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Guilford Lobster Pound – Guilford, Connecticut

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lobster roll guilford

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.

Weighed in at 5.5 ounces
Guilford Lobster Pound website
Visited July 2013

Guilford Lobster Pound 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

The Lobster Shack at Two Lights – Cape Elizabeth, Maine

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two lights lobster roll

This is one of the more famous lobster rolls in the state of Maine.  In fact, when people find out I eat a lot of lobster rolls and write about it, I would say I get asked if I’ve tried Two Lights most often, more so than even Red’s.  When I arrived at this location, it was immediately clear why this place is famous and I suspected it wasn’t for the actual lobster roll.  This is truly THE most stunning view in the state of Maine that is accompanied by a lobster roll.  Sure there are other gorgeous views, Five Islands, Stewman’s and Dolphin immediately come to mind.  Those examples may not be the best, because Five Islands is a rare convergence of a stunning Maine view and the best of the best lobster roll.  Dolphin has a very good lobster roll and Stewman’s is decent.  But, I guess a red flag always goes up for me when a place I’ve heard has a great lobster roll has an amazing view.  People tend to color their opinions with the entire experience, which, I suppose is normal.  I mean when you’re in Maine wanting a lobster roll, ideally it should be the whole ocean/lobster experience.  I get the opposite phenomenon when I pull up to a lobster roll place and it’s a total dump with a view of a highway and I’ve heard it has a great lobster roll.  In those cases, I get super excited because I know this lobster roll is likely to be a real life changing eating experience because the lobster roll is biased in no way by the ambiance.  Fisherman’s Grill, I’m looking at you.

Two Lights lobster roll did indeed live up to my expectations or I should say, lived down to.  I had seen photos of this roll and couldn’t for the life of me imagine how what was in the picture could possibly be good, let alone great.  Every picture I had seen involved what looked like a hot dog bun, half of which was covered with a giant blob of mayo and the other half with a pickle slice.  Yuck, I couldn’t imagine how that could be right, there must be some amazing stuff under that, but it looked like only enough lobster to barely show through.  I can say one thing for them, they are consistent.  What I received looked exactly like every picture I had seen.  I found the mayo blob much more confusing once I actually had it in hand.  The pickle can easily be removed without leaving much pickle residue.  But, what are you really supposed to do with that blob?  If you really like mayo, do you just smear it across the top?  You certainly can’t toss it so every piece is equally coated, as is ideal.  It seems like trying to spread it around would just make for a huge mess and cause the lobster to fall out.  I chose to scrape it off, but this had its challenges too.  These are pieces of lobster, so even scraping it off leaves a rather significant amount still caught in the pieces.  The only way I could think to remedy this would be to remove and wipe off every piece with a napkin of knife, but that seemed unsanitary.  So, I proceeded to eat a half completely dry lobster roll and a half mayo chunky lobster roll, just weird.  Actually, to be truthful, after trying the disappointing combo of dry and mayo, I went to the counter and got a cup of butter to dip the whole thing into.  Everything is much better that way.  The lobster amount in this roll is rather skimpy and on the low-end of average lobster roll weight after I removed the mayo blob and pickle for weighing.  The meat is fresh picked every day here and they include both tail and claw, which is always good, and it is tasty but they sure don’t give you much of it.  I have a system of moving all of the lobster meat down the bread so that I always get an ideal meat:bread ratio in each bite, regardless of the overall ratio.  Using this system, I had a full half of the empty bun left over.  The bread is your standard split top bun, the grilling technique leaves some butter and crunch to be desired.

I wouldn’t say this is a bad lobster roll, just disappointing because it is so far away from matching the beyond stunning view that accompanies it.  They do home-baked desserts here.  I think I would get that when I return.    And yes, I will absolutely return.  This truly is exactly what you picture when you think of the Maine coast.  The cute, cozy, creatively decorated, very comfortable on a cold day, dining room has wrap around windows overlooking the ocean.  The picnic table area is right on the ocean on a flat area with evenly spaced, very clean, bright red picnic tables interspersed with a very comfortable amount of trash cans to keep it clean.  This is in every way, a top-notch quintessentially Maine, seaside seafood shack.  Clean, efficient, well maintained, bright, cheery outside, cozy inside and all this is on one of the best spots of real estate where lobster is served on the Maine coast.  I really can’t say enough good things about the actual location and the restaurant itself.  Except the lobster roll, it’s the only thing that just doesn’t measure up.

