There’s something about eating a lobster roll that almost feels wrong. As lobster is one of the most gourmet and expensive food items out there, piling it up on bread and eating it with your hands almost feels like cheating — the right way to eat a lobster is in a fancy restaurant, with a bib, a shell-cracker, and a little pot of clarified butter, right? Well up in Maine, they’ll tell you that the right way to eat a lobster is in a roll.
According to John Mariani’s The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, the lobster roll as we know it first appeared on a menu in 1929, at a restaurant in New Milford, Conn., called Perry’s. Its popularity spread, and today the lobster roll is one of the Northeast’s signature culinary creations.
The lobster roll comes in a few different varieties. A Connecticut-style lobster roll is served warm and soaked (in the best way possible) with butter. In Maine, the lobster is cold and usually mixed with a little mayo. From there, the possibilities are endless. Some like to gussy it up with some celery salt, paprika, diced celery, or lemon. Others keep it as simple as possible, with the lightest touch of butter or mayo, or in some cases nothing at all.
Whatever augmentation the lobster gets, one thing must always take priority when it comes to the lobster roll, however: the lobster. It should be super-fresh and generously portioned. Lobster rolls don’t come cheap, and after eating one you should feel like you got your money’s worth.
In order to assemble our list of the best lobster rolls in Maine, we consulted with several native authorities on the subject, as well as major publications and other trusted lists. While everyone who lives in Maine has their favorite lobster roll place, we believe that the spots on our list really stand apart from the pack. Not only have they reached a level of renown (some among locals, some nationally), they hit that Platonic ideal of the lobster roll and the lobster roll-eating experience: a perfect balance of lobster meat to condiments to bun, eaten in a setting that you’ll later dream about, a relaxed place, preferably overlooking the water, or at least close enough that you can smell the briny sea that your meal emerged from. A sunny patio also helps. Read on to learn about the 20 best lobster rolls in Maine, and find the best lobster rolls outside of Maine here.
Additional reporting by Arthur Bovino and Jeff Bauer.