America’s 20 Best Lobster Rolls Outside of Maine
June 9, 2017
Who needs Maine lobster rolls when there are versions this good elsewhere?
America’s 20 Best Lobster Rolls Outside Maine
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.
#20 The Ordinary, Charleston, S.C.
The lobster roll served as weekly special at chef Mike Lata’s Charleston seafood mecca is slightly out of the ordinary (ha), but still insanely delicious. Lobsters are brought in straight from Maine, and they’re given the royal treatment: a half-pound of lobster meat goes into each roll, mixed with a bright combination of mayo, Tabasco, lemon, mustard, garlic, celery, chives, shallots, and Old Bay.
#19 Belle Isle Seafood, Boston
Yelp/ Marc L.
The lobster roll served at Belle Isle, which can now be found in a huge waterfront location on the Boston outskirts with plenty of sunlight and a bar, is nothing short of epic. You can barely see the bun beneath a gargantuan pile of tail, claw, and knuckle meat, and it’s adorned with some lettuce that’s not exactly necessary and not too much mayo.
#18 Hinoki & The Bird, Los Angeles
Arguably the most visibly striking roll on our list, the lobster roll served at chef David Myers’ Hinoki & The Bird starts with a bun that’s been toasted with charcoal powder, giving it a jet-black appearance. To create the lobster salad, executive chef Kuniko Yagi mixes chunks of fresh lobster with a Vietnamese-style green curry aioli and wisps of fresh Thai basil. It’s gourmet to the max, sure, but it also happens to be downright delicious.
#17 JCT Kitchen & Bar, Atlanta
Chef Ford Fry is slowly taking over the Atlanta dining scene, with ten restaurants in the city and environs, but the lobster roll that’s served at his JCT Kitchen during lunchtime service on Fridays and Saturdays only is a true piece de resistance. It’s an entire lobster, cut up as minimally as possible, tossed with a little mayo and chives, served on a bun baked by the venerable restaurant Holeman & Finch. Served with a mound of fries and an apple slaw, it’s a true thing of beauty.
#16 Acadia, Chicago
When the chef spent his summers in Maine and made it his mission to replicate that experience as accurately as possible, you know you’re in for a treat. The lobster roll that chef Ryan McCaskey serves at the bar at his restaurant, Acadia, starts with split-top buns from the Maine-based Hannaford supermarket chain, topped with big chunks of fresh lobster that’s been tossed with chive mayo, then topped with paprika and a lemon squeeze. It’s nothing short of Chicago’s best lobster roll.
#15 Perla’s Seafood & Oyster Bar, Austin, Texas
Yelp/ Angela F.
On an oak-shaded patio in Austin’s South Congress, you’ll find one of the best lobster rolls in America. Perla's chefs/owners Lawrence McGuire and Thomas Moorman Jr. ship in seafood from both coasts daily, and the lobster here comes from — where else? — Maine. The lobster is blanched before being tossed with a house-made lemon mayo and herbs, and then it’s placed into a homemade bun with some Bibb lettuce and served alongside drawn garlic butter.
#14 Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant, Newport, R.I.
Yelp/ Wenky W.
To say that the lobster roll at Brick Alley is overstuffed would be an understatement. It’s absolutely brimming with fresh lobster meat, tossed with mayo and a secret seasoning mix that should be packaged and sold. It’s served with lettuce on a buttery bun alongside some slaw, a pickle, and steak fries, and after one bite you’ll know why this place has been one of Rhode Island’s most popular restaurants for more than 30 years.
#13 Oyster House, Philadelphia
At Oyster House, freshness and authenticity are key. Owner Sam Mink ships in fresh lobster from Maine daily, along with buns made by New England’s JJ Nissen. This means that the lobster in your roll was in Maine waters less than 24 hours ago, and these rolls, which contain about a third of a pound of meat, are treated with as much reverence as they deserve: warm rolls are topped with a citrus-kicked butter, cold ones are tossed with a little bit of mayo, diced celery, and a pinch of salt.
#12 The Bayside Restaurant, Westport, Mass.
Yelp/ Mike P
When it comes to seafood-eating views, it doesn’t get much better than this: The deck at The Bayside Restaurant looks right out over an Audubon wildlife sanctuary, Buzzards Bay, and the Elizabeth Islands. The lobster roll you’ll get here is world-class, too: each hot dog bun is topped with 5 ounces of straight lobster meat, no frills. All the accompaniments are served on the side: mayo, melted butter, and killer hand-cut fries.
#11 Woodhouse Fish Co., San Francisco
Yelp/ John L.
At Woodhouse, they let the lobster shine, and it sure is treated lovingly. Huge chunks of lobster meat adorn split-top buns that are custom-baked for the restaurant, and the lobster’s dressed with a little house-made mayo and a sprinkling of chives. And that’s it.
#10 Offshore Ale Co., Oak Bluffs, Mass.
A Martha’s Vineyard mainstay, Offshore Ale Co. boasts a lobster roll to end all lobster rolls. Formerly an off-menu specialty, it was ordered so frequently that the owners decided to make it a permanent addition. This monstrous sandwich packs perfectly cooked, freshly shucked meat, tossed with just a little bit of mayo and a squirt of lemon, into a grilled split-top bun. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. And when in Martha’s Vineyard, eat a lobster roll at Offshore.
