At long last… it’s summertime! Time to bask on a sunny deck, overlooking the great, wide Atlantic, eating nature’s finest food, the lobster roll. But alas, summer in New England, particularly the part where you can sit outside and be comfortable, is fleeting.
Prime lobster-eating season will be over before we know it, so it takes some careful planning to budget your valuable lobster roll hunting time wisely. The truly great lobster rolls on the Maine coast are seasonal. VERY seasonal. Some of the best lobster rolls in the state are served by restaurants with seasons so short, that some don’t even open until July 4, and many others close the day after Labor Day.
Always call ahead as well, since many lobster places have changeable schedules depending on weather and crowd level. Wondering about the places you absolutely have to hit during this short Maine summer? Here are the spots that have short seasons, that should absolutely be part of your summer lobster roll dining plan:
Boothbay Lobster Wharf
97 Atlantic Ave Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538; (207) 633-4900; boothbaylobsterwharf.com
If you only try one new lobster roll this summer, make it this one. You won’t regret it. You may have heard others claim otherwise, but I’ve done the actual weighing, and this is the largest regular-sized lobster roll that I have encountered, consistently around 11 ounces. It is just brimming with fresh off the boat, uncut tail halves and full claws and knuckles, lightly tossed in mayo. The size isn’t even what makes this monster great, it’s the summer fresh flavor of the lobster meat, and it can’t be beat. All of this can be enjoyed with live music, a full bar and comfortable indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the quintessentially Maine, working harbor of Boothbay. (Regular size is pictured, but they also have a jumbo if you’re feeling dangerous.)
Five Islands Lobster Co.
1447 5 Islands Road, Georgetown, ME 04548; (207) 371-2990; fiveislandslobster.com
Well, technically, I can never make up my mind. So you should also make this a must-try on your summer to-do list, and decide for yourself. If there are more gorgeous views in Maine, they are most certainly not accompanied by a lobster roll that’s even better. Watch the crew haul lobsters right out of the ocean and into the shack to be flawlessly cooked and picked fresh throughout the day, to create one of the greatest lobster rolls in Maine. One bite and you’ll know, this is a life changing experience. I once even converted a friend who claimed to hate lobster with this roll. Spring for the Big Boy (pictured). You’ll always wish you had just a little more of this lobster meat.
6 Malcolm Drive, Harpswell, ME 04079; (207) 833-7354; ericasseafood.com
If you make the seemingly endless drive out, almost to the end of Basin Point in Harpswell, you will find a tiny, unassuming place serving up some downright gourmet lobster shack fare. You’ll find homemade chowders, freshly cut fries, whole lobsters served with Kate’s Butter. and best of all, the lobster roll. It’s heartily stuffed with fresh meat and topped with fresh cracked pepper.
120 Main Street Freeport, ME 04032; (207)865-6290; freeportpizza.com/Derosiers/Home
Why, you might ask, would I include a pizza and sandwich shop in downtown Freeport that is open all year round? Well, because for a short time in the summer, they serve up what could more appropriately be called a “lobster sub.” It comes in a heartier bun than you might be accustomed to, but they fill it with fresh meat that rivals many seaside locations. Best of all, they use full, uncut tail meat pieces, a phenomenon so elusive in the lobster roll world that I seek it out like the holy grail.
Muscongus Bay Lobster Company
28 Town Landing Road, Round Pond, ME 04564; (207) 529-2251; mainefreshlobster.com
The next most elusive lobster roll component is a bakery-fresh bun. I feel that sea fresh lobster deserves only the finest, and that is what they serve up at Muscongus. You have a choice of a white or wheat, split-top, buttery grilled bun that is filled with that fresh, tasty lobster. If that weren’t enough, you can enjoy your lobster roll while taking in the lovely view of Round Pond. Bakery bun, fresh lobster meat and a gorgeous view… it’s the trifecta!
14 Sea Street Northeast Harbor, ME 04662; (207) 276-3965
Mount Desert Island is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and Northeast Harbor is perhaps the cutest town. Down a little side street, you’ll find The Docksider, serving the best lobster roll I’ve had on MDI. The right amount of mayo, large chunks of fresh meat, all cradled in a buttery bun. They have a takeout window, but I suggest enjoying the cozy lodge ambiance inside with a cold beer.
[Photos: Sally Lerman/LobsterGal]