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Lobster Rolls

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WestN Mar 5, 2009 07:04 AM

A couple times in the past week or two, I've run across lobster rolls on menus and it pisses me off to no end. How do places charge $20+ for them? This is possibly the biggest ripoff ever, seriously. Unfortunately, now I'm really craving one.
See, my problem is that when I think of lobster rolls, I think of summers in Maine as a kid. You'd just see someone on the side of the road or maybe at an ice cream stand selling them for like 5 or 6 bucks. I mean, this was about 10-15 years ago and I haven't been down east in years but $20?? We're talking about something here that boils down to just shredded lobster and mayo on a hot dog bun. I can't do it. I thought the price of lobster was down ...
Anyway, does anyone know of any decently priced, good lobster rolls in DC or Arlington? Actually, anywhere on the metro is acceptable and next month I'm gonna be heading to Baltimore and prob Annapolis so I'll take those suggestions too.
I feel like $10 is around what I'd be willing to throw down and I'm willing to accept the fact I'm gonna need to just shut up and make my own but any and all suggestions are appreciated. Thanks!

  1. e
    Elyssa Mar 5, 2009 07:26 AM

    As a Bostonian I get what you are looking for, but I hate to tell you---you are going to have to pay a lot more then $5 (or even $10) to get what you want.

    Even in Boston nowadays a lobster roll is roughly around $15 or so (check out the Boston board...they talk about this all the time). My favorite growing up and even now has always been Kelly's in Revere for the best lobster roll and I'm pretty sure they are charging around $15 these days.

    I grew up on lobster rolls and whenever I want a little taste of home I head to Hank's Oyster Bar in Dupont Circle (there is also a location in Old Town Alexandria). In my book they have the most authentic lobster roll...they get the bun right as well as the lobster to mayo ration (VERY important). There are huge hunks of meat and it tastes delicious. Plus I like their sides and the neighborhood feel of the place. It's not cheap though...I think it's around $23 or so. (It's slowly been creeping up over the past year or so).

    I've tried a few others around town, mainly Legal's (quite good) and Tackle Box. I know a lot of people who like Tackle Box's lobster roll. I didn't think it was bad, but I didn't think it was great either. I'm a little picky about lobster rolls. I thought their bun was off (and one time I had it almost stale tasting) and I didn't think the sandwich was very large, especially for a price in the high-teens. Plus I like other things on their menu a lot more so I've stopped ordering the lobster roll. It is cheaper then Hank's, so if you want a quick fix it's fine. But as a purist you might have some issues with it.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Elyssa
      w
      WestN Mar 5, 2009 07:32 AM

      Haha, Hank's and Tackle Box were the exact two places I was alluding to. I just can't bring myself to try them though. Both of those places do other things so well and so reasonably that I don't even see the need.

      1. re: WestN
        e
        Elyssa Mar 5, 2009 07:36 AM

        Well if you are reallllly craving a lobster roll (and the craving usually starts for me around Memorial Day and beach weather) spend a night and splurge at Hank's. Even though the air doesn't smell like salt water, I get very giddy sitting outside on Hank's patio, on a summer evening eating a lobster roll and drinking a beer.

        I really don't know where you can find it for as cheap as you are looking and not suffer quality (of course there is always the McLobster Roll :) )

        1. re: WestN
          k
          katecm Mar 5, 2009 08:03 AM

          You know, I was going to say to make them yourself, because they're so easy (though as a CT native, they're easier for me - we skip the mayo. Lobster, bun and melted butter, please). But honestly, you'll still likely pay $9.99 a pound for a lobster. Most of what you find in a store is about 1 1/4 pounds, so $12.50 for the lobster. Pick up a packet of rolls, you'll only use one or two so the rest are wasted, and we're up to $14.50.

          So, honestly, you'd end up not saving much. Maybe have a splurge and enjoy it - or see if perhaps you can find one on a lunch menu that would be less expensive. And look at it this way - if you get a lobster dinner, you're paying even more than that, but the restaurant is barely doing any work. At least with a roll, they're doing something!

