Sea Well Seafood’s lobster roll is in my book Lobster Rolls of New England:
Perhaps my expectations for Guilford Lobster Pound were too high, or maybe I was just mad at it for not being open the four previous times I tried to visit, but it just wasn’t as good as I had hoped. I should mention that you should call ahead and confirm with an actual person that they will still be open when you get there. They are only open Wednesday-Sunday, 12-6, May-Memorial Day. But, I have found out that those hours are a bit flexible, so is the May part. Guilford Lobster Pound is a little shingled building at the back of the parking lot for another restaurant with a wide deck with picnic tables and a glorious view of the water. Walk past the building to the deck where the lobster rolls, along with a minimalist menu including hot dogs, chowder and stuffed clams, are served. The pound is owned by an actual lobsterman who catches his own lobsters from his boat that is docked right there and they also run boat tours from there. As far as I’m aware, this is the only lobster pound in CT that is owned and run by a lobsterman and he sells his lobsters right there. I did not gather that you can order a lobster steamed and eat it on the deck, but maybe you do that inside the building, not sure, it wasn’t on the menu.
I assumed, but still asked if the lobster meat for the roll was cooked and picked there, by them and his wife confirmed that it was. The hot lobster roll was served to us at our table wrapped simply in foil. My first impression was that it looked very red and full of spongies for a lobsterman fresh roll. I have high expectations for a lobsterman’s roll, I guess I expect it too look like lazy man’s lobster, picked fresh out of the lobster, possibly cut up and served up on a bun. The color always sets of a “red” flag for me (pun intended). This is just a personal theory, but fresh meat usually looks white and pink, anything else usually has a very red color to it. I sometimes wonder if part of that might be fresh meat sitting around in butter instead of being tossed to order might have something to do with it. Bends in the spongies are another flag for me. When you pick a lobster, have you ever seen the spongies be anything but straight and flexible? So, when I see a fold set in the spongie, that makes me think it has been out of the shell and sitting in that position for quite some time. The flavor of the meat was fine, a little dry in texture and the butter didn’t sog up the bun. The bun was the best part in my opinion, it was perfectly buttery, crispy grilled and warm. As you may have figured out, I’m not a fan of spongies and I pulled a full 6 large spongies from my roll, which left a whole lot less edible meat on the bun. If this is fresh picked, what did they do with the tail meat? That’s always why I’m suspicious of claw/knuckle only rolls.
The chowder was really the high point of the meal, it was one of the best Rhode Island (broth) style chowders I have had the pleasure of eating. It was chock full of clams, briny, lots of herbs and red skin potatoes, good stuff. I was very disappointed with the lobster roll, it wasn’t bad, it’s just that I expected better. But, the view here is beyond stunning, the staff couldn’t be friendlier and they encourage you to byob. I would love to come back on a sunny afternoon with a bottle of wine and watch the boats go by with a cup of that chowder, and maybe a hot dog. I’m not really sure what a stuffed clam is, but perhaps I’ll find out.
This lobster roll has been eluding me for quite some time. Mainly because they only serve it before 2pm on weekdays, never on weekends, that’s always breakfast only and when I called, I was told that it’s not available at their new venture into dinner either. It has however, been high on my list because they claim to use local, fresh seafood only and seem to be known for home cooking. They recently moved from their tiny, “little” shack near Mystic Seaport to a much more off the beaten track, but so worth the effort, location at the Mystic marina, (if you knew that existed). Their website says turn right and follow that road all the way back, which sounds easy enough, but actually involves quite a few twists, splits and drives through residential streets. But, finally you arrive at the marina and head to the second floor to one of the most gorgeous views in Connecticut overlooking the water. The second floor view really is a great place to watch the boats go by and relax watching the sun on the water. We went on probably the hottest day on record in CT and fully expected to melt, but we took a table outside on the deck and found it to be extremely breezy and pleasant. So, I can imagine it’s even better on a less sweltering day.
