Profile: “BELLE ISLE SEAFOOD” in East Boston, MA

Belle Isle SeafoodAfter our recent 2012 results were posted on Chow Hound, several people chimed in on our rankings and made recommendations on other lobster rolls joints we should try. One place that received a lot of reviews was Belle Isle Seafood in East Boston, MA. We’d never heard of Belle Isle, but figured since it’s pretty close to home we’d give them a try.

One thing that’s worth mentioning straight away is that Belle Isle is moving just across the river into Winthrop. In fact, from the current Belle Isle lunch counter you can see their new building as it nears completion. Frankly, this is good news, as the current Belle Isle is without a doubt the most gritty roll joint we visited. The entire property is surrounded by bridge construction, with heavy equipment, Jersey barriers, and chain link fences everywhere you look. You have to follow the spray-painted plywood signs to park around back, and as you approach Belle Isle you really start to wonder what the heck you’re getting yourself into.

Belle Isle InteriorWe approached the counter and noticed the small dining area was pretty full. Luckily, most people who were waiting for their orders chose to eat outside along the water, freeing up a couple of seats. Our rolls took about 10-minutes to be made to order, and were delivered in a flat brown paper bag a la fish and chips. Removing our plates from the bags, we found a very large roll filled with really beautiful, fresh mayo-dressed lobster meat. The roll itself was a standard New England style split-top hotdog roll, but the roll was so full of meat it took a bit of manipulation to be able to see if the outside of the roll was grilled. Well, it may have been… but to our eyes (and taste buds) it seemed more toasted than grilled. If there was any butter applied to the roll, it was not noticeable to us.

The lobster meat itself was truly fresh and delicious – some of the best we’ve had. But we both noticed that, aside from a couple of lettuce leaves, the roll was naked – that is, no salt, no pepper, not nothing. Usually this is no big deal because the butter-grilled roll typically delivers a light dose of salt, as well as a buttery rich bottom. In this case, because the roll was so lightly toasted and seemed to lack any butter, and because the roll was otherwise plain, despite its high-quality lobster meat this role left us wishing for just a bit more taste. Another admittedly nit-picky thing we noticed was that the lettuce under the lobster meat was not shredded, so when you bit into the roll, unless you were careful to bite through a mountain of lobster and all the lettuce, you ended up pulling all the filling out of the role when trying to set the role down.

And, of all the lobster roll joints we surveyed, this was the only one where we found broken pieces of shell on our roll.

We’d originally intended to hit two roll joints today, but after finishing the Belle Isle roll we were stuffed. Granted, these rolls were $20, but were still a good deal based on their size.

We liked these rolls. Their high-quality lobster meat would have definitely yielded a higher score had they just been a bit more tasty. Belle Isle Seafood scores a RECOMMENDED rating. Here’s how they stacked up (0-100):

  • T’s Rating: 85
  • P’s Rating: 85
  • AVERAGE: 85

Belle Isle Seafood is located at 1267 Saratoga Street in East Boston, MA. Their WEBSITE appears to be down. FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Belle-Isle-Lobster-And-Seafood/405098856171151?fref=ts. PHONE: 617.567.1619.

Belle Island Lobster Roll

Beautiful, fresh lobster, but lacking in the taste department.

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The Lobster Roll Chronicles 2012 Results Are In!

You asked for it, you got it! Announcing “The Lobster Roll Chronicles” 2012 Results. Click on the restaurant name for in-depth reviews, or click the image for a larger view. We hope you enjoy! Feel free to comment and recommend… T&P

#1 – The Galley Restaurant & Pub in Naples, ME – (98 Points)

The Galley's Zesty Lemon Lobster Roll

ABSOLUTE PERFECTION!

