1 Mainer’s Highly Opinionated Take on the Best Lobster Roll in Maine

Here's exactly where you should go for a perfect lobster roll in the Pine Tree State.



Before I tried the lobster roll that I will refer to herein as The Best Lobster Roll of My Life, I had certain … feelings … about what a lobster roll should be. I grew up in coastal Massachusetts, five minutes from the New Hampshire border, and we New Englanders have standards when it comes to lobster rolls. We have rules. The proper lobster roll, for instance, comes cold and dressed with mayo (if you’re looking for the warm, butter-doused type, head down to Connecticut, which may or may not be part of proper New England).

For the past few years, I’ve made it my unofficial mission to scour Maine for the best versions of the lobster roll. Like any inquisitive food mind, I waited in line for over an hour one July afternoon for a roll at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, only to be disappointed by meat that my New England-trained palate detected as (possibly) frozen and unacceptably overpriced. But across the street, there was no line at Sprague’s Lobster, the family-owned joint overlooking the Sheepscot River, where my roll was $6 cheaper and over six times more delicious: judicious mayonnaise, whip-fresh lobster, and a soft, butter-burnished bun.

In Penobscot, on the Blue Hill Peninsula, where I spent time last Labor Day Weekend, I fell in love with the roll at Bagaduce Lunch. Some come for the ever-changing soft-serve swoops, but I’m a fan of the no-fuss sando, which costs under $20 and offers everything you need: a view of the water from a picnic table, mayo-dressed lobster, and chunks big enough to chew.

Related: These Are America's Best Lobster Rolls

I found an overfilled roll at Claws in Rockland, which diners can gorge on between superlative meals at Primo and In Good Company. In nearby South Thomaston, at McLoons Lobster Shack, I sat outside at what is debatably the most beautiful place in Maine to eat a roll; it’s available in two sizes: the butter-bathed roll and the giant Rolls Royce.

Those rolls? All life-changing, I swear, and, most would argue, relatively traditional. But my personal favorite is a deviation, a revelation, and not even off the beaten path. Take me straight to Kennebunk, Maine, on the bridge that leads right into neighboring Kennebunkport, for a roll at The Clam Shack, which opened in 1968. Served on a round burger bun, it’s a swipe of claw, knuckle, and impossibly large tail. Connoisseurs order it with “both,” meaning mayo and drawn butter.

The tail — the best part and absent on so many other rolls — is served practically whole, dunked directly into warm butter. The rest of the roll receives the blessing of a squiggle of mayo. Not too much. Not too little. It’s the Goldilocks of lobster rolls and, I must say, a sandwich that is gone far too quickly, making you wistful for it almost immediately. It’s an apparition, just moments after it has arrived at your picnic table, which is probably the highest praise you can give this kind of perfect work of art: that it stays around just long enough to remind you that you’ll want another the next time you find yourself passing through town. 

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