After an extremely slow start (probably 15 minutes before we saw an actual waitress), our waitress proved to be extremely helpful, friendly and entertaining. They cook and pick the lobster meat right there, every day for both the hot and cold versions of the lobster roll. We, of course, ordered both and I really couldn’t decide which I liked better. The cold didn’t look very picture ready when it arrived with two giant pieces of lettuce and the meat kind of falling out. But, that didn’t keep me from seeing the large chunks of tail and claw meat used with a fairly minimal amount of mayo. They use a mix of fresh chopped herbs in both the hot and cold versions and the subtle flavor addition really adds a pleasant, fresh twist. The meat is fantastic and the hot version managed to not be overcooked as is a common pitfall of the hot, buttered lobster roll. The bun was your standard split top and could benefit from a more aggressive buttering and grilling, it was more toasted than grilled. But overall, these lobster rolls are among the best in Connecticut and once you factor in the gorgeous view, this really is a must try.
As Lobster Gal doesn’t do very well with getting an early start, we were there the last people there after their 2pm closing time and got to chatting with our waitress. She was lamenting the fact that they really aren’t very busy and that they may be ending the dinner service if it doesn’t pick up. It’s on the water, they serve beer and wine at dinner and top notch, fresh seafood. Since I’ve discovered it, I’m really hoping they stay open more hours. I asked if I could get the lobster roll on evenings or weekends and she said yes, if they have the ingredients and aren’t too busy. Well, when I called, I was told in no uncertain terms that I could only get the lobster roll at lunch on weekdays, so I guess it depends on who you ask, which isn’t good.
I didn’t tell her, but if I were going to offer Kitchen Little some advice on how to maximize their significant assets, my first piece of advice would be to serve those lobster rolls whenever they are open. I would also suggest they get rid of their restrictive menu policy of no lunch on weekends and no sandwiches at dinner. It’s off-putting when a restaurant appears as if it isn’t accommodating of what diners want to eat. I noticed on Tripadvisor and Yelp that I wasn’t the only one who thought so, not everybody at a table wants breakfast after noon. You have a great menu, let people order off of it, all of it, all the time. I would also say they need to trim down the menu a bit, it takes a week to read through and doesn’t emphasize the fresh seafood nearly enough. I get that somebody in charge here really wants to lead with breakfast, but I would suggest they lead with seafood and also let people know they serve beer and wine. I would have enjoyed a glass of wine with lunch, maybe it just got lost in the menu, but I saw no mention of it. They also could use some work on the service issues. Some more prominent signage along the road back wouldn’t hurt either, it’s not easy to find.
I’m certainly going to make my way down there for dinner, not just to support them so they keep doing it, but because it honestly is one of the best lobster rolls in Connecticut and it is accompanied by one of the best water views on the Connecticut shoreline. It doesn’t get much better than that, well, it could get better and I sure hope it does, or at least opens up the lobster roll availability.
Cold weighed in at 5.5 ounces
Hot weighed in at 5.1 ounces
Visited July 2013
Sea Swirl is a popular ice cream stand on the way from Mystic Seaport into the center of the lovely little town center of Mystic. They serve like 36 flavors of soft serve ice cream by some special mixing process that adds the flavor to the ice cream. Very interesting, but as ice cream goes, I prefer the hard ice cream, which was quite good here. Not as good as Drawbridge ice cream in town, but good. This ice cream stand is clearly an ice cream stand first, however, they also serve, according to their sign, “fresh seafood”.
I was actually glad I went on a rather slow day because when I asked the cashier if the lobster meat had been previously frozen, she wasn’t sure, but the other girl said that it had not been frozen, and they cook the meat there. Then, I think mainly because they weren’t busy, she was nice enough to offer to double check on that info with the kitchen. As it turns out, the meat has been previously frozen. I did hesitate a bit because $14 or $15 is kind of a lot to spend on a frozen lobster roll, but I decided that this was a popular lobster roll and I needed to try it and report back.
It actually was a pretty decent frozen meat lobster roll. If she hadn’t double checked, I might have been convinced that this could be fresh meat. The meat was tender and tasty, didn’t have any of the frozen giveaways like watery texture or chewy edges. It had good flavor and minimal spongies. They didn’t give you a whole lot, but a reasonable amount. The cold claw and knuckle meat only, was tossed in a light amount of mayo and served on a barely grilled bun without butter that I could discern. The grilling seemed to only serve the purpose of warming the bun a bit, could have benefited a lot from a good buttery crisp grill. My biggest problem with this roll was the celery. I have learned that celery can be tolerated on occasion, but, despite the fact that it didn’t look like a lot of celery, the flavor really dominated.
