I know I’ll probably catch some grief for not having a single New England establishment amongst these, but the only one that would’ve made it no longer exists, at Harborside, Osterville, MA (RIP). Sorry, NE, you may have created it, but New York perfected it.
Pearl Oyster Bar – New York, NY
I have been going to Pearl ever since it was a one-table restaurant and a bar. Oh, and the owners were still in love. Since then, the owners split up and the place blew up (now about 20+ tables). But the good news is that in all of this time Pearl never lost its way. Their lobster roll continues to be the bomb. The standard to which all others are held in my book. And I’ve been all up in New England, on Cape Cod, etc… And there was one other that bested Pearl. But then they closed. And closed don’t count in Ultimates. But I digress.
What makes Pearl so damn fine is that they don’t over do it with mayo and herbs and spices. But they don’t underdo it either, making it feel too much like a lump of lobster meat in a hotdog bun. They also give you a ton, making it feel mildly worth its hefty price tag. And with a well poured pint of Guinness, there are few things on this earth that compare.
Red Hook Lobster Pound – Brooklyn, NY
Now after praising the shit out of Pearl’s lobster roll I’m about to sound like a giant hypocrite, and that’s because I am. But no more than anyone else I suppose. I’m human. And I love to contradict myself. Even within the very same post. Like now. Because Red Hook Lobster Pound’s Connecticut-Style is so good, it’s contradiction worthy. A little on the small side, however, but don’t let it’s diminutive footprint fool you. It’s more filling than you’d expect, primarily because it’s done up with warm butter as opposed to cold mayo. They also toss in a sprinkle of paprika and then top it with freshly chopped parsley and the net outcome is a lobster roll incomparable to so many others, because the flavor spectrum is just so vastly different. Like apples and oranges. But make no mistake, this is one friggin’ good apple.
L&W Oyster Co. – New York, NY
Technically this isn’t a lobster roll. It’s a sandwich. And more specifically a lobster BLT. But more specifically than that, it’s OMFW (Oh My Fucking Wow). Served on a buttery toast, as opposed to a “hot dog bun,” which I’m not sure is required by the official lobster roll commission of Maine (if that even exists), then they spread a killer sriachi aioli and top it off with bacon, lettuce and tomato obviously. But what isn’t so obvious is how much one man can truly love a sandwich.
The Mermaid Inn
After having made this initial post so many people clamored on about Luke’s Lobster and how it deserved to be on this list so I finally tried it, and well, as you can see, Luke’s still isn’t making the cut on my update either. That said, just a few blocks away there is a very similar roll, clean and simple, like Luke’s. With a nice hint of vinegar, like Luke’s and that one IS making the list. Mermaid somehow manages to play subtly like a seasoning virtuoso, allowing the lobster to shine in all of its lobstery glory, and yet still brings a little somethin’ somethin’ to the party with the most artful restraint. And thus, edging out Luke’s by a nose.