Few discussions stoke spirited debate among locals like where to find the state's best rendition, except discussions about what makes a lobster roll legit.
Obviously, we begin with the lobster. Large chunks of lobster meat, including claw and tail, must fill the roll. Traditionalists argue the meat should be barely dressed with a very light coating of mayo. Folks living on the edge might prefer melted butter, or—heaven help them—a mix of mayo, spices and (gasp) chopped celery.
Then we consider the bread. A split-top hot dog roll buttered and lightly toasted is key. As for accoutrements? Purists turn up their noses, but others enjoy a piece of lettuce and maybe even tomatoes.
When given the option to choose a side, upgrade from French fries to sweet potato fries or onion rings—they're both classics. For dessert? Order anything made with Maine's favorite fruit: blueberries.
Finding a lobster roll in Maine during the summer is never a problem—you'll encounter roadside stands, sit-down restaurants, lobster pounds and even gas stations hawking the goods. It's finding a superior roll with good bread and ample chunks of meat that's the challenge. Over the course of a weeklong trip to Maine, I crawled the state's lobster roll establishments, hitting close to a dozen places. And that's a lotta lobstah.
After a steady stream of heaping helpings, here are four places that are worth visiting.
Estes' scenic waterfront location along a quiet stretch of Maine's mid-coast, near the tip of a long, narrow peninsula flanked by rocky shores and lapping waves, is enough reason to pay a visit. Though the views here are sublime, the lobster roll ($16.99) is the real winner, ranking as my favorite in Maine. The secret? Huge chunks of meat, light mayo and a killer roll toasted with salted butter.Valerie Conners
Ask a local about lobster rolls and chances are Red's gets a mention. Possibly Maine's most famous lobster shack—it’s been serving up rolls since 1954, with likely the state's most gigantic portions of lobster meat—Red's draws crowds that wait an hour or more to chow down on the legendary rolls ($16.75). Mountains of meat overflow from the roll; choose mayo or melted butter on the side.Valerie Conners
This food truck sits perched high above Fort Williams Park, with unbeatable views of the iconic Portland Head Lighthouse. Purists may cringe, but you'll find innovative takes on rolls served with wasabi or curry ($14.95). Don't fret: there's also a traditional Maine roll.Valerie Conners
Tucked alongside Kennebunkport's scenic waterfront in a prime location overlooking the Kennebunk River, The Clam Shack gets crowded with tourists and locals in the summer months. The lobster roll's quality ($16.75) is key to the Shack's popularity, and eating it al fresco on a table made from an authentic lobster crate adds to the experience. You'll find giant chunks of tail and claw with light mayo and light seasoning. The twist? It's served on a round bun (still buttered and toasted).Valerie Conners
Valerie Conners is a location independent writer who has been traveling and eating her way around the globe for a year and a half. When she's not consuming epic amounts of Maine lobster, she’s likely sniffing out her next adventure.
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