With so many delectable options on the North Shore, we may just take lobster rolls a little bit for granted. After all, we have places that have been making them for more than 50 years. Tradition is important around here—most restaurants are pretty firmly in the cold meat with mayonnaise camp when it comes to preparation (though a few places do offer the sacrilegious hot buttered lobster roll famous in Connecticut, either on or off the menu). That said, some chefs aren’t afraid to play with the classic combo of mayo, meat, and maybe a touch of iceberg lettuce or celery on a hot dog bun. Read on to find your lobster happy place.
Thursday is the best day to grab a roll at this spot; that’s when they’re about half price—only $13. On a busy summer day, 700 to 800 of them might fly out of the kitchen. Crazy deal for 5.5 ounces of lobster lightly dressed with mayo, a touch of lemon, and the tiniest dice of celery imaginable, which adds a nice subtle crunch. Got a bigger appetite? Order the lobster BLT, a potato bun filled with meat, bacon, avocado, and tomatoes. Seaport Grille is a great spot to watch the lobster boats pass; on a beautiful day with the windows open, it feels like the whole restaurant is outside.
6 Rowe Square, Gloucester, 978-282-9799, seaportgrillegloucester.com
Want to splash out on something amazingly delicious? This is your spot. Sure, they have the classic roll, made with a quarter pound of lobster cooked and shucked locally, lightly dressed with big chunks of claw, knuckle, and tail meat. But for a hot Instagram moment, and a full serving of all your fish shack favorites, order the Fat Lobster. Dreamed up by chef Brad DeLibero’s wife when she was eight months pregnant (yep, that checks out), it’s a quarter pound of lobster on a brioche bun, topped with coleslaw, fried clams, and onion rings. At $44, we’d recommend sharing. If that’s a bit much, choose from their rotating selection of creative rolls, like the Wasabi (with Asian slaw, wasabi cream, and sesame seeds) or the Picatta—fried lobster meat dressed with creamy lemon picatta sauce, crispy capers, and parmesan cheese.
49 Plum Island Turnpike, Newbury, 978-465-7100, boblobster.com
The Village Restaurant
Back in 1958, this classic spot served a lobster roll for 95 cents, with French fries and coleslaw. The price has gone up considerably since then, but the lobster roll is prepared and served in exactly the same way—claw, knuckle, and tail meat, lightly dressed with a mixture of mayonnaise, sugar, apple cider vinegar, and a dash of white pepper, on a buttery hot dog roll. And Mark and Carling Audette, who purchased the spot this year from the original owners, don’t plan to mess with a good thing. Besides, they also own The Deck in Salisbury, where chef Matt Belliveau offers up a more modern take on this beloved sandwich, served on a brioche hamburger bun.
55 Main St., Essex, 978-768-6400, wedigclams.com
Island Creek Oyster Bar
Chef Jeremy Sewall’s cousin, Mark Sewall, catches lobster just off of York Harbor for this spot’s two fancy rolls, so of course the crustacean is cooked and shucked in-house—because that’s how you treat family. In further tribute, “Ethel’s Classic Salad” is named for the chef’s grandmother and is a riff on her original recipe. Hand-cut knuckles, tails, and claws are tossed with chopped celery, red onion, pickles, mayonnaise, and creme fraiche and served up on a hand-rolled brioche bun flavored with chopped rosemary. Sounds like a lot, but trust us, the lobster really shines through. Or you can go rogue and order the warm buttered version—the lobster is heated in butter and served on a traditional New England soft roll with chips and coleslaw.
300 District Ave., Burlington, 781-761-6500, islandcreekoysterbar.com
Lobstah on a Roll
Have it your way at this shop, newly opened in Salem but with a serious following at their Boston location. People literally take a cab straight from Logan to consume their giant made-to-order rolls dressed with your choice of mayo, hot butter (gasp!), or nothing at all. The shop offers multiple sizes, starting with the Bostonian at a fairly standard 4.5 ounces, but the showstopper is the special-order Monstah, packed with nearly 20 pounds of meat for a cool $750. They are not one to forsake quality for quantity; all the lobster is cooked fresh and shucked on-site, and served on a locally baked Jewish challah roll—even the five-foot Monstah.
Little Harbor Lobster Co.
It doesn’t get any fresher than this boat-to-table roll. Pull right up to the dock out back to unload their catch at the shack, where it’s steamed and shucked daily in a building that’s been a fish market for nearly 100 years. Every roll is made-to-order: a third of a pound of firm, sweet meat is perfectly dressed with good old Hellman’s mayo and presented on a buttered brioche hot dog roll made especially for them by Salem’s A&J King Bakery. Pick up a bottle of wine or some beer from their carefully curated selection and make a picnic of it.
3 Beacon St., Marblehead, 781-639-1961, littleharborlobster.com