I grew up in Connecticut, the home of expensive real estate, insurance companies’ headquarters, New Haven-style pizza and the WWE. One thing that is not native or common to Connecticut is the lobster roll. Unlike most of the rest of New England, lobster rolls have never caught on in the Nutmeg State as an essential food item. Maybe it’s because lobsters don’t naturally swim in the Long Island Sound. Maybe the Connecticut waters are too temperate for their blood. Maybe Connecticut restaurants are too cheap to import lobsters from Massachusetts and Maine. Who knows.
All I know is that ever since trying a lobster roll for the first time in Boston earlier this year, I’m hooked. In their most basic and generic form, lobster rolls are chunks of lobster meat (from the claw, knuckle, tail, etc.) placed in a buttered, top-split hot dog-style bun with some mayonnaise or butter and perhaps some celery thrown in. There are variations, including the style of bun, the use of mayo or butter and the spices and vegetables used.
Of course, lobster rolls don’t grow on trees. Because the lobsters are usually imported/driven down from Maine, the cost, for both the restaurant as well as the patron, can be somewhat prohibitive. The burden has not stopped some intrepid local restaurants from offering up lobster rolls to the masses.
One of the most quintessential versions of the lobster roll is at Luke’s Lobster in New York City. Luke’s has locations in several neighborhoods throughout the city, though they all run the same concept. The lobsters are delivered fresh each day from Maine. The lobster roll is then served chilled on a buttered and toasted top-split bun, with some mayonnaise, lemon butter and secret spices. With the lobster roll priced at $15 (with the crab roll and shrimp roll at $10 and $8), the price may seem somewhat steep for a dish that’s slightly bigger than a hot dog. One taste, however, makes it all worth it. The lobster is top notch. Each component of the sandwich, such as the nicely-buttered roll, mayo and the spices, adds to the taste. Plus, Luke’s also serves some good Maine beers, such as Shipyard Export, to help wash it all down.
Perhaps due to location, city size or just interest, Philly has substantially less options for lobster rolls. Center City only has a few reputable options out there. One of the best and most authentic is at Oyster House. Like any self-respecting place that serves lobster rolls, the lobsters are shipped in ever day. This version features both small and larger chunks of lobster as well as celery. The bread is the same split-top bun that is also imported from Maine. It has terrific texture compared to a routine hot dog bun.
The negative about it? At $26, the Oyster House lobster roll, served with fried typically though with potato chips during Oyster House’s anniversary special, isn’t exactly a dollar dog. The price point is quite a bit higher than one would get in New York City and elsewhere. Heck, less than a half block away, Happy Rooster serves a lobster roll + glass of wine lunch special for $25. You still could use a little snack after the meal as well.
Still, lobster rolls are a wonderful luxury to have once in a while. Next stop: the Happy Rooster version.