The Lobster Salad Roll (herein referred to as: Lobster Roll) is the anti-hot dog. It’s for hot days. For places that BBQs don’t go. You can’t improve a lobster roll with ketchup. Nor with extra mayo. Make it at dawn and pack it on the boat. Technically there is “Maine Style” (cold with mayo) and “Connecticut Style” (hot with butter). I’m proudly from Connecticut and I’m here to tell you: A real lobster roll is cold with mayo. Butter and lobster are two of life’s finest umami pleasures. But if you want to pay someone to crack open a lobster for you and dip it in butter… you need a harem, not a lobster roll.
Tail, knuckle and claw meat. Nothing else. Rough chopped into different sizes and textures for proper (sorry, I hate this word) mouthfeel. Knucklemeat should feel like knucklemeat. Nice big round crusher claw fingers with that scalloped edge on the pincher. And tail like just that, tail. The best part of the lobster roll is that all the work is done for you. To be fair to my freshwater friends, a hot red bug on your plate can be daunting. Anyone who’s ordered lobster from the tank knows the confusion of just when to stop. Is there any meat in the arms? What about those little beetle legs? (There isn’t. If you see some tourist tear at the carcass and dip it in butter, leave him alone. He’s a grown man eating butter in a bib. Let him eat butter.)
Cheap and cheerful. You can’t outshine lobster. Don’t try. It’s primary job is not to fall apart in your hand. Fancy bread is a distraction at best. If you see the words “brioche” or “stone ground” on the lobster roll descriptors, order the burger. It’s probably tasty. A proper lobster roll should be of the hot dog bun variety so it will just melt into the meat. True story: I just went to the grocery store in my rapidly gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn. Instead of hot dog buns they had a bakery rack of “lobster rolls.” $2.79 for the bread. That’s the kind of b.s. I deal with at home. I’m not putting up with it on vacation.
Everybody’s dad in New England has a damn lobster recipe. Paprika, almond slivers, slice o’ bacon, guac. Pretty much the best way to score a free lobster roll is to stare wide-eyed when they tell you their secret (“Cayenne? No. No way, Mr. Popik.”). But too much is too much and then you can’t taste the $17 worth of lobster in there. Like all things on your off-hours: the simpler the better. Red’s Eats outside of French-speaking Lewiston, Maine wins Best Lobster Roll every year with this one: Orange tarragon mayo, celery and butter (for the “hot dog rolls”).
The lines at lobster shacks that serve potato chips are long. The lines at lobster shacks with French Fries are longer. Enjoy the roll. Let nothing usurp the satisfaction.