If eating a whole steamed lobster is the equivalent of slow and passionate lovemaking, then eating a lobster roll is a quickie- hot and very satisfying in its own right. And although I love the sensual pleasures of eating a lobster the old fashioned way, once summer arrives and the afternoon sun is shining, I just can’t do without regular lobster rolls.
With all due respect to Chef Rebecca Charles, there is only one kind of lobster roll for me, and it does not involved mayonnaise. This is how they make lobster rolls in Connecticut: freshly picked lobster meat, dunked generously in butter and served on a “hot dog” roll. A simple recipe- but the taste varies depending on where you dine. Now that I have made the Connecticut shore my home once again, I have made it a priority to taste and compare as many lobster rolls as I can.
As the summer dwindles to a close, these are the best 5 I have tasted:
5. Bill’s Seafood
548 Boston Post Rd.
Westbrook, CT 06498-1877
I have a soft spot in my heart for Bill’s. It is nestled right next to what is fondly known locally as the “singing” bridge, leading from the Patchougue River to the Long Island Sound. When I was a little girl, driving over this bridge felt like a real event. And eating at Bill’s was even more special. I still find that Bill’s is a delightful spot for outdoor dining in the summer. As you sit on casual picnic, boats pass, and seagulls and ducks wait (somewhat) politely for the children to throw them bread scraps. The location is the prize here. They have a fine lobster roll as well- buttered and served on a toasted long roll. Nothing gourmet, but the setting makes up for it.
Lobster Meat: 3.5 ounces
Includes: French fries, cole slaw
4. Lobster Landing
152 Commerce Street
Clinton, CT 06413-2042
If I was to write a movie about eating a lobster roll, this would be the perfect locale. Charming and quaint, Lobster Landing occupies a small space right on the dock of a marina. A white-bearded lobsterman darts between the dining area and a small shack on the dock. He is a perfect character from a Eugene O’Neill play. Picnic tables and plastic tables sit on ground paved with broken clam shells. Friendly staff cook the lobster roll meat in small mesh bags in a little station right by the dining tables. It tastes extremely fresh. Not as salty and buttery as I prefer, but still fresh and satisfying. The staff in the shack will gladly pick out live lobsters for you to buy- with free shells for the kids. The marina view is lovely.
Lobster Meat: 3.25 ounces
Lobster Roll at Lobster Landing; Clinton, CT
3. Lenny and Joe’s Fishtale
1301 Boston Post Road
Madison, CT 06443-3432
Lenny and Joe’s is an institution with a devout following around here. With cute, cheap hats and t-shirts for sale and a wide array of fried seafood, you can always count on a lively scene. During the summer, the outdoor carousel is open for rides. Although their lobster roll contains less meat than some of the others I have listed here, it is perfectly buttery and salted. Their roll is nicely grilled. A lobster roll from Lenny and Joe’s is reliably good and fresh. And they are open year-round.
Lobster Meat: 2.5 ounces
Lobster Roll; Lenny and Joe’s, Madison, CT
2. The Lobster Shack
7 Indian Neck Ave
Branford, CT 06405-3583
Each time I come to The Lobster Shack I get a little lost. But it only adds to the excitement of the visit. This seasonal “shack” sits adjacent to boats and marshes. The setting is casual- the picnic tables are just feet away from the parked cars. But don’t let that dissuade you from coming. The lobster roll is just delicious. The bread itself is particularly tasty- not your average hot dog roll. The lobster meat is cut into generous chucks- and in addition to salty butter, is delicately sprinkled with fresh lemon juice. The lemon gives the roll a lovely lingering taste. Sublime. And while you are there try the fresh steamed clams. They hit the spot.
Lobster Meat: 3.5 ounces
The Lemon-Infused Lobster Roll at The Lobster Shack; Branford, CT
1. Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock
80 Hamilton Street
New London, CT 06320-5543
I visited Captain Scott’s on an overcast rainy day. Downtown New London felt ghost-like, empty and abandoned. I took a winding bumpy road past industrial buildings along the railroad tracks to get to the dock. The setting is simple and casual. New London is further east than the other places I have listed here- and you can really smell the salty ocean water as you sit at picnic tables watching the swans and docked boats.The Object of My Affection at Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock; New London, CT
This glorious lobster roll seduced me with the first bite. The flavor of the meat was perfect. The amount of lobster was unprecedented. The roll was grilled- not the slightest bit soggy. It was quite simply the most succulent, flavorful lobster roll I have ever eaten. It tasted as though it had been pulled from the ocean just for me. If you love lobster, you must find your way to this dock. I know I will be back as often as I can…
Lobster Meat: 5 ounces (Yes, that’s right- FIVE ounces)
I will indulge in as many more lobster rolls as I can over the next month while the seasonal locales are still serving. But for me eating a roll is a summertime delight. One that I will anticipate all winter…