#9 Jim’s Dock, Jerusalem, R.I.
Yelp/ Vincent C
The name of this little shack nestled right on the water doesn’t lie: it’s parked literally right on a dock, and they even charter boats out front. The lobster roll at this cash-only, BYOB restaurant is as fresh as you’d expect: a buttered and grilled artisan split-top bun is lined with lettuce and absolutely loaded with lobster that’s been tossed with just the right amount of mayo. Bring a couple bottles of wine, camp out on a table overlooking the marina, and remember why summer is such a great time of year.
#8 Sam’s Chowder House, Half Moon Bay, Calif.
The lobster rolls served at Sam’s hit all the right notes: First, they’re gorgeous to look at, with massive chunks of super-fresh lobster dressed with just a little bit of drawn butter, fresh herbs, and celery, and tucked into a custom-baked bun. Second, the view from the deck out across the Pacific is second to none. Third, it’s about as New England an experience as you can get, but 3,000 miles away. With a menu that’s brimming with local seafood as well as specialties like cioppino, bacon-wrapped crabmeat-stuffed prawns, and a grilled rib-eye, it’s not just one of the best lobster rolls in the Bay Area, it’s one of the best restaurants in the Bay Area.
#7 Neptune Oyster, Boston
Located in Boston’s North End, Neptune's lobster roll can be served hot, utterly overflowing with big chunks of tail, claw, and knuckle meat mixed with a little clarified butter, served on a buttered and grilled bun. They also serve a cold lobster roll, but this is the one to get.
#6 Luke’s Lobster, Various Locations
Owner Luke Holden’s father was a Maine lobsterman, and Luke’s 28 locations in nine states and Washington D.C. (plus a Japanese outpost) are about as Maine as you can get. His lobster rolls start with toasted split-topped buns shipped from Maine, the claw and knuckle meat comes from Maine lobsters (they’re steamed, picked, and sealed airtight before being shipped south), and accompaniments include Maine Root soda and Gifford’s of Maine ice cream. The lobster rolls here are served with a little mayo inside the bun and butter drizzled on top, and it’s all brought together with a celery salt-heavy secret seasoning blend. Thankfully, they also ship.
#5 B&G Oysters, Boston
Yelp/ Natalie N.
At B&G Oysters, chef Barbara Lynch serves a world-class lobster roll, flawlessly prepared. Claw and tail meat is tossed with a little bit of mayo, diced celery, and chopped chives, and it’s served on an ideal bun. Every element of this lobster roll is made with a serious amount of care and precision, and it’s served a alongside a mound of tarragon-kicked fries.
#4 Champlin’s, Narragansett, R.I.
Yelp/ Amy I.
Since 1944, Champlin’s bas been serving astoundingly simple and delicious lobster rolls from their dockside restaurant. Lobsters come right off the day boat and into the sandwiches, which contain a heaping portion of claw, knuckle, and tail meat, tossed with a little celery and mayo, with a lettuce leaf separating meat from bun. Take a seat on the charmingly ramshackle deck overlooking the water, take in the sea air as you eat your roll, and buy a few live lobsters for dinner on your way out.
#3 Red Hook Lobster Pound, New York City and Washington, D.C.
Yelp/ Jason P.
The lobster rolls served at the Red Hook Lobster Pound, which has brick-and-mortar locations in New York and Montauk and trucks prowling both D.C. and New York, start with split-top buns from Maine-based Country Kitchen. They’re topped with claw and knuckle meat from lobsters that are driven down from Maine weekly and kept alive until the last minute possible (you can also buy them live at the Red Hook flagship), and both styles are insanely delicious: Maine-style, served cold with a house-made lemon-spiked mayo, and Connecticut-style, drizzled with clarified butter. Red Hook Lobster has been named the best food truck in America by The Daily Meal, and these are also among the best lobster rolls in America.
#2 Pearl Oyster Bar, New York City
Yelp/ Ma L.
It may be hard to believe now, but as its website proclaims, in 1997 when Rebecca Charles opened her restaurant, Pearl Oyster Bar in New York’s West Village, "there was not a lobster roll to be found in Manhattan; their availability limited to New England vacation destinations and the odd Long Island fish shack." People still line up outside before the restaurant opens to get their favorite seat at the bar and watch Charles and crew send out turn after turn of glorious lobster rolls accompanied by Pearl’s standard shoestring fries. The top-loading rolls are beautifully butter-crisped in sauté pans, loaded with a tangy, light mayonnaise, and sent out with a scatter of chive and lettuce. The lobster is fresh, juicy, and tender, and the portion generous.
#1 Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough, Noank, Conn.
Yelp/ Clemens W.
This legendary BYOB counter-service restaurant on the Mystic River has been steaming lobsters since 1947 in cast iron low-pressure steam ovens, and it’s only open during the summer months. Their lobster rolls come in a few varieties: First, there’s the lobster salad roll, cold lobster tossed with celery and a mayo-based dressing in a toasted split top bun. Then there’s the piece de resistance: their Famous hot Lobster Roll, a full quarter-pound of lobster meat (a little more than what you'd get out of one whole small lobster), drenched in butter and heaped on a toasted sesame seed-topped hamburger bun. Want more lobster? Get the OMG Hot Lobster Roll, which packs in almost half a pound, or the LOL Hot Lobster Roll, which contains a full pound of lobster meat.