PROFILE: “The Lobster Pool” in Rockport, MA

The Lobster PoolAnyone who’s visited Cape Ann has likely driven by The Lobster Pool in Rockport, MA. Traveling counter-clockwise around the island, the Pool is just past Halibut Point, at the bottom of the big hill, on the right after the bend. This shack is always jammed, and we’ve heard loyalists claim it was the best roll around. So, we figured why not choose The Lobster Pool to kick off our 2013 Season.

This place is right on the ocean, with clear views of Coffin Beach, Crane Beaches, and Plum Island beyond. Lots of picnic tables and a lawn leading down to the water provide a very nice setting (although the lawn was off limits during our visit – re-seeding, we assumed). A sign on a dinghy-turned-planter announced nightly campfires and s’mores — a nice touch. Inside, this is an authentic shack with an eat-in-the-rough feel and lots of lobster paraphernalia, including a live lobster tank and a swag section where you can buy Lobster Pool sweatpants if you should have a sudden urge to look like a tourist. The dining room features large windows so less-hearty souls can enjoy a splendid view of the Atlantic.

The Lobster Pool InteriorWe ordered two rolls and sat tight as they were made to order. When the counter girl called our number, we took our tray outside and grabbed a seat at a picnic table. The place was bustling, and we were lucky to get a seat. Proximity of the seating area to the car park was the only downside… that is, until we tried these rolls.

These lobster rolls were small. Although we typically don’t talk much about price (unless something is out of whack), and in this case  $17 for a small split-top hotdog roll unworthy of a Fenway Frank was a poor start to the experience. The lobster meat was good, but there was absolutely nothing special about it. It was lightly dressed in what well could have been low-fat may (we’re not saying that’s with they use, only that that’s what it tasted like). And, the role itself was apparently toasted dry, not grilled, and without even a hint of butter. A few random shreds of lettuce lined the bottom of the roll, solidifying the absolute mediocrity of the experience.

The only way was can describe this experience is that this roll was not bad. Nor was it good. It was completely neutral, utterly unmemorable, and not at all worth the price tag — even with the view. We’re going to award The Lobster Pool with an ACCEPTABLE rating, although it’s on the low end of the scale. In fact, the only reason whey they pull ahead of Roy Moore’s lobster roll is because they were made to order. Here’s how they stacked up (0-100):

  • T’s Rating: 77
  • P’s Rating: 79
  • AVERAGE: 78

The Lobster Pool can be found 325 Granite Street in Rockport, MA.  WEBSITE: PHONE: 978.546.7808. Check their schedule, as they are a seasonal business.

The Lobster Pool Lobster Roll

The lobster wasn’t bad, but this roll was small, unmemorable, and over-priced.


Profile: “THE CLAM BOX” in Ipswich, MA

The Clam BoxAfter a brisk 5-mile hike through the dunes at Crane Beach, we were fully prepped for the short drive north to visit The Clam Box to give their lobster rolls a try. We’ve been here before, pre-Chronicle days, and have driven by its distinctive “clam box architecture” countless times. As you might imagine, The Box is famous for their fried clams, and many locals claim their clams are the best around (which they aren’t). But we were surprised to hear so many roll hounds claim The Box was their favorite lobster roll joint.

As is nearly always the case there was a pretty long line at The Box, and we waited while the friendly counter girl took orders from those ahead of us in line at what seemed a glacial rate of speed. You know, this can be pretty aggravating at times, but in this case our smiling order taker was simply taking very special care to get everyone’s order exactly right, so we really couldn’t complain. After finally placing our order, we sat on a long wooden bench near the pick-up windows waiting for our number to be called. This position gave us a birds-eye view of the massive fried clam, scallop, and fish platters being distributed by several more smiling and courteous youthful staffers. After about 10-minutes, we picked up our tray and headed out to the picnic area to enjoy the tail end of a warm, sunny Fall day.

As for how we graded The Clam Box’s lobster roll, we should begin by saying this roll really wasn’t bad. They weren’t huge, but they were stuffed pretty full with claw, knuckle and tail meat, all very lightly dressed with a touch of mayo. There was nothing at all offensive these rolls, and we didn’t feel ripped off. Conversely, these rolls were remarkably unremarkable – that is, there was absolutely nothing outstanding or memorable about them. The roll itself was a standard New England-style split-top hotdog bun that was prettily grilled, but it lacked that “butter-grilled” flavor that adds such a nice bottom to the best roll experiences. We wondered if perhaps The Box simply under-buttered our rolls, or maybe they were using unsalted butter (or, God forbid,  some tasteless butter substitute?). Regardless, it lacked bottom, leaving us longing for a Top-10 roll (which this roll certainly isn’t).

Between the roll and the lobster meat was a bed of cut iceberg lettuce. The lobster meat itself was, again, not offensive, but it wasn’t singing of freshness either. We tried to pin down what we were getting, and our conclusion was that this meat tasted like it had been made yesterday and then refrigerated overnight for today’s use. We have no idea if this is what happened, we’re just saying that’s the impression we got. The meat wasn’t overcooked or rubbery, but it wasn’t sweet and succulent, either. If we were to stretch to find something positive to say, it would be that the size and and variety of meaty chunks used in this roll were definitely good.

The Clam Box scores an ACCEPTABLE rating. Here’s how they stacked up (0-100):

  • T’s Rating: 83
  • P’s Rating: 82
  • AVERAGE: 82.5

The Clam Box is located at 248 High Street in Ipswich MA. WEBSITE: PHONE: 978.356.9707. The Clam Box is a seasonal business.

The Clam Box Lobster Roll

Not a bad lobster roll, but mostly unmemorable.


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: FACEBOOK: 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: 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: 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: 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: FACEBOOK: 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: FACEBOOK: PHONE: 978.745.6659.


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: 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!