I can’t vouch for the freshness or tastiness of anything else on the menu, but I will stick to ice cream here. The lobster roll was pretty good if you’re in need of a lobster roll, I can see why people like it. I guess what annoys me about the use of frozen meat in a lobster roll is the non-disclosure. Frozen meat lobster rolls can hit the spot and even be quite good, but the truth is that the price of frozen meat is 2/3 to half the price of fresh. So, when I had just gotten a delicious fresh picked lobster roll up the road at Sea Well Seafood for $10 (particularly, probably far too low priced), it felt wrong to pay more for frozen and most people wouldn’t even know that was what they were paying for. Frozen should either be cheaper or way more generous with the quantity of meat. I realize that putting “frozen lobster roll” on the menu probably wouldn’t bring in too many customers, but at least have the price be a hint. No menu says “canned tuna sandwich”, it’s just assumed that when it’s $6, you won’t be getting a grilled tuna steak on your sandwich. I don’t know the solution, except to always ask, but even then, as evidenced by Sea Swirl, it still depends on who you ask.
Weighed in at 5.5 ounces
Visited July 2013
Kind of a fun vibe going on here and by fun, I mean rough around the edges in a way where weekend bikers and prissy college girls can all go mingle, drink and feel tougher than they are. It has a nice, large deck that’s very crowded with happy patrons on a warm summer day. It overlooks some type of water, not very pretty though. My friend Jill, who joined me that day, pointed out that I shouldn’t miss the “singing bridge” view, apparently a big draw here. Frankly, I don’t get it, it’s not pretty and I didn’t hear any singing, just cars.
After setting up camp at a prime table on the deck, we ordered up some vino (yes, they have a full bar) and I asked about the lobster rolls. Yes, the meat is fresh picked and cooked there, according to the waitress. I was actually only going to order the cold version, but since she said it was fresh picked we ordered up a hot and cold lobster roll. Kind of unusual, and a good thing, to have a choice. Most places are committed to one version.
Upon arrival, they looked to be good sized rolls, slightly longer bun than usual, but the meat just looked, well, sloppy. It just didn’t look as appealing as you would like it to. It was kind of a mess, shreds, chunks, poorly distributed mayo, all just shoved into a bun in an uneven manner. They just didn’t look that good, probably partly because we had just eaten the beautiful, lobster roll perfection served by High Tide Gourmet maybe two hours before. The lobster rolls both weighed in at about a hearty 8.5 oz, generous amount. Trying not to judge a book by it’s cover, I tried out both. The cold was pretty good. I could do without the lettuce and tiny bits of celery, but it had good flavor, not too much mayo, buttery split top bun. Really, pretty good, but not so good I’d come back soon for it. The hot was worse. There was a lot of butter and that certainly never hurts a situation. The problem was the meat. As Jill put it, it tastes like how lobster ravioli tastes when it’s been sitting around hot for too long. There was tail and claw in both, and if the waitress was correct about the fresh picked status, which I do feel like I’m questioning, this should have been great. Booze sold, waterfront, fresh picked, choice of hot and cold. Bill’s had all the elements, but somehow missed on bringing them together.
Then there’s the check. I get lobster stands not taking credit cards, I don’t like it, but fine. By the way, most these days do take credit cards, I mean you can get a credit card swiper on your phone now. This place is a full service, year round restaurant that serves booze and they don’t take credit card. With checks that size, to only take cash is a problem. They point out that they have an ATM in the front, great. I’ve heard all the arguments why places don’t take credit cards, mainly because the card companies charge a % of the transaction, but I would think that works out in your favor when you figure how much less people spend when they know they can’t outspend the amount of cash in their wallet. All cash business also depend on a great deal of honesty at all levels of the business. While at the front for the ATM, I stopped in the restroom and had to hold my breath the whole time because it reeked of urine. This is the ladies room, on a Monday afternoon. I can’t imagine how the mens room smells after a Saturday night. Never a good sign at a food service establishment.
On the up side, the onion rings were quite good. Also, they do have an ice cream stand outside that serves Gifford’s ice cream and the staff was all very pleasant and fun. I’ll be back to Bill’s for an ice cream, but doubt I’ll return for the lobster roll.
Weighed in at 8.5 oz. for cold and 8.2 oz. for hot
Visited July 2012