Weighed in at 5 oz.

Two Lights website

Visited April 2012

Lobster Shack on Urbanspoon

 

Bite Into Maine – Cape Elizabeth, Maine

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Bite into Maine’s lobster roll is in my book, Lobster Rolls of New England!!lobster coveredited

Ford’s Lobster (winter) – Noank, Connecticut

lobster grilled cheese

When I heard Ford’s was now open for their first season during the winter, I had to try it out.  Main reason was, I really could not picture where they were putting people inside.  When we were there in the summer, all seating was outside and there were no buildings besides a small kitchen and lobster pound.  Turns out, they have turned a storage building into a lovely restaurant that seats about 50ish with a wall of windows overlooking the ocean.  One of the main reasons I wanted to try out Ford’s in winter is because their lobster for the lobster rolls is fresh picked.  That’s not so easy to find in the high summer season and pretty rare in the winter.  When you factor in eating a fresh picked lobster roll in winter, with a waterfront view, I think I can count the ones I can think of on one hand (Ray’s, Brown’s, Markey’s, Eastwind Lobster and Petey’s).

The staff at Ford’s is a big part of what makes it great.  I know, I profess not to care whether staff are happy or not, as long as I get what I ordered, in a reasonable amount of time.  But, the staff here just makes you feel like you stopped in to a friend’s house for lunch.  They are so friendly, open and chatty, but not too chatty, just right.  And, they all just seem to genuinely love working there and love working for the owner.  I don’t know who he is, but judging from how his staff talks about him, he seems like a great, hands-on owner who engenders a great deal of loyalty from his staff. lobster bomb roll

When we were here in the summer, we had the cold lobster roll and the bisque lobster roll.  Both very good, but for winter, I wanted to try the hot lobster bomb, buttered, hot, fresh picked lobster (nearly twice as much as in the lobster roll according to our server), served in a sourdough bread bowl.  Honestly, I kind of wanted to take home several of these fresh baked bread bowls and eat them with all manner of yum inside.  When the bomb arrived, I wasn’t really sure how I should approach eating this concoction.  Do I pick it up, use a fork and knife, if so, where do I start?  So, I just dove in with my fork and knife chopping into it.  Yum, this is some good stuff, tail and claw meat, tender and tasty and sourdough bread that is crispy outside, soft and chewy, warm inside.  If I had one complaint, I would say it just didn’t taste buttery enough, but it wasn’t soggy, so that was good.  I think they saute the meat in butter, which is a tougher move to pull off since the butter gets too hot to really cling to the meat and cooking already cooked meat makes it taste just a smidge over done.  I prefer the meat to be warmed by tossing it in melted butter, maybe barely heating it a bit more.  That sort of lobster perfection was achieved by what Ken ordered, the special for lunch, lobster grilled cheese.  I know, the first thought with lobster grilled cheese is, isn’t the cheese going to overpower the lobster.  The second question is, are they just going to put some small amount of lobster into an otherwise regular grilled cheese.  Both of those concerns are no concern in this case.  The sandwich contains the same amount of meat as the lobster roll, still in all of its full chunk tail and claw glory.  The American cheese melts perfectly into the lobster, giving it the warm creaminess so elusive in many a hot lobster roll.  This is what you want, when you want warm lobster on bread, perfection.  This may be one of the best lobster concoctions I have ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth.  Too bad Ken ordered it, so I only got a few bites.  As if all that wasn’t enough, I’m pretty sure, though I didn’t ask, that the bread used was bakery fresh, I think it was wheat or a multi-grain, a flawless complement.  It was a special, so you may want to call ahead so you’re not disappointed.

One more note, the chowders here are fantastic, particularly on a blustery winter day.  I ordered the New England chowder (creamy) and Ken ordered the Noank chowder (clear clam broth).  Then we switched since we both preferred the other chowder.  I was a huge fan of the Noank and it was chock full of clams.  More tasty goodness, even if it did mean I didn’t have room to order the peanut butter pie from a nearby bakery for dessert.  Oh well, next time!

Ford’s Facebook Page

Visited February 2013

Ford's Lobster on Urbanspoon