We Remember The Lobster Rolls That Changed Our Lives

Whether yours was overlooking the ocean, at a fancy restaurant or deconstructed and reconstructed into an actual lobster wearing a bun hat, favorite lobster roll stories are always a good topic of conversation. So naturally when we launched Lobster Roll Week, we all told tales of our best one, ever. Then we fought about fries and chips for a while. Then we made up and ordered some lobster rolls. A food website's office culture is naturally forgiving like that. Prepare to be stricken with a powerful craving.

When a friend from Martha's Vineyard invited me to his wedding on the island off Cape Cod last summer, I didn't hesitate. I'd only been to the Vineyard once, but I'd seen enough to know why it's been a favorite Northeast vacation spot for more than a century. What I didn't expect was that the week that my wife, daughter and I would spend there would be packed with such vivid memories, surpassing even my highest expectations. A big part of this, I must say, was the lobster rolls.

Our first was practically right off the ferry in Oak Bluffs at a place best known for sushi and outdoor tables in the sand — the Sand Bar & Grille. Theirs is not a celebrated lobster roll, but we ended up having two tasty ones here during out stay, with great Old Bay chips on the side, just this side of crispy. I've never heard anyone recommend this place for lobster rolls, but who knows? Maybe we just got lucky twice.

The place everyone told us to have a lobster roll on the Vineyard was in Menemsha at The Galley, a little waterfront shack that also serves burgers and ice cream. This is the real deal — a simple, completely satisfying sandwich made up of merely a hot dog bun, a crunchy leaf of lettuce and exquisite lobster meat. Savoring it on the rocks overlooking the water, I felt the sort of peace and tranquility a man experiences when enjoying a perfect lobster roll in an idyllic setting. A seagull squawks. A small craft kicks up a soft wake. Everything's in its right place.

-Richard Martin, Editorial Director

I feel like the pressure is on for me to recount that outrageous lobster roll from a shack on the side of a road in New Hampshire with a side of fried clam bellies — whole, not strips. I don't fuck around when it comes to fresh summer seafood, and that's why the best lobster roll I ever ate looked me straight in the eyes before I devoured it. Ugh, now I'm getting all emotional, great. Okay, I was at the International Culinary Center in Soho, and it was Fourchu lobster season (a pet favorite food of ICC Founder/CEO Dorothy Hamilton). In the restaurant's kitchen, hotel pans full of hard, shiny, beautifully dark Fourchu lobsters, found only in Nova Scotia's Cape Breton for a month each year, crawled and forcefully flicked their tails as I snapped photos and cooed affectionately at them — traditionally a great way to lose an eye. Even raw, they looked more delicious than any $9.99/pound live lobster I'd picked up at Fairway lately. By the way, city folks, Fairway has feisty lobsters for $9.99 a pound, so roll in and roll out (if you know what I mean).

We filed back into the dining room for a five-course tasting, one of which was a custom-baked butter-brushed squishy white top-loader roll packed, simply to bursting, with the finest, most tender and intensely flavorful lobster I've ever eaten. It was exquisite: pink-tinted and plump, sweet, creamy and saline and perfectly poached. A thin veil of housemade mayonnaise was barely perceptible, as it should be, and instead of diced celery to add astringency and texture, the roll wore an elegant smattering of minced celery leaves and tops.

I was supposed to be chatting up my fellow NYC food editors in a lively manner, halfheartedly suggesting content partnerships but mostly just getting drunk at 1 in the afternoon. Instead, I fell silent until every crumb of that roll was gone, then I sucked each fingertip in a decidedly unprofessional manner while continuing to suffer from speechlessness. Deep inside, I knew I might never have a superior roll on the beach again. The best one was at the famed NYC culinary school, consumed while burgeoning culinary talent cut their teeth baking custom lobster roll buns. Perhaps I was tasting their dedication to success.

