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.

Profile: “HARRASEEKET LUNCH AND LOBSTER” in South Freeport, ME

Harraseeket Lunch & LobsterHarraseeket Lunch & Lobster was the first stop on a multi-roll day, and we arrived about 15-minutes before they opened so we had an opportunity to see the staff getting ready for a busy day. The parking lot attendant getting ready to manage traffic flow was in stark contrast to quiet harbor setting that greeted us at 10:45 a.m. At 11:00 a.m. the order window opened and we were greeted by very friendly staff who truly looked as if they were enjoying their job. We grabbed some seats by the water to watched islanders board a small ferry while waiting for our roles.

Harraseeket runs in a peleton of Maine’s best lobster roll joints. We knew we were getting into the “best of the best” of traditional lobster rolls, and we had to be very cognizant of the fact these place could start to wash together if we weren’t careful. Yet, there no escaping that at this level the competition gets very tight. With this said, Harraseeket definitely belongs on the leader board.

These rolls came through with a beautifully toasted split-top roll, and lots of delicious knuckle, claw and tail meat. The lobster is dressed with a bit of mayo, but not too much. And the role is lined with a lettuce leaf – not your shredded iceberg lettuce, but a nice whole green leaf. Leaving the “Does lettuce belong in a lobster roll?” debate aside, this was a nice touch.

We really liked the Harraseeket lobster roll, and had we not made a stop at Red’s Eats an hour later, we may have rated Harraseeket a bit higher. But in the end, we give Harraseeket a RECOMMENDED rating. Here’s how they stacked up (0-100):

  • T’s Rating: 86
  • P’s Rating: 85
  • AVERAGE: 85.5

Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster is located at 36 Main Street in South Freeport, ME. WEBSITE: http://www.harraseeketlunchandlobster.com/index.html. PHONE (LUNCH): 207.865.4888. PHONE (LOBSTER): 207.865.3535. Check their schedule, as Harrasseket Lobster & Lunch is a seasonal business.

Harraseeket Lobster Roll

A very good lobster roll, as fresh as they come!

Profile: “THREE COD TAVERN” in Marblehead, MA

Three Cod TavernWe stopped into Three Cod Tavern earlier this past summer, while taking a leisurely drive on a rainy Sunday. We hadn’t intended to make this stop, but an online search for a nice lunch brought us to Three Cod Tavern. It was only when we arrived that we realized we’d been before.

As was the case during our first visit, the place was hopping with locals. Everybody seemed to know everyone else – from the injured high school athlete who seemed a center of attention, to the older woman who happily informed all with whom she spoke that she “had a bit of a buzz going” (it was about 1:00 p.m.). But the sense was it was a warm place, cherished by the townspeople, and that’s always a good sign.

We had to wait quite awhile for our lobster rolls to arrive, and we assumed this was a combination of a busy kitchen and lobster rolls made to order. Luckily their very clam chowder kept us satisfied during the wait. When the rolls finally arrived, they were packed full with fresh knuckles, claws and tail meat, with a reasonable coating of mayo. The bun was a standard hotdog roll (not a split-top role), and the lobster was placed on a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce.

And so enter one of the few controversies of our quest. One of us really loved this role, and considered it one of the best “cold with mayo” rolls we tried. The other of us was just not all that impressed. There was nothing wrong with the role – it simply didn’t stand out. Since we nearly always agree (within a few points of one another) when rating rolls, this disparity left us puzzled. One of us considered Thee Cod’s lobster roll HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, whilst the other rated it as ACCEPTABLE. But that’s the way the oyster cracker crumbles.

Three Cod Tavern ended up with an ACCEPTABLE rating, although it was the highest scoring contender in this category. We’ll definitely have to make another trip to try and settle the score! Here’s how things stacked up (0-100):

  • T’s Rating: 88
  • P’s Rating: 79
  • AVERAGE: 83.5

Three Cod Tavern is located at 141 Pleasant Street in Marblehead, MA. WEBSITE: http://www.threecodtavern.com/index.php. FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/threecodtavern?fref=ts. PHONE: 781.639.3263.

Three Cod Tavern Lobster Roll

The source of the controversy! (The exterior shot above was borrowed from Boston Restaurant Blog. We’ll be happy to remove the image upon request.)

