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Rabia’s – Boston, Massachusetts

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lobster roll rabias

This was the first lobster roll after completing my book on the subject.  I felt totally lobstered out and figured I needed a good solid break from lobster writing, but a trip to Rabia’s in Boston refreshed and inspired me to get back on the wagon.  After a rather disappointing trip to the Boston Flower Show (I was at the Philly Flower Show the weekend before, so my standards were high) we decided it was time for some linner (lunch-dinner).  I dragged Ken and my pals Mark and Lu to my new favorite spot in the North End, Neptune Oyster, only to find that they were working on a 3 hour wait.  It was the Saturday before St Patricks Day in Boston, so understandable, but not doable if you’re hungry.  So, we headed two doors up to Rabia’s, it looked to be a crowd pleaser, no wait, large seafood and Italian menu and a roomy dining room, not easy to find roomy spaces in the North End.  I really hesitated on ordering this lobster roll.  I hadn’t brought any of my gear, scale and such, and I had Neptune on my mind and felt that anything else was bound to be disappointing.  But, our waiter told me that they cook and pick the lobsters in house.  Impressive, Neptune doesn’t even do that, there isn’t much space in the North End as I mentioned.  So, I had to give it a try.  They had four options, butter, mayo, bisque with mozzarella and one other I can’t remember.  I decided against butter since that is Neptune’s standout and went with the unique lobster bisque and mozzarella option.  The waiter described it as the most “soggy” option, not enticing but I went with it anyway,  In retrospect, I think he must have meant “has the most topping” and used the wrong descriptor.
When it arrived, I was thoroughly impressed by the looks of it.  It was quite large, I didn’t have my scale, so I couldn’t say exactly.  The bun was the texture and flavor of an Italian bread and the shape was more like a sub roll.  The bun had been warmed, but I couldn’t tell if it was grilled, there was no evidence of crispness and I frankly don’t think grilling would have worked here.  The meat was tossed in a thick bisque and sprinkled with what I would call more of a mozzarella garnish than anything, very minimal.  The bisque was thick enough and the bun hearty enough to prove the waiter wrong.  Throughout the eating experience, I experienced no sogginess.  That is quite a feat for any hot lobster roll, they all usually break down on the bottom, spilling the meat out.  The first bite really blew me away.  This lobster meat was incredibly tender and delicious, huge chunks of tail and claw.  I will admit, they need work on their lobster picking skills, I got several inner claw shards.  I felt like I should have been upset about it, but I actually found it strangely impressive because it was direct evidence that they do indeed pick in house.  You don’t find shell shards in frozen meat.  I have always been a believer that a lobster bisque roll should be done far more frequently.  I often order it with my roll to create it on my own, but I have only ever encountered one other and it wasn’t quite my vision.  This was exactly my vision, everything a lobster bisque lobster roll was meant to be.  Tender meat, hearty but light bun and a super flavorful bisque that had the texture to stick to the meat, not soak the bun.
I really had trouble containing my excitement and trying to share my joy with the table without sharing bites.  I wanted this whole thing for myself.  I still can hardly believe that the perfect hot buttered lobster roll (Neptune) is only two doors down from the perfect and most elusive, bisque lobster roll.  I’m certain I will be back to Rabia’s many times for this work of lobster perfection.  I have found in my travels that I am always very skeptical of lobster rolls in very close proximity to wildly popular lobster rolls with long waits.  But, every time, they have thoroughly impressed me.  There is a reason they can stay in business next to such a hot spot.  So, next time you’re too hungry to wait for Neptune (though I do highly recommend you wait at some point) head to Rabia’s and prepare to be wowed that there is no wait for this amazing roll.

http://rabias.com/

Visited March 2014

Rabia's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Lobster Shack – Ogunquit, Maine

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lobster shack roll

The Lobster Shack is located in perhaps one of the busiest locations on the Maine coast, Perkins Cove in Ogunquit.  Don’t believe me, try parking there in the summer, or I should say, getting anywhere near it.  It is popular for good reason, it’s packed with fantastic restaurants, shops and galleries.  If that weren’t enough, it overlooks the ocean and there is about a mile walk along the coastline with gorgeous views.  Fortunately, for me, a few places started opening in April before the mobs hit, which is the time for me.  Lobster shack has a curious location because it actually shares a wall with another lobster shack, Footbridge Lobster, right next door.  It would be easy to think, as I did at first that Footbridge is the takeout window for Lobster Shack, but they are completely separate entities.  Both of which serve a great, fresh lobster roll.  It would only be right to eat both if you made it all the way into Perkin’s Cove.  I’m not a fan of the other lobster roll hot spot in Perkins Cove, Barnacle Billy’s, but they do have the best view of the three.

The inside of Lobster Shack has a very cozy, warm feel.  It was cold on the day I visited, so that’s a positive.  It’s all pine wood benches, tables and walls.  I should also mention that they have something that I don’t see often, but all lobster places should have, a sink for washing your hands without waiting to go to the bathroom, genius.

