This is the best lobster roll you may never have heard of. Sure, if you scour food boards like Chowhound, you may have come across a few references. But, I’ve never seen it make any “best of” lists or articles in major publications. This is the most underrated lobster roll in Maine. In every way, it deserves to be mentioned in any article that mentions Red’s, Five Islands, Clam Shack, etc. It certainly deserves to be mentioned significantly more than such (in my opinion) overrated popular lobster rolls as Two Lights, which does have the best view, that somehow the mediocre lobster roll gets credit for.
After just writing such bold statements about a lack of press coverage, I decided to do a quick Google search of Boothbay Lobster Wharf. Sure enough, no results from Yankee Magazine, Down East Magazine, New York Times, Huffington Post, WSJ, Boston magazine, not even any Portland blogs, all of which have done several, if not yearly articles on best lobster rolls in Maine. I have no real theories on why this might be, maybe they just don’t have as good PR as their competitor a few miles up the road that gets lines down Rt 1.
Boothbay Lobster Wharf richly deserves to be considered among the best in Maine. It has all the elements one might look for. First, it’s owned by a lobsterman. It actually used to be known as Boothbay Lobsterman’s Co-Op before it was purchased a few years back from one of the lobstermen. As hoped for from a lobsterman’s lobster roll, the meat is caught and brought up the dock on site, cooked, picked and served up, all right there. As fresh as you can get. Second, location, Boothbay is one of the cutest towns in Maine. Not cute in the somewhat more manicured, tourist centric way that towns like Ogunquit, Kennebunkport or Camden are. This is a real deal fisherman’s town. There are real working docks, ships and lobster boats coming and going, even shipbuilding/repair going on right in town. There are still all of the great hotels, restaurants, and shops, just somehow more authentically Maine. Boothbay Lobster Wharf (BLW) is situated looking right over the harbor with great outdoor and indoor seating. They have a lovely, large, comfortable building with a full bar that makes some very creative summer cocktails. On weekends, they have drink specials and a live band. All of this comes together to make for a festive, summery Maine lobster delight.
Third, and most importantly, they have one of the best lobster rolls in Maine. I say this entirely separately from my comments about atmosphere. I like to separate the two opinions since I think, as with Two Lights, one can inordinately color the other. My brother and sister, John and Mary, think this is the best in Maine, better than even Clam Shack. I have to disagree on that small distinction. The BLW lobster roll is number 2 or 3 compared to anywhere for me. I say 2 or 3 because I really can’t seem to decide whether I like BLW or Five Islands better. Whichever one is in my mouth at the time seems to be the clear winner. So, I leave it as a tie. Again, just for reference, I have posted over 100 lobster rolls here and eaten close to 140 separate location’s lobster rolls. So, 2 or 3 overall is a super elite lobster roll. So, what you may ask, makes this lobster roll great? Obviously, the lobster meat is the standout. You can taste the freshness, straight out of the sea, full of flavor, and perfect texture. Also, to be honest, the amount of lobster. This is the biggest regular lobster roll I have weighed. The regular, at $17 weighs in around 11oz. This is huge, I have had bigger at other places, but only when I would order the jumbo size and pay the $25+ price tag. As it happens, BLW has a jumbo version and it is monstrous. If you’re in the mood for a lobster binge, go for it. Although, frankly, I haven’t decided if a binge is better with one jumbo or two regular sized rolls. I think you get more meat with the two regular option. I’ll have to do more research :-) Just for reference and since we were dining here many times this summer, I conducted an experiment with the two 1.5lb lobster dinner to see how the lobster weight compared to the roll. The meat (claw, knuckle and tail) from both lobsters weighed in at 7.6 oz. Making the lobster roll the clear winner on value, unless you’re really dying to get your hands dirty.
We had the pleasure of meeting the owner twice on the last weekend of the season this year. I was eating there twice a day for three days in a row. He was an awfully nice, salt of the earth, lobster man, just hanging out, soaking up the last hours of the summer season. We got to chatting and Ken outed my as a lobster roll blogger. Thank goodness Ken only ever outs me if he knows I’m in love with the person’s lobster roll. They always ask what I thought and I’m a terrible liar. He asked what I thought of his lobster roll, then he asked if I’d had Red’s. I gave him a few of my thoughts, some not positive, I even told him that I thought his lobster roll deserved to be far more popular. Like a real gentleman, he didn’t even indicate that he had a single negative thought about another lobster purveyor. So much positive energy up there in lobster world. After telling him the BLW lobster roll was the largest in Maine, he laughed and said he’s not sure he even makes money on it. Um, I have to say, I’m not so sure he does either. Particularly when you factor in the labor cost of a fresh cooked and picked lobster. I can only hope this fantastic lobster roll will still be there for many summers in the future. I hope if he ever changes anything, it’s the price, I would gladly pay more, but would be really disappointed if anything changed about the lobster roll itself. For the record, my chatting with the owner in no way affected my opinion of his lobster roll. I had already eaten about 15 pounds worth, just that weekend, not counting previous visits. My thoughts on this lobster roll were well cemented. Him being a nice guy only added another plus to this spot.
Details, so much to say here, I’m forgetting the roll details. The lobster roll is whole, uncut tail meat. Tails are split down the middle and I counted about 4-6 half tails, in addition to several claws and plenty of knuckle. Because of the cooking perfection, the lobster tail didn’t come out in one bite, it was tender enough just bite into. The meat is cold and served with mayo, it is a visible amount, but not too much. I think it’s because the uncut nature gives less surface area, so the same amount of mayo looks different than if chopped up. I later learned that it is mixed to order and you can order without any mayo. I tried this, dipping it in butter, not as good. I really prefer with mayo and dipped in butter. If you’re on a long weekend and want to pretend like you’re eating healthier, you can also get the same amount of lobster meat on a salad. Yes, I still dipped it in butter, and mostly skipped the salad. Oh well, I tried. The bun is a standard split top white bread bun. It is nicely buttery grilled. Sure, I would prefer a bakery fresh bun, but I guess you can’t have everything. On the jumbo version, it’s more of a steak roll, grilled on the inside.
This establishment is worth planning a trip around. It’s a bit off the beaten path in Boothbay, when you cross the footbridge, keep going right past Lobster Dock, it was a disappointment. It’s well worth the extra steps to get to BLW, you won’t regret it. And please, if you ever choose to wait in the infamous Red’s line, do yourself a favor and send someone else from your entourage five minutes up the road to get the BLW lobster roll. It truly is the whole package, everything you look for in the Maine lobster roll experience.
Regular weighed in at 10.4 – 11.5 oz.
Jumbo weighed in at 15.1 oz.
Meat from two lobsters on dinner platter weighed in at 7.6 oz.
Visited last in October 2012, and many times before