Hometown Hungers: Best Maine Lobster Rolls Outside the State
Reel in the flavors of Maine’s seafood staple without rowing over to the Pine Tree State.
Photo By: Christian Thomas-Hynes
Photo By: Greg Rannells
Photo By: Christian Thomas Hynes
Photo By: Leonie Hauser
Photo By: Morgan Tatum
A Shore Bet
In warm months, many a Maine lobster roll loyalist makes the pilgrimage to the quaint shacks perched along the state’s rugged shoreline to devour that sweet, briny creation that perfectly encapsulates the essence of life by the sea. But when seasons or distance get in the way, several spots around the country let diners indulge in the regional delicacy far from the Pine Tree State. These Food Network-approved locales across the country stick close to the classic recipe: buttered split-top rolls slicked with mayo and stuffed with succulent lobster meat. Take a bite, close your eyes and let the fresh, bright flavors transport you; no boat necessary.
Peacemaker: St. Louis
Missouri may not offer ocean views, but Chef Kevin Nashan has found a way to bring the sea to St. Louis via a menu that traverses the coastal regions of Maine and Louisiana. Though his restaurant is landlocked, Nashan captures bright ocean flavors by sourcing fresh seafood that’s flown in daily. The chef is so diligent about perfecting the details of his dishes that he spent four months working with a local bakery on the bread for his Maine-style lobster roll. The brioche-inspired bun serves as a buttery base, which is heaped with cold lobster meat lightly coated in mayo and lemon zest.
Go to: Peacemaker
167 Raw: Charleston, South Carolina, and Nantucket, Massachusetts
With restaurants in the water-centric locales of Charleston and Nantucket, 167 Raw practically guarantees its commitment to fresh seafood, including a raw bar of briny oysters, a daily ceviche and an exceptional gingery tuna burger on a fluffy brioche bun. The lobster roll adheres to New England tradition with a buttery toasted (locally baked) bun, and light coating of aioli and sprinkling of chopped chives. The side of potato chips helps complete the culinary conjuring of a Maine afternoon at the shore.
Go to: 167 Raw
Luke’s Lobster: New York City and Other Locales
The absence of authentic Maine-style lobster rolls in New York City inspired native Mainer (and son of a former lobsterman) Luke Holden to set up shop in 2009. What started as an eight-stool space styled after a traditional lobster shack has grown into a mini-empire with outposts throughout the United States and Japan. Each toasted bun (split-top, of course) comes loaded with a quarter-pound of lobster meat that’s sustainably sourced and processed at a sister facility in Maine. The natural sweetness of the lobster shines through in every bite, balanced simply with a squirt of mayo, slick of lemon butter and sprinkling of seasoning.
Go to: Luke's Lobster
Cousins Maine Lobster: Los Angeles and Other Locales
Cousins Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac successfully translated their Maine family tradition of backyard lobster bakes into a California-based food truck business in 2012. And a mainstay of their menu is the Maine lobster roll. Each sandwich starts with a split-top bun sourced straight from the Pine Tree State, which is then buttered, griddled and loaded with claw, knuckle and tail meat, Tselkis says. The toasty roll brings a beautiful balance to the mayo-accented mound of chilled Maine lobster meat stuffed inside. Lemon can be added according to one’s taste, as a freshly cut slice accompanies each order. Lobster lovers across the country continue to line up for the rolls, as the fleet has expanded into more than six other states and fueled enough demand for a brick-and-mortar spot in West Hollywood, California.
Go to: Cousins Maine Lobster
Steuben’s: Denver and Arvada, Colorado
The culinary minds behind this retro restaurant concept rounded up a collection of America’s most-beloved regional specialties for their menu, including a lobster roll made in Maine’s signature style. Steuben’s sandwich bursts with bright flavor, thanks to a rigorous delivery schedule. "Our lobster is flown in live daily and prepped fresh in our kitchen," says COO Emily Biederman. Once cooked, the tender morsels of lobster meat are lightly dressed with mayo, paprika, celery, lemon juice, salt and black pepper, then nestled in a griddled split-top roll. This Maine staple comes served with another American classic: housemade fries and a pickle.
