Chow Down on Maine's Best Lobster Rolls
Where to enjoy Maine's quintessential meal.
The lobster roll is as closely tied to Maine's identity as the crab cake is to Baltimore or the cheesesteak to Philly. Food-wise, it practically defines the region. Ask a group of Mainers where to find the state's best version, and you're guaranteed an impassioned debate.
But, be warned. If you turn the discussion to ask what makes a sandwich a legitimate "Maine" lobster roll -- you'll really see the Downeaster spirit flare.
You see, there's more than one way to serve a lobster roll; and not everyone agrees which is best. Still, they will agree on a few fundamentals.
First, you've gotta start with the lobster. Enormous chunks of fresh lobster should be stacked high on the roll, including claw and tail meat. Traditional thinkers say the meat should be merely touched with a light coating of mayo while others vote for melted butter. Then, there are others who opt for a dressing of mayo, spices, and chopped celery -- but as most anyone will tell you, heaven help their misguided souls.
Next up, bread. You definitely want to see a split top hot dog roll that is buttered and lightly toasted. What about toppings? Again, purists see them as heresy, but you can opt for a few tomato slices or piece of lettuce.
In a state where lobster is life, and nearly every restaurant and food truck is dishing out the sammie, it can be hard to tell the good from the "goodness, no." Here are Roam's picks for Maine's best.
Bite Into Maine
Fort Williams Park, ME
A trip to this food truck comes with a stunning bonus. It's located amidst the rolling hills, scenic cliffs and iconic Portland Head Lighthouse of Fort Williams Park. Bite Into Maine satisfies the cravings of locals and travelers in the know with inventive takes on lobster rolls. Despite a wary eye from traditionalists, these rolls are worth a try. You can always order your roll Maine-style (with a bit o' mayo and chives), but why not live on the edge and try Connecticut-style with hot butter, or picnic-style, which includes coleslaw, hot butter, celery salt and a dash of wasabi, curry and chipotle.
The Clam Shack
Located in the heart of Kennebunkport's charming waterfront, The Clam Shack is a small but mighty lobster roll rockstar. In a town that grows packed with seasonal summer tourists, it's no wonder so many restaurants across town claim they serve the best rolls. But don't be fooled. The Clam Shack is where it's at. The sandwich defies tradition (we know, again!) by serving the sandwich on a round bun rather than the usual split top roll, but hey, at least the bun is buttered and lightly toasted. It's topped with an impressive mound of tail and claw meat lightly dressed with mayo and a bare sprinkle of seasoning. If you visit between mid-June and the end of August, prepare to wait in long lines -- it's worth it.
Estes Lobster House
On a map, it appears that much of Maine's mid-coast is little more than island crumbles slipping toward the sea. In person, as you drive over bridges and through the maze of narrow wedges of land, you see a remarkable landscape surrounded by water and dotted with lobster traps. Estes Lobster House lies in the thick of this island jumble, at the edge of a scenic waterfront. While the view is a 10, the lobster roll is the real winner. You've got the basics: huge chunks of fresh meat coated with a light mayonnaise. But the secret to its addictive flavor? A fresh roll toasted with salted butter.
Easily Maine's most famous lobster lair, Red's is known to attract hordes of hungry travelers willing to wait in lines up to an hour or longer. The legendary rolls are truly formidable. Heaps of lobster meat -- including enormous claws -- pour out of the roll. The meat isn't dressed at all; patrons can choose melted butter or mayo to be served on the side. A fork and knife are a necessity with this one -- trust. If you've somehow managed to save room for dessert, and it's the season, tuck into a blueberry cake for dessert. Mainers love their fresh, local blueberries almost as much as their lobstah.