Profile: “THE LOBSTER SHACK AT TWO LIGHTS” in Cape Elizabeth, ME

Lobster Shack at Two LightsJust a few days before setting out on a road/bike trip to sample some of Maine’s most famed lobster roll joints, we happened to see a short segment on the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food” featuring The Lobster Shack at Two Lights (you can view the segment here). Our home base for this trip was The Danforth Inn in Portland, so a quick stop in Cape Elizabeth was right on our way.

The Lobster Shack is certainly situated on a beautiful ocean-front property overlooking Casco Bay. The view alone was worth the trip, and we were very eager to sample the first lobster roll of our trip. The Lobster Shack makes their rolls to order – a definite good sign – and, after a short wait, our name was called and we proceeded to the pick-up window to collect two very interesting looking lobster rolls.

Lobster Chack at Two Lights Dining AreaThis lobster was fresh, and filled with not only claws and knuckles, but also tail meat. Interestingly, though, The Lobster Shack does not use either mayo or butter in their roll, instead placing a dollop of mayo one end of the finished roll. This meant that, unless you took the time to spread the mayo yourself, each bites had either contains no mayo, or way too much. On the other end of the roll was a pickle slice, which is fine if you like pickles (one of us doesn’t), but the inevitable consequence is that you end up with at least some pickle-flavored lobster. Finally, these rolls are finished off with a dusting of paprika which, although a bit off the reservation, didn’t do any damage.

In the end, despite the cool, artsy look of these rolls, The Lobster Shack’s lobster roll is more-or-less unmemorable. Was this a bad lobster roll? Absolutely not. But at something like $18 per roll (again, with lobster meat selling for about $3.95 per lb.), we got the sense we were paying more for the view than for the roll.

We give The Lobster Shack at Two Lights an ACCEPTABLE rating. Here’s how they stacked up (0-100):

  • T’s Rating: 82
  • P’s Rating: 80
  • AVERAGE: 81

The Lobster Shack at Two Lights can be found at 225 Two Lights Road in Cape Elizabeth, ME. WEBSITE: http://lobstershacktwolights.com.  FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/lobstershack. PHONE: 207.799.1677. Check their schedule, as this is a seasonal business.

Lobster Shack at Two Lights Lobster Rolls

Very pretty rolls, but otherwise unmemorable.

Profile: “CHARLIE’S KITCHEN” in Cambridge, MA

Charlie's KitchenWe’ve seen Charlie’s Kitchen on several “Best Lobster Rolls in Boston” lists. So, when one day when we happened to drop by Charlie’s for a beer in their beer garden, we decided to give their lobster roll a try. Charlie’s has long played second fiddle to Mr. Bartley’s for burgers, but if you’re looking for a lobster roll and happen upon Charlie’s, do yourself a favor… keep on walking.

In all our travels this summer, this was the absolute worst excuse for a lobster roll we came across – so much so, that we nearly omitted it from the chronicles. But in the end, we spent good money (a whole $12) and got the equivalent of deviled ham-style lobster. There was nothing good about this roll, and we really have nothing further to say about it.

We give Charlie’s Kitchen an AWFUL rating. Here’s how it stacked up (0-100):

  • T’s Rating: 40
  • P’s Rating: 50
  • AVERAGE: 45

Charlie’s Kitchen is located in Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. If you want a good lobster roll, avoid Charlie’s. WEBSITE: www.charlieskitchen.com. PHONE: 617.492.9646.

Charlie's Kitchen Lobster Roll

Charlie’s deviled Lobster Roll. A disgusting travesty.

Profile: “RED’S EATS” in Wiscasset, ME

Red's EatsAfter posting our inaugural lobster roll report from The Clam Shack in Kennebunk (a pre-Lobster Roll Chronicles visit very early this year), Facebook pal Jeff Beck asked how it compared to Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, ME. It took a Google Maps search for us to realize we’ve driven by Red’s many times and always noticed a long line, but we figured it was just a local hot dog joint or something. Boy were we wrong!

Red’s is one of the few 800 lb. silver back gorillas in the world of lobster rolls. Red’s Eats was named in “1,000 Places to Eat in the US & Canada Before You Die,” USA Today’s “10 Great Places to Eat Regionally, Eat Well,” and “500 Things to Eat Before its Too Late.” You get the idea. But we thought, “How could it be better than The Clam Shack?” (At this point, one of us still held Rye Harbor Lobster Pound in 1st place.) It wasn’t. Each of us actually scored both places exactly the same, bringing them each in for a tie for 2nd Place for Best Lobster Roll in Northern New England.