Go to: Steuben's Food Service
Old Port Lobster Shack: Redwood City, California, and Other Locales
Boston native Russell Deutsch may reside in a coastal state awash in seafood spots, but his restaurants have hooked plenty of fans by offering fresh lobster (along with clams, steamers, oysters and mussels) plucked from the Eastern seaboard. "The lobsters are flown in from Maine, via Boston, twice a week," Deutsch says. He mixes the fresh meat with mayo, green onions and lemon juice, then adds salt and pepper before cramming the lot into a top-loading hot dog bun. The sandwich comes with pickles, French fries and a distinctive coleslaw that delivers another punch of Maine flavor (thanks to dried Maine blueberries).
Go to: Old Port Lobster Shack
The Lobster Roll: Amagansett, New York
For more than 50 years, diners have flocked to this cheerful spot in the Hamptons that offers a seafood-centric menu and a beachy, throwback vibe... right down to the retro sign that earned this spot its nickname of Lunch among locals. Opt for the Classic Lobster Roll on the menu and you’ll get a toasted-on-the-outside bun spilling over with mounds of chilled claw and knuckle meat that co-owner Andrea Anthony describes as "very tender and sweet." She tosses the succulent morsels of cold-water lobster with mayo and a bit of chopped celery for added texture, then piles them into the split-top roll that’s toasty on the outside and soft on the inside. "We’re all about quality and simplicity," says Anthony, who also offers a gluten-free version of this menu mainstay.
Go to: The Lobster Roll Restaurant
The Maine Lobster Lady: Phoenix
A seafood truck in the middle of the Arizona desert may seem like a mirage, but the demand for Diane Santospago’s lobster rolls is no illusion. The Maine native has reeled in legions of loyal fans who will stand in line for hours to snap up one of her sandwiches. Santospago makes few alterations to the flavor of her fresh Maine lobster, serving the meat just "lightly dressed with lemon mayo," she says. Authenticity is key, so Santospago uses a New England-style roll as the base, which she butters and grills before piling on luscious chunks of lobster. She describes the resulting roll as "Maine on a bun." When not slinging lobster rolls and other specialties at her seasonal food truck in Arizona, Santospago trades in her wheels for waves, returning to Maine every year for the warmer months. It’s there that Santospago has spent many a season helping to haul lobster traps. Maine lobster lady, indeed.
Go to: The Maine Lobster Lady
JCT. Kitchen & Bar: Atlanta
This Southern restaurant gives Maine some major love on Fridays and Saturdays with a lobster roll lunch special that lures in the locals. These sandwiches feature 1 1/4-pound lobsters that arrive live from New England to ensure maximum freshness. Executive Chef Brian Horn imparts a touch of extra flavor by poaching the succulent crustaceans in court bouillon, then chills the lobster meat until the orders roll in. He ups the flavor ante by adding mayo, fresh herbs, salt, pepper, lemon juice and zest to the chilled meat before heaping it onto a buttered, toasted roll from a local bakery. Each sandwich comes flanked by a side of fries, apple slaw and a lemon slice. These lobster rolls go fast, so best get there early if you want to hook one for lunch.
Go to: JCT. Kitchen & Bar
GT Fish & Oyster: Chicago
GT Fish & Oyster may be located in landlocked Illinois, but the Windy City seafood spot channels the windswept shores of Maine via its lobster roll. Executive Chef/Partner Giuseppe Tentori ensures that every bite is filled with the sweet, sea-kissed flavor of Maine lobster by piling nearly a pound of freshly flown-in meat into every sandwich. He tosses the lobster with a housemade herb mayo before building the sandwich on a butter-brushed roll that’s sturdy enough to hold up to the weighty filling. As though the sandwich isn’t hefty enough on its own, it’s served with a stack of crunchy onion strings and a pile of pickled vegetables.
Go to: GT Fish & Oyster