the lobster isn’t overpowered there’s certainly room for creativity), nestled inside (and on top of and around) a split-top bun that’s been buttered and toasted on a griddle. Aside from the sandwich itself, the eating experience is about as decadent as possible, and there are few foods that represent summer quite as much as a lobster roll. What’s more, there are two major lobster roll styles to choose from, and both are arguably equally delicious: Maine-style, which is served cold with mayo, and Connecticut-style, which is served warm with butter.
In order to find the best lobster rolls outside of Maine, we searched far and wide for those that have the highest level of renown, but also ones that meet all the qualifications set forth above. While obviously the opportunity to eat your lobster roll on a picturesque dock overlooking a harbor filled with lobster trawlers is ideal, that’s not a make-or-break criterion for a great lobster roll. Some mediocre lobster rolls are served in the most picturesque settings imaginable, and likewise, some of the country’s best lobster rolls are served at restaurants with no water in sight.
Our journey across Lobster Roll America takes us to a restaurant in Los Angeles that serves a green curry-spiked lobster roll in a jet-black bun, an oyster bar in Philadelphia that ships both lobster and buns in from Maine daily,and a sprawling patio in Austin, Texas, where super-fresh lobster rolls are served with a side of drawn butter.
Additional reporting by Arthur Bovino.