#2 (Tie) – Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, ME – (93.5 Points)

Red's Lobster Roll

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

#2 (Tie) – The Clam Shack in Kennebunk, ME – (93.5 Points)

The Clam Shack Lobster Roll

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

#4 – Rye Harbor Lobster Pound in Rye Harbor, NH – (93 Points)

Rye Harbor Lobster Pound Lobster Roll

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

#5 – Louie’s Alive & Kicking in Cambridge, MA – (92 Points)

Louie's Alive & Kicking Lobster Sandwich

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

#6 – James Hook & Co. in Boston, MA – (90 Points)

James Hook & Co Lobster Roll

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

#7 – The Beach Plum in North Hampton, NH – (87.5 Points)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

#8 – Shaw’s Fish & Lobster Wharf in New Harbor, ME – (87 Points)

Shaw's Lobster Roll

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

#9 – Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster in South Freeport, ME – (85.5 Points)

Harraseeket Lobster Roll

RECOMMENDED

#10 – The Hungry Whale in Salem, MA – (85 Points)

RECOMMENDED

#11 – Three Cod Tavern in Marblehead, MA – (83.5 Points)

Three Cod Tavern Lobster Roll

ACCEPTABLE

#12 – J. T. Farnham’s in Essex, MA – (83 Points)

Farnham's Lobster Roll

ACCEPTABLE

#13 – Jasper White’s Summer Shack in Cambridge, MA – (82 Points)

Summer Shack Lobster Roll

ACCEPTABLE

#14 – The Lobster Shack at Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth, ME – (81 Points)

Lobster Shack at Two Lights Lobster Rolls

ACCEPTABLE

#15 – Roy Moore Lobster Company in Rockport, MA – (77.5 Points)

Roy Moore Lobster Roll

ACCEPTABLE (BARELY!)

The Lobster Roll Chronicles 2012 Hall Of Shame

x. Charlie’s Kitchen of Cambridge, MA – 45 points (Awful)

Charlie's Kitchen Lobster Roll

Charlie’s deviled Lobster Roll. A disgusting travesty.

x. The Lobster Dock in Boothbay Harbor, ME – 60 Points (Awful)

The Lobster Dock Lobster Roll

Rubbery, foul-tasting. A real disappointment.

x. Neptune Oyster of Boston, MA – 60 Points (Awful)

Neptune Oyster Lobster Roll

Made us feel sick for hours.

Profile: “THE GALLEY RESTAURANT AND PUB” in Naples, ME

The GalleyWe had just finished mapping our next road/bike trip to Maine to sample some of Vacationland’s best known lobster rolls when, quite by accident, we stumbled upon Travel Channel’s Adam Richman hosting a show called Best Sandwich In America. Now, we’re not all that big on Adam Richman, preferring instead his colleagues, Zimmern and Bourdain. But this particular broadcast was the season finale, and featured the 10 finalists to compete for best sandwich in America. Each of these contenders had previously won their respective regional contests. And, as luck would have it, we tuned in just as Richman was announcing his choice for New England’s Best Sandwich. Naturally, we assumed he would choose a lobster roll, which he did, but we were expecting to see Red’s Eats or The Clam Shack rise to the top. But out of nowhere (at least to us), enter The Galley Restaurant & Pub of Naples, ME.

The first question we had was, “The Galley? Who the heck is The Galley?” The second question was, “Naples, ME? Where the heck is Naples, ME?” A quick search on Google Maps showed that Naples was not a coastal town but, instead, was inland about 30 miles northwest of Portland – freshwater territory. Further, Richman’s selection from The Galley was actually called the “Zesty Lemon Lobster Roll.” Although this initially seemed a bit of a departure from tradition, in reality many, many of New England’s top lobster roll joints use both lemon and pepper in their rolls. So, Richman’s segment piqued our curiosity, and we decided to add The Galley as a last-minute, final stop on our trip north.

The Galley Lobster Roll MenuA few days later, we arrived at The Galley, but were there about a half-hour before opening. With a bit of time to kill, we took a drive around nearby Sebago Lake, and up north to Bridgton and Waterford – nice country to be sure, but hardly the Maine Coast. We later returned to find The Galley was already hopping. A very friendly young lady seated and, as we reviewed the menu, were surprised to see not only the Zesty Lemon roll as an option, but a whole variety of lobster rolls recipes. Evidently, The Galley is serious about their lobster rolls.

