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Costello’s Clam Shack – Noank, Connecticut

Costellos lobster roll

Costello’s is the better looking, smarter, but more shy twin of Abbott’s.  Just kidding, sort of, Costello’s is the sister property of Abbot’s.  It is about less than half a mile farther down the road and it has a fryer, so different menu.  From what I could tell, their menu is pretty much the same as the Abbot’s menu, except that they also have all things fried, onion rings, french fries, fried clams, etc.  They also seem to have better seating and a better view.  There is an upstairs deck overlooking Noank harbor, very pretty spot to enjoy some fried food.  I can’t say that I enjoyed the lobster roll.  This is exactly the same lobster roll as the one they serve at Abbott’s, in case you were wondering.  So, see my review on Abbott’s for my rant on why I’m not a fan.  Unfortunately, the photo above may be one of the best that my meager photographic skills have ever been able to capture of a lobster roll.  Unfortunate because the lobster roll isn’t as good as it looks.  It isn’t bad, just not very good.  The bun here was less dry than Abbott’s, but that was about it.  Note the multitude of spongies in the photo where I piled them up on the side.  The line at Costello’s is much shorter, the view is much better, the menu is more extensive, they even serve whole lobsters and if you’re into the Abbott’s lobster roll, they serve the same one here.  I can’t imagine why there would be any reason to go to Abbott’s.

Weighed in at 5.8 oz.

Visited August 2012

Costello's Clam Shack on Urbanspoon

Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough – Noank, Connecticut

I had tried this lobster roll back in the days before I took photos of them all.  It’s certainly a favorite of many Connecticut lobster roll lovers.  So, I knew I would be heading back.  What I remembered about it was a strange lobster roll, chopped up and stuffed in a ramekin, served on a dry hamburger bun and not so great scenery.  I remembered wrong, the scenery is actually great.  I think I went on an extremely crowded day the last time and sat in the back area so I didn’t get to take in the whole view.  It really is beautiful, classic Connecticut, all sailboats on the water, opening up to the wide sound.

I was however, correct in my memory of the lobster roll.  It was more chunks and less shreds than I had remembered.  Large chunks of claw and knuckle meat, stuffed in to a round form type thing, heated up with butter and put on a somewhat dry hamburger bun.  The bun was really nothing special, think McDonald’s Big Mac bun, sesame seeds and such.  Just like that, except more dry.  It is grilled, but I think that is a mistake that dries it out more.  The stuffed into a lobster meat cake concoction is really a curious, and to me, not good lobster creation.  As I touched it, the lobster meat was all stuck to each and didn’t easily break apart, rather like they had been packed in that form for quite some time.  I don’t think they are putting this in the mold when you order.  The meat was not quite dry, it had a decent texture, not much flavor, warm, strangely didn’t taste very buttery.

This was the moment that for the first time in Lobster Gal history, I began to question my belief that I prefer a hot lobster roll.  I don’t think I really do like hot better.  I found myself wishing it was one of the tasty cold ones.  I began to see why people don’t like hot lobster rolls.  First, they’re hot, and it’s summer, so there’s that.  Second, the meat is inevitably drier than cold, just by virtue of the re-heating, since they are never hot from being fresh cooked.  Third, the butter never really sticks much because, well, melted butter is liquid and if they use a lot, it still doesn’t stick, just sogs up the bun.  So, a hot lobster roll often doesn’t even really taste very buttery.  Thank goodness I’ve taken to ordering a side of melted butter with every lobster roll, it covers a multitude of sins of both the hot and cold variety.

That was the description of the hot lobster roll, we also ordered the cold, just to see.  This was a whole different can of worms.  The cold lobster roll is served on the standard buttery grilled hot dog bun.  The bun was much better than the hamburger bun.  The lobster meat was very different.  I was surprised that two versions of lobster meat could be so very different.  This was very shredded, almost no chunks, just swimming in mayo and with chopped up celery.  The meat, when I wiped off some mayo to sample alone, didn’t even taste the same, maybe it was the mayo marinade.  It’s also worth mentioning that they don’t have a fryer at the Abbott’s location, so no fries or onion rings or any such accoutrements.  The fryer is at their sister property 100 yards down the road, Costellos.  I went to Costellos as well, I’ll give it its own review, but it if you want this lobster roll, I would head to Costello’s.  It’s the exact same lobster roll, with shorter lines, a better view, and a fryer.

