My grandfather was the original lobsterman. On family birthdays (which were many, with forty-eight first cousins), he would take a group of us out on the water to pull a few of his lobster traps that lingered closer to shore. As I got older, I would get in line behind the rest of the crew—my father, my brothers, whichever cousins came along—and use my entire body to haul the traps to the surface, hoping for those brown and orange bodies that meant lobster pots set out to boil and butter melting in the saucepan. Any leftovers were dressed with a squeeze of lemon and a bit of mayonnaise or celery salt. The meat was then heaped into soft hot dog rolls and enjoyed on the beach later that evening.
The craving for a New England lobster roll runs so deep in my family history that I’ve come to think of it as an integral part of my family make-up—if not genetic, then steadfastly conditioned. Although it’s a unanimous (yet biased) vote that my grandfather’s lobster rolls are the best in the world, we never seem to falter in our pursuit of New England’s best. Here are some of our favorite local finds:
Jake’s Seafood Restaurant and Fish Market (Hull, MA):
My family and I have grown up going to Jake’s, a family-run restaurant and fish market overlooking the bayside. Located on Steamboat Warf near the entrance to Hull, Jake’s is the only restaurant that gets my grandpa’s “lobster roll stamp of approval”–I’ve never seen him order one anywhere else.
Yankee Lobster Company (Boston, MA)
Located conveniently next to Harpoon Brewery, Yankee Lobster makes their lobster rolls just how I like them: fresh, no-frills, stacked.
Fisherman’s Catch (Raymond, ME)
My siblings and I stumbled upon this lobster shack on a recent drive home from Maine. We enjoyed the over-stuffed lobster rolls (roll butter-toasted, lobster dressed with lemon juice) sitting outside on a communal picnic table.
Mare Oyster Bar (Boston, MA)
Although a little fancy for my usual lobster roll, I actually love Mare’s addition of pickled red onions and a fresh-baked roll from Bricco’s Panetteria next-door.
Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier (Kittery Point, ME)
We’re known to drive over an hour out of our way for a Chauncey Creek lobster roll–which is on a hamburger bun, actually, and topped with dill pickles, mayo, lemon, and celery salt (for drinks, the Pier is BYOB). Set on a wide dock platform bobbing in the water, Chauncey Creek is a meeting ground for both locals and out-of-towners looking to spend an afternoon chatting over lunch and relaxing on the water.
It also doesn’t hurt to mention that lobster is low in fat, high in protein, and naturally rich in vitamins like B-12 and choline, two essential nutrients that help nourish brain functioning; it’s also packed with minerals like phosphorus and calcium, which are crucial for supporting bone and nerve health. For an even healthier version of the New England classic, use hot dog rolls that aren’t laden with artificial colorings or preservatives and dress your lobster meat with lemon instead of mayonnaise–lemon, olive oil, and a pinch of salt make for a delicious (and egg-free) substitute. As for the search for New England’s best lobster roll, we at Smart Lunches are always up for some more exploring–if you have a favorite spot, let us know in the comments below!