The Galley InteriorFollowing Richman’s lead, we each ordered the Zesty Lemon roll, and waited while our rolls were made to order. What ultimately greeted us was one of the prettiest rolls we’ve ever seen. A perfectly grilled New England split-top hotdog roll lined with a single romaine lettuce leaf. A full one-third of a pound of fresh, perfectly-cooked, lightly-dressed lobster meat makes this roll a real meal. But it’s what happens next that makes this roll so extraordinary. The Galley’s recipe calls for a small amount of their own zesty lemon pepper spice sprinkled along the top of the roll, followed by a fresh-squeezed lemon drizzle. This treatment results in such a well-balanced roll, with the lemon and pepper cutting through the richness of the mayo-dressed lobster, rounded out by the butter-grilled roll and finished with the fresh snap of the romaine leaf, each bite got better and better… and better!

Until now, the highest rating we’ve ever awarded was HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. But this just doesn’t go far enough to convey the culinary perfection that is The Galley Zesty Lemon Lobster Roll. So, we’re going all out to award The Galley with our highest honor, a rating of ABSOLUTE PERFECTION!

As for how we scored The Galley, we feel compelled reiterate just how much we loved our visits to places like Red’s Eats and The Clam Shack, each of whom tied for 2nd Place with a score of 93.5. But The Galley is in a whole different class. We loved these other lobster rolls, and look forward to many return visits over the coming years, so The Galley’s score shouldn’t be seen as reflecting negatively on these other roles. Rather, it should be seen to reflect just how unbelievably, earth-shatteringly awesome The Zesty Lemon Lobster Roll really was (0-100):

  • T’s Rating: 98
  • P’s Rating: 98
  • AVERAGE: 98

The Galley Restaurant & Pub is located at 327 Roosevelt Trail in Naples, ME. WEBSITE: http://www.thegalleyseafoodpub.com. FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/TheGalleyRestaurantAndPub. PHONE:207.693.1002.

The Galley's Zesty Lemon Lobster Roll

ABSOLUTE PERFECTION! The Galley’s Zesty Lemon Lobster Roll wins #1 Lobster Roll in Northern New England!

Profile: “JAMES HOOK AND CO” in Boston, MA

James Hook & Co.Anyone who grew up in or around Boston will recognize the name of James Hook & Co. An institution since 1925, James Hook was situated at the entrance to the Fort Point Channel. Their sign with the angular white lettering against their brown building was a landmark. That is, until 2008 when a fire consumed its main building, along with 60,000 lbs of lobster. Over $5 million in damages to the property didn’t stop the Hook family from rebuilding. And although the landmark facility is now gone, Hook remains in business to this day.

We were on our bikes and decided to swing by Hook to split a lobster roll. The place was crowded, so we stood in line for awhile. When our turn came, we noticed that there were completed lobster rolls in the display case, a la Roy Moore’s. Luckily, the clerk asked if we would like our roll toasted, which we did, so our roll ended up being made to order. We took our lunch out to the old drawbridge leading to South Boston to enjoy our roll in the sunshine.

James Hook & Co InteriorThis roll was very good. Buttery, toasted split-top hotdog bun filled with delicious, fresh and flaky lobster meat. This roll had a bit more mayo than necessary, but not so much that it detracted from the tender lobster meat. We were surprised to hear people mention light celery in their reviews, because as far as we could tell there was no celery in ours. In many ways, this roll was very traditional, and reminiscent of Shaw’s or Harraseeket, but was even simpler in that there was no lettuce lining the roll, winning additional style points for Hook. And at about $12.99, you’ll have a very difficult time finding a better value in all of Boston.

We really liked James Hook & Co.’s lobster roll, and awarded it a rating of HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Here’s how they stacked up (0-100):

  • T’s Rating: 90
  • P’s Rating: 90
  • AVERAGE: 90

James Hook & Co. is located at 15-17 Northern Avenue in Boston, MA. WEBSITE: http://jameshooklobster.com. PHONE: 617.423.5501.

James Hook & Co Lobster Roll

James Hook & Co.’s lobster roll is delightful in its simplicity. We had no camera with us on this visit, so we borrowed this snap from Jo Boston. We’ll be happy to remove the image upon request.

