Lobster shacks appear to be everywhere in coastal Maine, but finding the right one can be an adventure. On a recent holiday I asked a Maine resident where the best lobster roll could be found. She rolled her eyes and chuckled,
“True Mainers don’t buy lobster rolls, honey – they would rather buy the lobster and make the roll themselves at home. Why would we pay $15 for that — are you nuts?!’
The sound of her laughter was still on my mind when I passed through Wiscasset, a small town located on Route 1 between Bath and Bar Harbor. I saw a huge line forming at a lobster shack and curiosity caused me to pull over.
The shack wasn’t open yet so I asked a woman in line, “What’s the deal with Red’s?” Claiming to be a local, she said Red’s Eats is the best lobster shack in the region because it puts entire lobster worth of meat on each roll.
41 Main St, Wiscasset, ME
The wait was up to an hour and a half at Red’s, so we decided to skip it. However, a glimpse at Red’s Yelp page suggests this shack has a rabid fan base. A reviewer named Phoebe L. waxed poetic about Red’s lobster roll:
“golden brown rolls festooned with fistfuls of
plump succulent lobster!
Claws! Tails! and they understand!
It’s all about the BUTTER!!!!!”
We couldn’t help but notice there was an identical lobster roll business across the street, Sprague’s Lobster, with no line. We didn’t stop there on this trip, but my brother-in-law Jake checked it out.
22 Main St, Wiscasset, ME
Here is Jake’s review:
“Red’s and Sprague’s are both quaint lobster shacks that use the meat from an entire lobster on each roll. However, Sprague’s has no line and an efficient ordering system: you simply place your order at the window and then find a seat until they call your number. It’s not rocket science, but Red’s is still having customers stand on line in the hot sun while they take and fulfill orders at the same time. Sprague’s is a more comfortable– and fast– experience, and their roll is delicious. The large, juicy lobster roll is free of mayonnaise so you can actually taste the fresh lobster stacked inside the white bun. The best part? On your walk back to the car you will pass Red’s and discover that the the customers waiting there when you arrived have only progressed half way through the line!”
As we continued our drive north on Route 1, we decided an online search would be the best way to lead us to further spots. Online reviews led us to the next two eateries:
119 Lookout Point Road, Harpswell, ME
Cost: About $15
Allen’s Seafood is located directly on the seashore 10 miles south of Brunswick. The drive may be worth it for diehard seafood lovers, although on a tight time schedule it is probably too far off the beaten track. The lobster roll is made on the spot and contains exactly 3 ounces of meat—which tastes fresh and has only a touch of mayonnaise— served on a toasted bun with a bag of Lay’s potato chips. It’s a relaxing spot that’s not overly touristy.
211 Union Street, Rockport, ME 04856
Based on outstanding online reviews we walked into this “lobster pound”—the local term for a store that sells lobsters–with high expectations. At the counter we ordered two lobster rolls from a young woman. We were handed pre-made rolls wrapped in cellophane. There was true disappointment in our faces but we figured they must taste better than they looked. For $9, at least there was a plethora of lobster meat on the roll. While thankfully the rolls were not overloaded with mayonnaise, they were somewhat tasteless and the bun wasn’t toasted. To our disappointment, after eating our lobster rolls we realized that there were two parts to Graffam Brothers—the actual lobster “shack” was across the street from the lobster pound. The lobster shack consisted of a trailer with picnic benches and advertised a toasted bun and fresh meat.
Maine vs. New York City
With my vacation winding down, I was curious to see how a lobster roll would taste outside of Maine. When I got back to New York City I purchased a lobster roll at Fairway supermarket on East 86th Street and 2nd Ave in Manhattan.
The counter girl smiled slightly when I ordered. Was she indicating that she knew the secret to making a true Maine lobster roll? (In hindsight, I think she could have been laughing at the hot pink t-shirt I was wearing.)
For $11 I got the strangest lobster roll yet. It consisted of a toasted bun and a piece of lettuce topped with a mixture of cold lobster meat, mayonnaise, celery, and onions. It came with coleslaw and a pickle. It had a distinct taste that was completely unlike the rolls I had eaten on my trip. I definitely wasn’t in Maine anymore.
What’s your favorite lobster roll joint?
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About the Writer
Lauren Koch is a native New Yorker who attends family clambakes in Maine every year– which practically qualifies her as a lobster expert!
She enjoys trying local dishes wherever she travels, and is currently on a hunt for the perfect quesadilla in Oakland, California.
A professional photographer and web designer, Lauren founded the art blog Inside and Outside the Dominion to share her musings on the digital world and alternative culture.