Yes, it was a challenge—to find and eat five lobster rolls five ways in five days in Maine. Yes, I gained a few pounds in the pursuit. But somebody had to do it; in fact, somebody wanted to do it—and that somebody was me.
Yes, I made the sacrifice for you, dear readers, in the name of culinary science, iPhoneography and sheer lobster-and-butter consumption. I do not regret a moment of it.
Day 1: Bistro 233, 233 U.S. 1, Yarmouth, Maine
The ambience of a sit-down restaurant with a real wine list and a knowledgeable waiter was a bonus. The romaine lettuce inside the buttered toasted bun, cradling the lightly-sauced lobster meat, a plus. The sweet potato fries and cole slaw, impeccable. But the lobster roll’s seasoning was bland. Priced about average at $16 for the roll, fries included; cole slaw extra.
Day 2: Erica’s Seafood Takeout, Basin Point Road, South Harpswell, Maine
It’s hard to beat Erica’s lobster roll, fresh and sauced to perfection (with Thousand Island dressing, perhaps?) on a buttery, toasted bun, at just $12 from her walk-up window, when you bring your own Belfast Lobster Ale and watch the boats coming and going in Basin Cove, from your perch above the pier at the picnic tables.
Day 3: Sprague’s Lobster, Route 1, Wiscasset, Maine
Across the busy Wiscasset street from Red’s Eats, a lobster stand with its own Wiki page (where the typical line of faithful tourists who are drawn to its mighty PR and claims of “World’s Best Lobster Shack” can take an hour), there’s a hidden gem called Sprague’s Lobster. These were by far the meatiest lobster rolls of the five-day taste-test, at over a pound of picked lobster in each $16 roll. Fresh, tasty and expedient, with toasted buns, readily available dockside picnic tables and roadside chic to spare, the rolls at Sprague’s triumphed in every way—except the secret sauce. If there was a secret to it, it was a bit too hidden.
Day 4: Day’s Crabmeat and Lobster Pound and Take Out, Exit 17, Yarmouth, Maine
When you just have to have a lobster roll, and to go suits you just fine, Day’s Take Out at Exit 17 will suffice, though perhaps not trump. Sited on busy Route 1, with little serenity for downing the rolls, it’s best to take them home to enjoy with a glass of wine. At $17 for a lobster roll to go, the presentation, quantity and quality of meat in the tasteless bun was a disappointment. But the 90 Sauvignon blanc from New Zealand (provided by the taster) made up for it—bring your own. Day’s does get points for its signage.
Day 5: Back to Erica’s Seafood Takeout, again—one last time
Just to be sure that Erica’s deserved our indulgence, we wrapped up our lobster roll tour here for the grand finale. Once again, accompanied by a BYOB glass of Sauvignon blanc this time, Erica’s did not disappoint. The roll was even fuller and more delectable than before, and the sweet potato fries were the ideal crunchy complement with their sprinkling of malt vinegar (in ample supply at each picnic table). We weren’t the only ones who thought Erica’s $12 roll was a fine way to celebrate the Fourth of July; plenty of other tourists were trekking in to Basin Point in South Harpswell for the annual holiday.
Day 6: Bonus Roll! Dale’s Lobster Stand, Freeport, Maine
An opportunist named Dale rolled his lobster stand onto the Freeport City Hall grounds for the Fourth of July. He faced stiff competition—after all, Freeport is the home of L.L. Bean, and Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine Lobster dominates the culinary scene there. But Dale promised a roll made from lobster he caught himself, picked himself, and prepared to perfection himself. I brought three companions with me and Dale discounted our rolls to $11 each. Sadly, they were less flavorful, skimpier on the meat and served on untoasted buns, lacking the sublime butter coating that gives lobster rolls their rich flavor. But we supported a local lobsterman competing in the corporate economy—and what better way to celebrate the Fourth than with lobster independence? ♣