Sandwich of the Week: Hot Lobster Roll at Abbott's in Noank, Connecticut
Nobody agrees about lobster rolls. Should the lobster meat be bound with mayonnaise? If mayo is involved, should the bun be buttered? Toasted? Do you mix celery or dill or chives or anything else into the lobster? What about seasonings (salt, sure, but black pepper? white pepper? paprika?)? And that bun: hot dog roll (and if so, split top or conventional)? Portuguese roll? What?
At Abbott's Lobster in the Rough, on the water in Noank, Conn., next door to Groton ("The Submarine Capital of the World" — and in this case they're talking real submarines, not sandwiches), the "lobster salad roll" involves a toasted split-top bun, celery, and a mayonnaise-based dressing, plus plenty of lobster.
But the winning sandwich here sidesteps all the disagreement by stripping things down to the basics: "Our Famous Hot Lobster Roll" is not, in fact, a lobster roll as most of the world understands it. Instead, it's nothing more than a quarter-pound of lobster meat (about what you'd get out of one whole small lobster), drenched in butter and heaped on a toasted sesame seed-topped hamburger bun. A bag of firm-textured Abbott's brand potato chips, a little paper cup of pretty good coleslaw, and a couple of pickle slices come on the side, but are sort of beside the point. The point is a nice big serving of really good, moist, tender lobster, cooked in massive 50-year-old cast-iron low-pressure steam ovens.
If you've never been to Abbott's, here are a few things you should know: It opens on weekends only in early May from noon to 7 p.m., then serves seven days a week from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day from noon to 9 p.m., then reverts to the weekend schedule until early October, when it closes for the season. It's self-service — order at one counter, pick up your food at another one when your number is called — and most of the seating is at picnic tables on the grass, looking out on the water. It's BYOB, and people arrive with everything from six-packs of Bud to bottles of Malibu Mango and magnums of Veuve Cliquot. (There is no corkage charge, but ice and plastic cups are provided; and there's a package store up the road apiece if you didn't bring any potables from home.) If you're not in the mood for a lobster roll, hot or cold, the menu also includes all the usual clam/lobster shack items, like excellent little Mystic Whale Rock oysters, clam chowder, fried clams, steamers, and just plain lobsters in sizes up to 10 pounds.
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