I know plenty of good lobster rolls exist and even a few better ones, but I'm starting to wonder if there's a best lobster roll out there? Growing up, I had an uncle who loved seafood, so when he'd visit in the summertime he'd search out the best whole lobsters to cook for a feast. My earliest memories of lobster are sitting around the family table with a large napkin crinkled into my collar as everyone created tall mountains of cracked-open shells. Not until decades later did I start craving lobster again. This time for the creamy rolls. Each summer I say I'm going to find the best one. I've tried them locally, in New Hampshire, and in Maine, but I've not found one to die for. I've heard that good quality rolls use little mayonnaise and fillers like celery and offer several chunks of whole lobster meat. That weeds out the cheaper versions that use shredded lobster meat (and probably some fake crab meat thrown in disguised by the mayo) or that include globs of mayo so the whole filling turns pure white. The grilled buttered hot dog bun is always the container, which baffles me. I know it must keep costs down, not only with this lower quality bread but because a larger roll would mean including more meat, jacking up the price; a lobster/hot dog roll is already pricey at $13.99-$19.99. Hot dog buns do hold the meat perfectly but they leave me longing for a different texture that better contrasts the creamy lobster, like maybe those crackly rice flour baguettes you get with Banh Mi sandwiches.
Anyway, on our summer visit to Ogunquit this year we checked out The Lobster Shack in Perkins Cove because their lobster rated highest on Yelp. It was truly a shack, but very clean and pleasant inside and out:
The owner Jason Evans (below) runs the restaurant with his wife April from about March through October. It's been around since 1986, when Jason's father bought and ran the business until retiring in 2002 when Jason took over. He is a self-proclaimed "control freak" and sure enough you'll see him covering every inch of the restaurant, cooking the lobsters, running the cashier, and even cleaning the wood tables to a shine. Despite the intensity he showed for his business, he was also very friendly and down-to-earth as was his entire staff.
Their lobster roll at $15 contained only whole chunks of lobster seasoned with a light coating of mayo (you can also order without mayo) served on a toasted buttered hot dog roll. I didn't even want to guess the calories but the sandwich didn't taste heavy and really highlighted the lobster: meaty, a little sweet, a little salty. It was really good. I loved the cole slaw, which was even lighter on the mayo blended with a sweet vinegar. It came with two sides I didn't care for—ordinary looking potato chips, probably Ruffles, and a free special of a cup of seafood chowder, which was at the same time watery and oily with shreds of various fish that I couldn't identify. On the non-lobster side, my husband said his crab roll was super fresh and my son devoured his hot dog with unusual speed. Their lobster roll was definitely more memorable than others I've tasted but left me wondering again, is there a best one still out there? Lobster prices this summer have been at an all-time average low of $4.39 per pound (less than bologna!), so if you can't get to your favorite lobster shack try making your own lobster rolls. Click here for a great recipe from Diva Dishes.