Red’s uses at least 1 and 1/2 lobsters in every lobster roll. Their bun is a wonderfully soft, grilled split-top hotdog roll heaped with some of the most delicious lobster meat you’ll ever have. The lobster is served with light mayo, but also with a side of melted butter – the secret weapon in lobster roll greatness (mayo AND butter, that is – The Clam Shack also uses this method).

We got to Red’s at around noon on a weekday, and found ourselves in line for about an hour. This is something you should expect if you visit Red’s… they’re just that good. But as we waited patiently in line, we were served various complimentary treats from the kitchen, including fried shrimp.

Red's Eats Line

This is the line that awaited us on the day we stopped by Red’s Eats.

We mentioned that the Red’s embraced the mayo + butter approach (although the butter at Red’s in on the side). We found this to be a consistent winning formula, even when the butter-grilled bun delivers the butter portion of the recipe. The other differentiator between places like Red’s and the wanna-bes is the use of claws, knuckles AND tails. When compared with the abysmal rolls by places like Neptune Oyster, we believe 100 out of 100 people would choose Red’s. So, there’s a note to all you aspiring chefs – from roadside line cooks to exec chefs with three Michelin stars – DON’T OVERTHINK THE LOBSTER ROLL! Use truly fresh ingredients, light mayo, top-quality roll, melted butted (either within or without), and end it. No celery, no apple, no lettuce. And, of course, every roll is made to order. Visit Red’s to see what we mean.

We give Red’s Eats a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating! Here’s how Red’s stacked up (0-100):

  • T’s Rating: 94
  • P’s Rating: 93
  • AVERAGE: 93.5

Red’s Eats can be found at 41 Main Street in Wiscasset, ME.  FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Reds-Eats/175139778087?fref=ts. PHONE: 207.882.6128. Check their schedule, as Red’s is a seasonal business.

Red's Lobster Roll

Our snap of the Red’s lobster roll came out fuzzy, so we borrowed this snap from Marcrescue. We’ll be happy to remove the image upon request.

Profile: “THE BEACH PLUM” in North Hampton, NH

The Beach PlumWe heard about The Beach Plum from Facebook pal, Steve Allan. Steve saw that we were chronicling our lobster roll experiences this summer and made a strong push for us to include the Plum. We’re glad he did! In fact, The Beach Plum spent a fair amount of time in each of our Top-3 lists.

Our visit to the Plum was exactly half-way through a 40-mile road ride. So, when we finally pulled into the parking lot we were both VERY ready for a high quality lobster roll, and a bit if hydration. As such, we opted for the 10 oz. “Super Jumbo” over the standard 7 oz “Jumbo.” This increase in size by just under half is a true bargain, with only a slight increase in price from $16.49 to $19.49. We try not to get caught up too much on price, but this deal means that you’re getting the first 7 oz. for about $2.35 per oz., while the additional upgrade to the Super Jumbo costs you just $1 per 0z. – or, about 60% discount per oz. on the upgrade. Anyway, enough about economics… just know that this roll is BIG!

It’s also delicious! Top quality lobster meat with just a bit of mayo. Steve points out that they have kids cracking lobs in the back, so there’s no frozen meat here. This roll is the absolute best value of any roll in our survey, which may warrant it’s own prize! We thought we recalled a grilled roll and went online to look at other people’s photos of the Super Jumbo, but because the thing is so darned big and stuffed with so much meat that we couldn’t find any photos that clearly showed the outside of the roll!

The Beach Plum finished in our Top-10 and we give it a rating of HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – the only lobster roll with a score below 90 points to receive this rating. Here’s how the Plum stacked up (0-100):

  • T’s Rating: 88
  • P’s Rating: 87
  • AVERAGE: 87.5

The Beach Plum has two location, but we visited them at 17 Ocean Boulevard in North Hampton, NH. WEBSITE: http://www.thebeachplum.net. PHONE: 613.964.7451

We forgot to take photos during this trip, so this snap is borrowed from Jax House, while the top snap is borrowed from New England Lobster Roll Reviews. We’ll be happy to remove the images upon request.