10 Lobster Rolls Worth the Trip

From Maine to (gasp!) Texas, our picks for where to snag America’s classic summer dish.

By Kathryn O'Shea-Evans

It’s one of summer’s quintessential meals: fresh steamed lobster loaded into a buttery bun. In Connecticut they serve it toasted with drawn butter; in Maine it’s often slathered in mayonnaise and presented chilled. “Too much mayo or butter and you mask the wonderful lobstery flavor,” says Luke Holden, president of New York City-based restaurant chain Luke’s Lobster and coauthor of the newly released book Real Maine Food.

In honor of this classic warm-weather food, we’ve rounded up 10 of America’s best places to have one. Just remember: It tastes best outdoors, preferably by the water.

The Lobster Shack at Two Lights

Cape Elizabeth, Maine

One of Holden’s go-to spots for a lobster roll in Maine, his home state, the cliff-side Lobster Shack has been serving fresh-caught crustaceans since the 1920s. “They’re known for super-fresh lobster meat, a simple approach and dramatic oceanfront scenery while you eat,” Holden says.

Five Islands Lobster Co.

Georgetown, Maine

Set on a barnacled wharf overlooking deep Sheepscot Bay, a spot beloved by lobsterers for generations, Five Islands is rumored to have some of the freshest lobster rolls around. It offers a Big Boy version, which has twice as much meat as is usually served in a grilled and buttered homemade potato roll.

River House

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Its chowder wins awards, but the River House’s lobster roll, served barely dressed with mayonnaise and overflowing its grilled brioche, is equally up to par. Sit on the deck overlooking the Piscataqua River and neighboring Maine.

Alive & Kicking

Cambridge, Massachusetts

There’s a reason Boston Magazine named this “Best Lobster Roll,” even though it’s not technically a roll: The restaurant’s owner, Louis Mastrangelo, prefers just a tiny bit of mayo between slices of Italian scali bread, which makes it seem like something a nonni would whip up for you. Wash it down with one of Alive & Kicking’s signature sarsaparilla sodas.

Luke’s Lobster

New York City

Holden now owns a multi-city lobster empire, but our pick remains the tiny hole-in-the-wall where it all began: his eight-seat spot in the East Village. One reason for his continued success: Luke’s buys only from sources in Maine, ensuring freshness. You won’t find needless fillers in these rolls, just chilled lobster meat dressed with mayonnaise, lemon butter and a sprinkling of spices.

Oyster House

Philadelphia

Locals obsess over Oyster House’s lobster rolls, which come stuffed with fresh-caught wild Maine lobster. Inside, the dining room is a light and airy space with antique oyster plates hung on the subway-tile-lined walls. Go during Buck-a-Shuck happy hour to complement your roll with $1* oysters and $5 cocktails.

Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls

Annapolis, Maryland

Marylanders flock here from every corner of the state because it fulfills all cravings: Mason’s makes a Maine Classic Lobstah Roll; a no-mayo, extra-butter Connecticut Roll; and even its own state varietal, which has mayo, celery and fresh lemon. Most options are $12, which is a deal for lobster caught in Portland, Maine.

Steuben’s

Denver

The owners of Steuben’s are focused on getting America’s regional dishes just right, from Louisiana crawfish étouffée to Rhode Island calamari. But they’re from Boston, which means that their lobster roll is especially good—fresh Maine lobster meat simply dressed with a touch of mayonnaise.

Dock & Roll Diner

Austin, Texas

The first Austin restaurant devoted to New England’s major export serves wild-caught Maine lobster in 12 variations on the lobster roll, from the BLT to El Fuerte (spiced up with cayenne, cilantro and lime). The original location is the place to try; it’s housed in a glossy 1957 Flying Cloud Airstream trailer.

Hinoki & the Bird

Los Angeles

You wouldn’t expect to find a lobster roll in this Silk Road-inspired restaurant, beloved by Hollywood scenesters. But you do, and it’s divine: largely because it’s boundary pushing, with green curry and Thai basil to punch up the traditional fillings.

THE DETAILS
Alive & Kicking
269 Putnam Ave., Cambridge, Mass.; 617-876-0451; aliveandkickinglobsters.com; market price
Dock & Roll Diner
1503 S. 1st St., Austin, Texas; 512-924-1766; dockandrolldiner.com; from $14 a lobster roll
Five Islands Lobster Co.
1447 Five Islands Rd., Georgetown, Maine; 207-371-2990; fiveislandslobster.com; market price
Hinoki & the Bird
10 Century Dr., Los Angeles; 310-552-1200; hinokiandthebird.com; market price
The Lobster Shack at Two Lights
225 Two Lights Rd., Cape Elizabeth, Maine; 207-799-1677; lobstershacktwolights.com; market price
Luke’s Lobster
93 E. Seventh St., New York, N.Y.; 212-387-8487; see lukeslobster.com for more locations; $15 a lobster roll
Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls
188 Main St., Annapolis, Md.; 410-280-2254; masonslobster.com; $12 a lobster roll
Oyster House
1516 Sansom St., Philadelphia; 215-567-7683; oysterhousephilly.com; $26 a lobster roll
River House
53 Bow St., Portsmouth, N.H.; 603-431-2600; riverhouse53bow.com; $20 a lobster roll
Steuben’s
523 E. 17th Ave., Denver; 303-830-1001; steubens.com; $23 a lobster roll
  • *Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax or tip.
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: June 2015