-Jess Kapadia, Associate Editor/Recipes Editor

Ed's Lobster Bar is my favorite New York City lobster roll. I love that it's really expensive — the menu reads "market price," which usually translates to around $28, unless it's late July, when the price goes north of 30. This is weird, to love a food simply because it's expensive. But lobster rolls are supposed to be expensive. That's why they are good. But this is not about spendy lobster rolls. This is about the time I was seated near Sarah Michelle Gellar and Mila Kunis eating spendy lobster rolls. Together. Just the two of them. No publicist or handlers. No Macaulay Culkin.

It was a power lunch, just the two of them hanging out with all that white-washed brick. I never really caught much of what they were saying, but I remember watching them eat actual food (not the little pellets or over-sized Starbucks cinnamon lattes I expect these types of celeb girlie girls to subsist on). It was probably my best celebrity spotting during my time in New York. Unless you count the time I bumped chests with Leo DiCaprio at Suite 16 some time ago. That was interesting. But there was no lobster roll involved there, so not as good.

-Matt Rodbard, Contributing Editor

Lobster rolls have long held distant summer memories of my family and trips to various beaches on Long Island. I still have photos of my sisters and me on picnic tables eating lobster rolls and fries and the rare soda that we were allowed. All those memories hold a special place in my heart, but the places and specifics of each meal have faded with time as has the tradition of our family's summer beach days. But, in tradition there is security and so I've started a newer tradition: my newer favorite lobster roll memory is actually a once-a-year event.

In Rhode Island, there is an absolute jewel of a seafood restaurant called Matunuck Oyster Bar that my best friend and her family introduced to me awhile back. For a few years, it's been a summer tradition of ours to visit her family's house in South Kingstown, Rhode Island for a weekend of beaching, cold wine and a required visit or two to Matunuck Oyster Bar. The lobster roll itself is a sight, sometimes requiring us to split it, other times beckoning a shared look that means: "Let's just get our own."

This summer tradition has been going on for years now and becomes a marker for us where we can look back to where we were in our lives a year ago and (usually) laugh. But most importantly, the summer lobster roll is always about the company and my favorite season that I wish would never end, if not for the weather then for the lobster rolls themselves.

-Eva Karagiorgas, Senior Marketing Director

It was during my very first week at Food Republic when I discovered the wonder that is the lobster roll. Wow, how I remember that fateful day. "Go interview Luke of Luke's Lobster. Have one of their rolls while you're at it," was the gist of my terribly daunting assignment. Go I did, and roll – or three – I had. An endless stream of questions immediately swirled in my head: Why had I never tried a lobster roll before then? Who is this mystical Luke? Can anything else priced at $15 bring tears to my eyes? Why is this job so fucking awesome?

I could practically smell the salty ocean coast with every bite. Had the lobster just been airlifted straight from the depths of the Maine water directly to me? That's two ridiculously cheesy clichés in a row right there, a personal best. Man, how much I really did love that first lobster roll.

-George Embiricos, Assistant Contributing Editor

Well, you've caught me red-clawed. In spite of living in Maine for the past three years, I am utterly guilty of never having a lobster roll. I've eaten the crustacean in the nude (the lobster, not me). I did the butter-dipping shindig, failed in shell-cracking etiquette and questioned which parts were actually edible, but in all my (albeit limited) lobster experience, I never bought into the bun thing. I mean, $20 is a bit excessive for a sandwich, am I right?

I was totally wrong, it's delicious and worth it! I dove headfirst into the thrilling irony of eating my first roll here in the city rather than the Maine coast and headed to Luke's Lobster in the East Village. This was two days ago, so my memory is as fresh as the stuff in the roll. I was picturing some silly mess of mayonnaise and unnecessary seasonings, but this roll was simple and elegant. It was just what it promised to be: all the best parts of a lobster with a carb case holding unexpected but very welcome reservoirs of butter. I ate it land-locked in the park with two friends well-versed in the roll game and now I just can't wait to be looking out onto ocean the next time I'm in Maine and willing to shell out (ha!) the $20.

-Amanda Minoff, Editorial Intern