Profile: “SHAW’S FISH AND LOBSTER WHARF” in New Harbor, ME

Shaw's Fish & Lobster WharfShaw’s Fish & Lobster Wharf makes it onto just about everyone’s list of best lobster rolls in Maine. We pulled into Shaw’s parking lot after a day of tastings, and at first glance didn’t know what to expect The building looked a bit rundown, a were welcomed a couple of dumpsters and a server smoking a cigarette and yapping on the phone outside the kitchen (see photo). Proceeding down the ramp, a gentleman working the fresh fish counter on the first floor pointed us upstairs to the restaurant.

Like many lobster shacks on the Maine coast, this place is a step back in time. Rustic, but clean. A big open deck drew us outside as we waited for our rolls, which were, of course, made to order. The deck overlooked a working dock, and we could see boats unloading lobsters right below us. If it looks familiar, it may be because Shaw’s doubled as Chet’s Grill in the movie, “Message In A Bottle,” featuring Kevin Costner, Robin Wright, and Paul Newman.

View from Shaw's Fish & Lobster WharfShaw’s runs right in the middle of the pack of great Maine lobster rolls joints. As good as these places are, they tend to be very similar to one another – a standard split-top hotdog roll buttered and grilled, and filled with very fresh, lightly dressed lobster meat over a bed of shredded lettuce.  There’s nothing at all wrong about this, and Shaw’s makes a truly great roll. But it also means that these places do little to differentiate themselves from one another. The Clam Shack uses a round roll, as well as a combination of butter and mayo, which makes them stand out. Louie’s Alive & Kicking uses scali bread, which gives them a flavor all their own (while remaining faithful to tradition). Shaw’s is a fastball down the middle – a good, solid pitch that gets the job done, but with no “movement” on it.

With this said, the Shaw’s lobster roll was so good that we ended up downing  half of it before realizing we never stopped long enough took a photo! In the end, we give Shaw’s a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, edging out their closest coastal competitor, Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster. Here’s how they stacked up (0-100):

  • T’s Rating: 87
  • P’s Rating: 87
  • AVERAGE: 87

Shaw’s Fish & Lobster Wharf is located at 129 State Route 32 in New Harbor, ME. Their website appears to be down, but you can find them on FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Shaws-Wharf/122322646713. PHONE: 207.677.2200.

Shaw's Lobster Roll

We forgot to take a photo of Shaw’s lobster rolls before devouring them, so we borrowed this snap from Yankee Magazine. We’ll be happy to remove the image upon request.

Profile: “JASPER WHITE’S SUMMER SHACK” in Cambridge, MA

Summer ShackWe broke two rules by including Jasper White’s Summer Shack in the Lobster Roll Chronicles. First, Summer Shack is technically a chain, which we tried to avoid for this project. Second, we included a roll that we considered non-traditional. This roll had crunchy things (cucumber?) and herbs (tarragon?). Our excuse: We were on our bikes, we were hungry, and we thought, “What the heck… it’s Jasper White.” We actually came close to not including it in our rankings, but hey… we paid for it, we ate it, and we rated it. So here you go.

Summer Shack resides in the old Aku Aku, and we found a preserved Polynesian mural featuring a combo platter of Easter Island and Hawaiian images, instantly endearing us to the place (perhaps our next “Chronical” will be tiki lounges!). But it also feels a bit like the gymnasacafatorium you remember from grammar school, with hard walls, high ceilings, and an airplane hanger-like feel to it. Summer Shack really is not a very warm place.

Aku AkuWe sat at the bar and placed our order. What we got was lobster rolls that were okay. They weren’t terrible or offensive in any way. But they weren’t great, either. A toasted roll layered with a bit of greenery, a very wet, over-mayo’d role with cukes or some other crunchy things was fine. Really. It just wasn’t anywhere near the level of roll we’d come to expect.

