My Wife & Daughter’s Pursuit of the Perfect Lobster Roll While Touring New England Colleges
Contributing Writer – Meg Jones
Last February, we coupled my daughter’s wheelchair basketball tournament in Baltimore with a search for the best lobster roll in the area. That was pretty successful, and a lot of fun, so we decided to reprise the search during our extended summer road trip along the Northeast coastline.
We had three primary goals for our trip: tour colleges, visit long-term friends, and find “the best” lobster roll. Here’s how that worked out —-
The Shipyard Inn – Mattapoisett, Massachusetts
Our first lobster roll opportunity presented itself in Mattapoisett MA on the back deck of my friend Peter’s house, overlooking the harbor and, more importantly, the town band shell.
While catching up on old times and getting to know each other’s kids, Peter and his wife Jenny treated us to take-out lobster rolls from a restaurant across the street, The Shipyard Inn – see “victuals” under “bill of fare” – a hint at the history of the place).
The roll was jammed to overflowing with lobster pieces mixed with a bit of celery, mayo, and lemon juice. Coleslaw and onion rings (or French fries if you are a less adventuresome sort) came on the side.
While it was not the least expensive lobster roll on our journey, it probably boasted the highest lobster-to-dollar ratio. AND, to top it off, we had a table by the band: our feast was accompanied by the weekly Mattapoisett summer band concert underway right below Peter’s deck.
The kids ran down after dinner to pick up homemade strawberry shortcake from the tent next to the band shell. A classic New England summer evening. This lobster roll won first prize in the: “spending-time-with-old-friends-while-eating-great-local-fare” category. Plus “value.”
Russell House Tavern – Cambridge, Massachusetts
The next stop on our lobster roll journey was Cambridge MA the next night. In fairness, we chose the restaurant for the location in Harvard Square as opposed to lobster roll reputation.
Good thing, because the Russell House Tavern lobster sliders don’t really qualify for the lobster roll competition. That said, the atmosphere, local microbrew options, and dinner generally were great.
And worth noting are the incredibly accommodating staff members who assisted brilliantly in maneuvering my daughter and her wheelchair through crowded multi-level conditions. So if you are visiting the area, I recommend the restaurant, just stick to the tavern fare.
Fishermen’s Catch – Raymond, Maine
The next day, we headed to Maine where we knew for sure we would have amazing lobster rolls. On arrival, we just wanted a relaxing dinner on the deck of our rental house, overlooking Panther Pond in Raymond Maine, so we picked up lobster rolls from the Fishermen’s Catch.
As you might expect, these were PACKED with lobster and delicious, though maybe a little on the dry side meat-wise. On the flip side, we made the mistake of letting them sit too long while we enjoyed a glass of wine before dinner, so the rolls themselves were a little soggy. Didn’t stop us from devouring the whole thing.
One of my daughters ordered butter sauce, an extra that we thought was probably more than she would need since the rolls already came with either: light mayo (Classic); no mayo just Butter (Buttered); light mayo w/lemon pepper (Lemon); or, light mayo w/relish (Sweet).
As it turned out, her butter sauce was absolutely spectacular and there was enough left over for all of us to dip our fries in. This lobster roll gets the blue ribbon for “great local food for a relaxing evening with the family.”
Lobster Shack – Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Next stop was a lobster roll destination restaurant, if there is such a thing. Aptly named the Lobster Shack, the restaurant lived up to its promise: “Enjoy your meal ocean side on the picnic tables, perched just above the crashing surf, below the lighthouse and next to the fog horn.”
Thankfully it was a clear day, with no need for sounding the horn. The lobster roll was just as scrumptious as the scenery; my only criticism is that I had to spread my own mayo on the lobster. I know, you feel sorry for me. A small price to pay for the breathtaking returns.
Number one in “360-degree Lobster Roll experience.” If you are anywhere in the vicinity, check it out.
Lady Katy’s Lunch – Phippsburg, Maine
The next day we traveled north to Phippsburg Maine, home to my niece Katy. She is lucky enough to live on a beautiful peninsula north of Portland that draws tourists throughout the summer. Katy recently invested in a food truck and has turned it into a roadside luncheonette. She is still settling on a name; for now, we call it “Lady Katy’s Lunch.”
So of course we arranged our travels to arrive right around noontime. We got a tour of the truck and talked about her business model while she assembled one of her specialties du jour, lobster roll. We enjoyed our rolls on a shaded picnic table next to the truck while we caught up on each other’s lives.
This lobster roll was the very best of our trip because, besides having a generous portion of lobster already mixed with mayo (sparing me the work!), it was made with love.
Sea Swirl – Mystic, Connecticut
We left Maine the next day for Mystic Connecticut, to visit another long-time friend Jeannie and her husband Seamus. We had a couple of opportunities for amazing lobster during our brief stay.
The first was lunch at Sea Swirl, a roadside stand we hit after an “in-depth” tour (no pun intended) of a U.S. submarine at the Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton. So naturally we had worked up quite an appetite and were eager to test the Connecticut version of lobster roll.
Turns out it’s pretty close to the Maine version, and we were happy with our choice. Jeannie has eaten at the Sea Swirl her whole life, having spent her summers in Mystic growing up before actually moving there full-time a few years ago.
As it happens, and we learned retrospectively, the Sea Swirl is owned by a high school friend of my husband’s. So the Sea Swirl lobster roll takes first place in the “isn’t-it-ironic/small world” category.
Ford’s Lobster – Noank, Connecticut
Image from the Hartford Courant
Our final lobster roll experience was an extravaganza, to say the least. On our last night in Mystic, we were treated to a feast at Ford’s Lobster in Noank, CT.
Ford’s Lobster is essentially an upscale BYOB seafood restaurant housed waterside on a gas dock. There are maybe 15 tables and, if you’re lucky, only a one hour wait.
I couldn’t resist ordering a whole steamed lobster, but my daughter went for the Fred’s version of a lobster roll: the famed Lobster Bomb.
This is a bread bowl filled with the meat of a whole lobster, then doused with lobster bisque. What can I say? It doesn’t get any better than that.
I think there might have been a gratuitous coleslaw or other side dish but we took no notice. This is absolutely one of the most incredible lobster-related dishes I have ever tasted and maybe one of the most incredible dishes period my daughter has ever tasted.
Ford’s Lobster has a great back story, so I encourage you to google it for more info and definitely stop in for an evening if you are anywhere near Noank. It’s hard to rank this dish at all, so I’ll just put it as #1 in the “lobster-not-to-be-missed” category.
(I highly recommend you check out the Hartford Courant’s video showing exactly how this Lobster Bomb is prepared. It is amazing!)
So now we are back in Philadelphia working off the 5 pounds we each gained from our lobster roll quest and in full agreement that it was well worth it. Can’t wait to search some more!