The best way to prepare a lobster roll is wholly subjective and highly disputed. There are two schools of thought when it comes to the lobster roll: those who believe using mayo yields the tastiest version, and others who would rather leave well enough alone, using just a drizzle of melted butter to enhance the natural flavor of the crustaceous meat. Other disputes abound. Which is better: knuckle, claw, or tail meat? Is the addition of lettuce a crispy, welcome addition or a superfluous distraction? No matter where you land in the lobster roll debate, Portland has an option for you.
The Highroller Lobster Co.
The Highroller Lobster Co. is taking the Portland lobster roll scene to a whole new level. Business partners Andy Gerry and Baxter Key serve up fresh lobster rolls on brioche rolls baked daily from Southside Bakery. You can personalize your roll with accoutrements like bacon or avocado and sauces including lime mayo, jalapeno mayo, red pepper mayo, and lobster ghee. The Thrillist recently featured this Portland food cart for its lobster roll stuffed in a cheesy bacon taco shell.
Do not be mislead by the lack of a seaside location. Susan’s Fish-N-Chips is a local seafood treasure. Listed on their menu as a “lobstah” roll, Susan’s serves up a classic and infinitely satisfying lobster roll. Susan’s does their lobster roll on a grilled, top-loader hot dog bun heaped with an assortment of lobster meat with a thin layer of mayo and iceberg lettuce. If the standard roll doesn’t satisfy your crustacean cravings, you may want to try their deep-fried lobster tail on a stick (if you’re lucky enough to show up when they’re available).
Portland Lobster Company
At the foot of the pier, Portland Lobster Company is an idyllic location for enjoying a lobster roll. PLC’s lobster roll is robust, sweet, buttery, and undisturbed by mayonnaise. It is refreshingly simple with tail and claw meat, sourced only from local markets, and complemented by just a touch of butter and a bed of romaine lettuce. Enjoying their lobster roll right on the pier satisfies every mental image of summer in Portland.
In a 2013 interview with Maine magazine, Cindy Brown, co-owner of J’s Oyster, describes her clientele as “an ex-con sitting next to the lawyer who put him in jail, talking with the fisherman who caught the haddock in their sandwiches.” And that is why we love it. J’s serves a lobster roll overflowing with cool meat on a hot dog roll and a side of mayo. It’s simple, sweet, and satisfying in one of Portland’s saltiest restaurants.
Eventide Oyster Company
Eventide’s brown butter lobster roll has become synonymous with a trip to Portland. With national recognition and James Beard Award-winning chefs Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor, there is seldom a time when there isn’t a crowd camped out on Middle Street waiting to savor Eventide’s unique lobster roll. This mouthwatering little lobster roll is served on a homemade, split-top, perfectly steamed bun loaded with freshly picked local lobster and topped with nutty brown butter.
In the middle of Portland’s working waterfront, Becky’s Diner is a local institution. You can trust that when you order a lobster roll, you’re getting a genuine Maine lobster roll. A quarter pound of fresh-picked lobster meat dressed lightly in mayo sits atop a little lettuce and comes with a side of crunchy, salty fries. If you’re not a mayo lover, you can get a side of melted butter instead.
Gilbert’s Chowder House
Known primarily for chowder, Gilbert’s offers a no-frills dining experience. Don’t let the plastic flatware deter you; Gilbert’s is serving up some hearty and delicious food. Grab a seat inside or lounge on the patio overlooking Custom House Wharf, and prepare for an honest Maine meal. Their lobster roll consists of big chunks of sweet lobster tossed in just the right amount of mayo and served with French fries that have all the best qualities: crispy, salty, light, and fluffy.