In honor of Thor Heyerdahl, we’re not going to beat up Jasper. We’ll rate the Summer Shack’s lobster roll as ACCEPTABLE. Here’s how things stacked up (0-100):

  • T’s Rating: 83
  • P’s Rating: 81
  • AVERAGE: 82

The Summer Shack we visited is located at 149 Alewife Brook Parkway in Cambridge, MA. WEBSITE: http://www.summershackrestaurant.com/locations_cambridge.asp. PHONE: 617.520.9500.

Summer Shack Lobster Roll

Non-traditional, but not terrible. Definitely not our favorite.

Profile: “THE LOBSTER DOCK” in Boothbay Harbor, ME

The Lobster DockThe Lobster Dock popped up on a few lists of Maine’s Best Lobster Roll and, since it was on our way up to Shaw’s, we figured we’d swing by Boothbay Harbor and give them a try. The Lobster Dock sits right on the water, and was one of the most friendly feeling places we visited. A large, multilevel deck gave us our choice of tables, all of which provided a great the view of town across the narrow harbor. The lobster pool and cooking station were right there next to the order window, and we could see a young man cooking fresh lobsters to order. The fact we could also order a beer was also a treat.

Once again, we ran into the unfortunate choice of have our lobster roll either (a) cold with mayo, or (b) warm with butter. Having fallen for the latter at Rye Harbor Lobster Pound, we opted for warm with butter. In retrospect, and considering our experience, we regretted not getting one of each so that we could have maybe given the Dock another swing at bat.

The Lobster Dock Cooking StationIn sum, this roll was just not very good. Had we not witnessed the freshly cooked lobsters being pulled from the cooking station just a few feet away, we would have guessed that this lobster had sat around awhile. Perhaps it was the butter-ish drench, and not the lobster meat itself. But even the lobster meat was overcooked and rubbery. Instead of the flaky, fluffy, fresh-tasting lobster roll we’d hoped for, we ended up with a dense, rubbery, off-putting roll that just doesn’t hold a candle to the big boys. To top it off, it was one of the few times we were thankful the roll was a bit light on lobster meat.

It could be that we caught them on a bad day but The Lobster Dock ranked near the bottom of our list, earning an AWEFUL rating. Here’s how they stacked up (0-100):

  • T’s Rating: 60
  • P’s Rating: 60
  • AVERAGE: 60

The Lobster Dock can be found at 49 Atlantic Avenue in Boothbay Harbor, ME. WEBSITE: http://www.thelobsterdock.com. FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Lobster-Dock/88712134509. PHONE: 207.633.7120.

The Lobster Dock Lobster Roll

A poor excuse for a Maine lobster roll.

Profile: “LOUIE’S ALIVE AND KICKING” in Cambridge, MA

Louie's Alive & KickingWe’d been hearing about what we thought were two places in Cambridge, MA, each of which were reported to have the best lobster rolls in Boston. Well, we were wrong on two fronts. First, it turns out that these two places, “Louie’s” and “Alive & Kicking Lobsters” were, in fact, one place – Louie’s Alive & Kicking! Second, we saw on Chronicle that the owners get a little prickly when customers order a lobster roll because Louie’s sells “Lobster Sandwiches!” Fair enough. So, we set out on our bikes this past Labor Day and headed to Cambridge to see for ourselves what all the fuss was about.

It is very easy to pass by Louie’s without even knowing it. If not for the “Alive & Kicking” truck in the driveway, we would have definitely missed it. Louie’s is set back off the street in an old house that doubles as restaurant and lobster pound. An old dining room table sits right out front where the Louie’s family appears to hold court. Off to the right, behind the neighboring house, was a row of wooden picnic tables under a shed roof. Louie’s definitely had a gritty feel to it, but the place was packed – always a good sign. We parked the bikes and proceeded inside to place our order. All sandwiches are made to order so we had to wait a bit for our order, but the wait was well worth it.

Louie's Alive & Kicking Picnic TablesLouie’s lobster sandwich is very simple and traditional, with one exception. Rather than the standard split-top roll, Louie’s serves theirs up on toasted scali bread. Believe it or not, the subtle flavor of the sesame seeds in the scali serves as a perfect complement to the sweet lobster inside. And, like The Clam Shack in Kennebunk (who uses a round roll), this larger medium allows for a heaping sandwich to be eaten neatly – no small advantage for those who like to keep their hands clean. As for the lobster meat, the sandwich was loaded with wonderfully fresh, lightly-dressed lobster meat that included claws and tails.