When I asked if they cook the meat fresh themselves for the lobster rolls, the friendly gentleman at the counter said that they sure do, several times throughout the day, and pointed to a tank of live lobsters.  Which of course made me feel guilty because I don’t like meeting my meals while they are alive.  Hypocritical, I know.  The lobster roll here is really fantastic.  The fresh picked meat, lightly coated in mayo just melts in your mouth and the standard split top bun, which I, at first thought was burnt, actually added a nice browned butter flavor that was quite nice.   Overall, this is a great spot to enjoy a top notch lobster roll.

Weighed in at 5.6 ounces

Visited April 2013

Lobster Shack website

Lobster Shack on Urbanspoon

Petey’s – Rye, New Hampshire

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peteys lobster roll

This is a beautiful location right on the New Hampshire ocean, but if you want to see the view, you need to hit this one in summer because that’s when the upstairs deck is open.  There is a nice view of the marsh behind from the inside of the restaurant, but no ocean view.  To be honest, if you’re looking for a view and the comforts of indoor dining with waitress service, I would head up the road to Ray’s where you can have probably the best view possible year round while eating lobster.  But, if it’s lobster rolls that are on your mind, each of these spots offer very different versions.

I’ve been to Petey’s several times and quite liked it.  It is a major hot spot, year round.  Even on a Sunday afternoon in February people were parked far down the road.  My very favorite item here is the “lobster on a stick”.  I absolutely love it, probably more than quite a few lobster rolls.  I like it better than their lobster roll, but that doesn’t mean the lobster roll here isn’t great, it’s just that having an entire fresh lobster tail, on a stick, warm, dipped in butter may be one of the most genius creations ever.  Sadly, when I went this last time they were out of them, I nearly cried.  But, have no fear, I drowned my sorrows in lobster rolls, well, and also beer.

I had the version of the lobster roll that Petey’s offers at the Hampton Beach Seafood Fest and it is quite different than what they offer at the restaurant.  I think I like the Fest version better, it was actually one of my favorites there.  They offer a regular size and a jumbo size lobster roll at the restaurant.  I, of course, ordered both and when she delivered them, I actually had to ask which was which.  They really looked exactly the same, an illusion of the round bun perhaps.  The weights were indeed quite different, and the bread, despite identical appearance was different.  The regular sized bun had more of an airy brioche texture and less flavor and the jumbo was a heartier bread, more potato like dense texture and quite flavorful.  The both tasted bakery fresh or at least innovative, which I strongly admire.  I much preferred the jumbo bun as a complement to the lobster and hey, it comes with more lobster, so it’s an easy decision in the future.  The lobster meat is fresh caught and picked here and it tastes great.  They give a generous amount, but not as generous as the weight, including mayo and a hearty bun, might suggest.  However, I feel like they use a smidge too much mayo.  To look at the pictures, you might say way too much, but no.  It tastes like nearly the right combo, just a tiny bit over on the mayo.  One reason may be that they cut the meat into rather small chunks, which provides more surface area for mayo to stick to.  This is probably because I have found that when using a round bun, large chunks are not the right answer, they fall right out.  Either go uncut, ala Clam Shack, or cut small for a round bun.  There is also shredded lettuce involved.  You can’t pick off shredded lettuce, it just gets into every bite.  Ken quite liked it’s inclusion, but I would request without in the future.  Overall, this is a very good lobster roll with a fabulous view, particularly in the summer.  But, for me, the main attraction remains the “lobster on a stick”, the greatest seafood innovation since the lobster roll.

Regular weighed in at 8.8 oz.

Jumbo weighed in at 12.9 oz.

Visited May 2013

Petey’s website

Petey's Summertime Seafood on Urbanspoon

Boothbay Lobster Wharf – Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Boothbay Lobster Wharf’s lobster roll is in my book, Lobster Rolls of New England!!

lobster coveredited

Markey’s Lobster Pool – Seabrook, NH

markeys lobster roll

The deck at Markey’s is so close to the calm water of the salt marsh (maybe it’s called something else, not sure, I’m no marine expert) that you could literally dip your toes in while you eat.  There is actually a “no swimming” sign on the deck. The water gives a very tranquil vibe to the whole place.  It’s a great place to take in the wide view of leaf season.  From the deck, it looks so secluded you barely notice the few buildings you can see.  They also have a nice full bar available here to help enhance the view.

They do indeed cook and pick the lobster meat fresh here and it shows in the flavor.  To be honest, when I got this lobster roll, I was not impressed.  This roll is not a looker, to say the least.  Looks like a big mayo mush stuffed in a bun.  Don’t judge a lobster roll by its cover, or something like that.  This is a darn tasty lobster roll.  The mush look is a result of the fact that they do incorporate shreds and small chunks with a generous amount of mayo.  But the result is very delish and is actually mixed with quite a lot of large chunks of both tail and claw, despite what it may look like.  The bun is buttery grilled and the whole thing weighs in at a hearty just over 8 oz.

Inevitably, someone is going to ask how does it compare to Brown’s across the street. Honestly, I really don’t like to rank and compare individual and very different lobster rolls to each other. Both are fresh cooked and picked in-house, both use a standard bun, both are very good, putting them in the same lobster roll fighting class, for me.  Try them both, see which you like better.  I would absolutely eat both again.

Weighed in at 8.1 oz.

http://markeyslobsterpool.com/Home_Page.html

Visited October 2012

Markey's Lobster Pool :) on Urbanspoon