I asked the gal at the counter when I ordered my lobster rolls at Abbott’s if the meat was fresh picked.  She gushed about how they have tanks of lobsters and they cook them all there and how great it is.  Told me we could go take a look at the tanks if we want.  Sounds good.  But, after eating both the Abbott’s and the Costellos lobster rolls, I couldn’t shake the suspicion that the meat on these lobster rolls is frozen meat. It just had that texture and flavor.  It also had the spongies that are kind of folded and curled up, indicating to me that they have been packaged that way and sitting in that position long enough to permanently hold it.  Fresh lobster meat spongies are flexible and straight, frozen aren’t.  It tasted like decent frozen meat, not bad, just didn’t taste fresh picked.  So, I did some asking around and found a guy who used to work at Abbots, jackpot!  He said that the meat in the lobster roll is indeed frozen meat.  I knew it!  Maybe I am getting a more refined lobster palate where I can distinguish different types!  Now, to be clear, this info isn’t official info from Abbott’s or Costellos, so I can’t confirm that it is 100% accurate.  But, the guy did work there, and didn’t even know that I write a blog about lobster rolls, so he had no reason to tell me a tale.  So, there it is.  When I though about the girl at Abbott’s answer, she did say that they have live lobsters there and they cook live lobsters there, she never really said that they pick the meat for the lobster roll there and use it on the lobster roll.  Maybe she was confused by my question, maybe she knew what I was asking and gave me an accurate, but misleading answer, maybe she was right and they do use fresh picked meat on the lobster roll and the guy was wrong.  I’ll let you decide that one.  I won’t be back for any more of their lobster rolls.  Abbots did look like it had a nice selection of desserts.

Hot weighed in at 6 oz.

Cold weighed in at 5.2 oz.

Visited August 2012

Abbott's Lobster In The Rough on Urbanspoon

Jessica’s Garden – Marlborough, Connecticut

Jessica's Garden Lobster Roll

I got this tip from several readers, so thanks for that!  You might drive right by this garden center and if you stop, it’s probably for the plants and you might think that food at a garden center wouldn’t be the right answer.  You would be wrong.  Food and flowers are two of my favorite things, so to combine both in such an effective way, I was loving.  To call Jessica’s Garden a garden center isn’t really accurate, that indicates to me a kind of garden center, greenhouse type place.  This is really more of an artistic, boutique horticultural center, a destination spot.  I love a good garden center and this is a good one.  They had lots of beautiful, unique plant specimens and they also displayed their landscape skills with many planted areas throughout the garden and surrounding the lovely pond.  The pink house with murals and pretty signs is where you order the food.  First they have a ton of flavors of my favorite brand of ice cream, Gifford’s.  Made me wish I came for that, even some very creative ice cream float concoctions.  Jessica, if that’s who is in charge is clearly a very creative, artistic person.  Even the menu is full of surprising, fun tastyness.  We ordered the pumpkin soup with apples, which was just incredible.  We also got a “cucumber roll”, which is slices of cucumber with American cheese and wasabi dressing on a butter grilled hot dog bun.  Ken and I were fighting over who got to finish this one.  We ordered a hot lobster roll and it was a good one.  Chunks of claw and knuckle meat, not soggy butter, good flavor on a buttery grilled bun.  It was quite nice to enjoy such a lovely meal in such a gorgeous and unusual location.  They should empty their trash more often, it became quite a bee magnet when we were there.  While their lobster roll was good, I really think everything else on the menu was so delish and unique that I just want to go back to try all of that and maybe one of the ice cream floats next time.  Very fun spot, made me feel like a little girl in a magical, secret, fairy garden.

Weighed in at 5.5 oz.

Visited August 2012

Jessica's Garden on Urbanspoon

The Dog Watch Cafe – Stonington, Connecticut

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Lobster Roll Dog Watch Cafe Stonington, Connecticut

In my favorite town in Connecticut, Stonington, this is my second favorite restaurant, by a nose.  Not because the food isn’t as good, but the view is better at Skipper’s Dock.  It’s worth mentioning that the clam chowder here is amazing, some of the best I’ve ever had.  The lobster roll is just fine.  It’s a cold lobster roll, all claw meat, overly shredded for my taste and with minimal mayo.  It involved celery and shredded lettuce, which I’m not a fan of and it is served in a standard white split top bun, nicely grilled.  The fries are great, they are those double fried, crusty outside kind.  This is a great restaurant on a day when outdoor dining isn’t the best option.  Dog Watch has more of a cozy, warm, soup and beer kind of vibe, great place.

Visited June 2011

Dog Watch on Urbanspoon

Skipper’s Dock – Stonington, Connecticut

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Lobster Sandwich Skipper's Dock Stonington, Connecticut

When I think of my happy place within an hour’s driving time, I head to Stonington, the prettiest town in Connecticut.  Sitting on the deck overlooking the water at Skippers Dock, enjoying a hot lobster sandwich with a giant bloody mary completes the vision.  This particular time, my friend Mark and I headed down for the Stonington Garden tour.  We were going to make it a yearly thing, but turns out the garden tour is only every three years.  Maybe we’ll just sit on the deck here all day.  I won’t say this, strictly speaking, the best lobster roll/sandwich in Connecticut, it isn’t, but sometimes the food just isn’t the whole experience.  If you want the relaxing CT waterfront lobster moment, Skipper’s Dock is your place.  I only ever get the hot lobster sandwich, I’ve seen the cold, and it just doesn’t look as good.  The hot version is all claw meat, large chunks, hearty portion, served hot with melted gruyere cheese and a side of butter on grilled bakery fresh bread.  Pictured here is the version without the cheese, what can I say, swimsuit season was fast approaching and you have to cut the calories somewhere if you want to involve cups of butter in your diet.  You can get a caesar salad with it too if that’s your thing.

Visited June 2011

Skipper's Dock on Urbanspoon