In a word, this sandwich was wonderful! It seemed that every bite got better and better, leading one of us to wish we had a second sandwich standing by as back-up. The simplicity of this sandwich seemed to contradict just how delicious this sandwich was, reinforcing our belief that when it comes to lobster rolls (or sandwiches), the simpler the better. And at $13.99, it’s one of the best deals in the city.

After we finished up, we passed by the Louie’s family at their table and made sure to let them know how much we loved our roll. Well, Chronicle was right! We were quickly (and sharply) rebuked by a very nice woman who turned to the man next to her and asked, “Did you hear what they said? Did you hear what they called it?” All in good fun, she informed us that it’s a “lobster sandwich,” not a lobster roll. We mentioned that we had been traveling all around New England seeking out the best lobster roll, and that theirs ranked int he top-five. They seemed very interested in our quest, and were appreciative of the compliment, although you could tell they were a bit disappointed we couldn’t say they were #1. Don’t worry, Louie’s! Your lobster sandwich is truly one of the best we’ve ever had.

We loved Louie’s lobster sandwich, and are pleased to award them with a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating. Here’s how they stacked up (0-100):

  • T’s Rating: 93
  • P’s Rating: 91
  • AVERAGE: 92

Louie’s Alive & Kicking can be found at 269 Putnam Street in Cambridge, MA. They have no website that we could find, but there are plenty of reviews online. PHONE: 617.876.0451.

Louie's Alive & Kicking Lobster Sandwich

Louie’s Alive & Kicking Lobster Sandwich! Delicious!!

Profile: “THE HUNGRY WHALE” in Salem, MA

ImageWe do have a couple of rules on our quest to find the best lobster roll. Included in these are things like “no chain restaurants” (although we did eventually visit Jasper White’s Summer Shack), and “no foreign objects” (i.e. no apples, avocados, or any other nonsense – and especially no celery!). So when we found ourselves on a bike ride through Pickering Wharf in Salem, MA, we were disappointed to see that Finz, a well-known seafood restaurant right on the water, included celery in their rolls. Sorry Finz, you were instantly disqualified.

So, standing there, outside of Finz, we did a web search on “Salem’s Best Lobster Roll” and, much to our surprise, a little sandwich shop right in front of us was rated by many locals as the best roll in town.

The Hungry Whale is basically a sandwich shop. There is no wait service, and we were pleased to grab an outdoor table on a beautiful sunny day. We really didn’t know what to expect, but were very pleasantly surprised! The Whale’s roll is a buttery, toasted brioche. Their lobster meat was very fresh and clean, dressed with a bit of mayo, a dash of salt and pepper, and “a squeeze of fresh citrus,” and was resting on a bed of shredded lettuce. The homemade Raspberry Lime Rickeys were as good as Bartley’s, and were a real bonus!

Granted, we had been on a long bike ride so we were definitely hungry, but we found ourselves repeating to one another, “This is a really good lobster roll,” as if surprised that this small sandwich shop could hold up to some of the big boys. The Whale also has some specialty lobster roll-type concoctions, included the “Lobster Dog” (yes, a grilled hot dog covered in fresh lobster meat), and the “Monster Lobster Roll,” which is the biggest roll we’ve seen.

In sum, we really liked these rolls! The Hungry Whale scores a RECOMMENDED rating. Here’s how they stacked up (0-100):

  • T’s Rating: 85
  • P’s Rating: 85
  • AVERAGE: 85

The Hungry Whale is located at 72 Wharf Street, Pickering Wharf in Salem, MA (right across from Finz!). WEBSITE: http://hungrywhalesalem.com. FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/thehungrywhale. PHONE: 978.745.6659.

Image

We borrowed these snaps from The Hungry Whale’s Facebook page. We’ll be happy to remove the images upon request.