Sandwich of the Week: Maine's 10 Best Lobster Rolls Slideshow
July 17, 2011
#10 Barnacle Billy’s (Ogunquit)
At Barnacle Billy's you'll find plenty of New Yorkers around you talking about Brooklyn. Everyone's eating scallops and drinking white wine in cozy-clad bottles — it's an environment straight out of a 70s photo, with picture windows looking out on moored boats with names like, ‘Dough Boy.’
: A grilled top-loader that’s filled with lobster that’s cooked well enough (not tough), but is significantly dressed and dusted with paprika. Served with fries that are a bit mushy and bread and butter pickles. You’d be happy enough with this roll, but it won’t inspire any paeans.
#9 Waterman’s Beach Lobster (South Thomaston)
Meditations on water and sky.
The blueberry pie features a thick, scatter-flaky crust, and a blueberry filling more like jam than fruit.
There’s not much in either direction on Waterman’s Beach Road save road, trees, grass and sky. Sure is pretty. Gorgeous too is the view of the water from the picnic tables. The kind of setting you want to bring a bottle of wine to, eat some grub at, and sit by the water with someone special, just being.
: A warm, crunchy sandwich-style roll that’s been browned nicely a bit on each side. Inside there are small chunks of lightly-dressed lobster. It's obviously fresh lobster, and tasty. Still, you’re looking for a bit more.
#8 The Clam Shack (Kennebunkport)
For a view, stand on the sidewalk across from the order/pickup window.
Clam bellies and strips
Man, Kennebunkport is cute. Too cute. It’s like the Key West of Maine, but without the Hemingway paraphernalia. As for The Clam Shack's lobster roll...
: If you’re of the school of thought that downplays the bun’s importance, review this as an example of why you’re wrong. The chewy, sub-par bread really detracts. If not for evidence its undersides touched a griddle, you’d never know it had been warmed. Too bad, the lobster is good enough to still rank this higher than two other rolls— large chunks, big tail pieces and claw— wet and juicy. Eat the lobster, toss the bread to the gulls.
#7 Estes Lobster House (South Harpswell)
Small roll/$9.95, regular roll/$14.95
Tough to beat
The "Lobster dip" is the move
There’s a remote, local, peninsula vacation feel to Estes. Stacked lobster traps out front, pick-ups, a motorcycle, the cry of a lone, meditative gull. But smell that fry inside! The outdoor area boasts a fire pit, and blankets for when it’s cold. The big sky, quiet, and views of the blinding-sparkly water are big draws. So are the metal chairs, which you can lightly bounce-rock yourself in while awaiting food.
: Lobster meat is heavily dressed with mayo relative to the other nine. The bun is toasted, but not buttery. Good, but some lobster flavor is lost.
#6 Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster (South Freeport)
Grab an outdoor, bar stool harbor view
Steamers, Onion Middles
Just another beautiful boat-filled harbor. You think, “It can’t get more quaint and beautiful.” It does. It’s worth staking out the bar stools and eating ledges outside at Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster overlooking the Freeport Town Wharf.
: The lobster is tasty, but a little sparse. This is being picky, again, the flavor of the meat is better than 90% of what you’ll find outside of Maine, whether it’s in your head or not, but the noticeable dressing does a bit of a mask job. And there are big lettuce leaves underneath the meat, lining the toasted bun. This is a bit of a bready roll. Fries are fine, but nothing special.
#5 The Lobster Dock (Boothbay Harbor)
Lobster stew, crabcakes were in a Bobby Flay Throwdown (skip)
Boothbay Harbor is pretty gorgeous at sunset — a fantastic place to sit, drink, and eat. The folks manning the lobster tanks are very friendly too. Their T-shirts rock, and the logo, well, how can you not get into a lobster stirring the pot he’s sitting in?
: The menu poses a dilemma: ‘warm with melted butter,’ or ‘cold’ with mayonnaise? This survey is admittedly incomplete — I can only vouch for the cold with mayo option. A pretty heaping portion that’s lightly-dressed, on a visibly toasted bun. A juicy, toasty roll.
#4 Sprague’s Lobster (Wiscasset)
Try not to ogle the line at Red’s
Vinegar distribution system (spray-bottle)
Before visiting a place like Sprague's, the questions race. Any place right across the street from Maine’s most famous lobster roll is either crazy or ballsy, right? Do they just survive on runoff? Just imitate Red’s? Do they use as much meat? What’s the price point? And, of course, how will this compare?
: Sprague’s doesn’t use as much meat as Red’s, costs almost two dollars more, and doesn’t measure up, but it’s not far off. Certainly much better than expected. As at Red’s, no visible dressing on the lobster, which was excellent — wet and juicy. Plenty of butter on the golden-brown bun. If you don’t want to wait at Red’s, Sprague’s will do. But if you’ve come this far…
#3 Shaw’s Fish & Lobster Wharf (New Harbor)
Go outside for the deck view
Lobster stew is a must-order
Shaw’s Fish & Lobster Wharf is a salty place with old-timers eating inside upstairs, and Red Sox-bedecked locals drinking and watching the game at the bar downstairs. Makes Maine feel like Massachusetts’ backyard.
: The roll is butter-toasted, and layered with crispy shredded iceberg lettuce that adds little taste but some crunchy texture that works (and better than Harraseeket’s fancier lettuce). There’s a healthy portion of juicy lobster dressed lightly in mayonnaise, but you can still taste that great lobster flavor strong through it. As an entire package, this was a strong #3.
#2 Five Islands Lobster Co. (Georgetown)
The Big Boy/$28.95, regular roll/$16
The Big Boy, The Jenny Special
Five Islands Lobster Co. is a veritable shack compound surrounded by water views, a menu that includes cheesesteaks, and has what some locals claim to be the best hamburger in town. That may be so, but besides the lobster roll, the other sandwich not to miss is The Jenny Special.
: There’s a regular lobster roll, and then there’s The Big Boy. Let’s be real. The Big Boy costs a bit more than what most rolls in New York cost, but for almost twice the meat. This is about the same size as Red’s, but not quite as good (and twice as expensive). Buttery-toasted bun. Lettuce leaf-layering. The meat was naked, full of lobstery-salty flavor, but it’s not as wet as Red’s.
#1 Red's Eats (Wiscasset)
Deck view of the bridge, but you’ll be too busy with the roll for it to matter
The Sturdley, Dough Boy
The line is long and as a recent Times article documented, the wait begins in your car on the one-lane lead-up to Red’s Eats and the bridge. It hasn’t endeared tourists to locals. Indeed, someone shouted out their window “Red’s Eats sucks” during the hour-long wait. Two notes. First, there’s a short-cut that bypasses a chunk of traffic. Follow Gardiner Road until you reach Churchill Street. Take Churchill, hang a left on Lee, left on Middle, and you’re there. Second, I bumped into former Pearl coworkers waiting on line at Red’s.
: Heaping, fresh, wet lobster — so much it falls all over. It tastes just cooked and picked, and it’s a great deal. No dressing. Get butter (warmed in a kettle on the stove) and mayo. Sometimes there’s a reason the top dog is number one.