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: “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: “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.