          1. re: katecm
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            michael4ny Mar 6, 2009 07:43 AM

            Kate makes a good point except a 1 1/4lb lobster ought to be enough to to make 2 lobster rolls wih, thereby cutting the cost in half. Buy the New England style hot dog rolls and you're in business. And for those who do use mayo, a dash of dijon mustard enhances the taste.

            1. re: michael4ny
              e
              Elyssa Mar 6, 2009 08:06 AM

              It might enhance the taste, but it is not the traditional way to make a lobster roll. At most it should just have a little celery in it for crunch. But then again this is a purist debate that has probably been going on for the past century lol

              1. re: Elyssa
                kchurchill5 Mar 6, 2009 08:15 AM

                Ok, not from the north well MI originally, doesn't count. FL now. We have lobster tails not whole losters, but do make lobster rolls, not as famous as yours obviously and I am not comparing, but 10-14 is about tops for lobster roll lunch, usually with a fresh salad, onion rings or fries at a fish place in the keys or pretty much from the Sarasota area south or other cost Ft Lauderdale south. Our do have mayo, a dash of red pepper (just a dash) and celery for crunch) Grilled lobster roll and that is pretty much it. Fourteen is usually off season but this was last year. I had one 6 weeks ago for 9.99. Great lunch Fresh steam tail, chopped and mixed with the sauce. Great flavor.

                I know it doesn't answer your question, but I think 20.00 is rediculus even since I have had main lobster rolls at a few places up here, maybe they lied and it FL tails, but I don't think so I know the owner, His was only 12.99 which I thought was fair.

                1. re: kchurchill5
                  w
                  WestN Mar 6, 2009 10:31 AM

                  I used to live in Miami and I did have a lobster roll there, once. It was pretty bad but then again I'm not a fan of Caribbean lobsters in general (too sweet). I'm sure one could fare better on the West Coast with all the Mass transplants.

                  1. re: WestN
                    kchurchill5 Mar 6, 2009 10:45 AM

                    Cooked right, they are pretty good.

              2. re: michael4ny
                s
                skipper Mar 6, 2009 11:59 AM

                We were in the Boston area in December, I'm from Winthrop, and Kelly's lobster roll is 16.95.

                1. re: skipper
                  kchurchill5 Mar 6, 2009 12:21 PM

                  I love FL ... sorry. But we have just as many things that are expensive than you so I guess it evens out :)

        2. e
          Elyssa Mar 6, 2009 08:30 AM

          Out of curiosity I did a quick search on menupages for "lobster roll." Now I'm sure this list isn't nearly complete and I'm sure there are changes depending on the season. But Menupages.com lists the following lobster rolls on their menu (price subject to change I'm sure):

          Bluepoint- $17
          Bobby Van's Grill
          Bookbinders (actually its a lobster club...which is different but looks good)
          Coastal Flats
          Finn & Porter- $12 (lunch menu)
          Founding Farmers-$24
          Hank's Oyster Bar-$23
          Hudson-$17 (lunch menu)
          Johnny's Half Shell-$24 (lunch menu)
          Knikead's-$27 (lunch menu)
          Legal Sea Food
          Restaurant 3-$15 (lunch menu)
          Revival-$18 (part of the sharing plates..you get 4)
          Rustico-$15 (on the bar menu)
          Liberty Tavern-$15
          Vidalia-$19 (lunch menu)

          2 Replies
          1. re: Elyssa
            kchurchill5 Mar 6, 2009 08:32 AM

            I'm glad I don't live up north, WOW!

            1. re: Elyssa
              DanielK Mar 6, 2009 09:02 AM

              Bobby's Crabcakes in Rockville makes an excellent lobster roll; $16.50 for just the sandwich, $3 more for fries and slaw.

            2. j
              Jelyna Mar 6, 2009 08:32 AM

              I doubt there will be a lobster roll less than $20 in DC, but Tabard Inn had one on the menu and my dining companion said it was excellent. Anybody try the rolls at Tabard Inn?

              1. m
                MemereDi Mar 6, 2009 12:12 PM

                I just checked the best local place I know for lobster rolls, delivered. At the Korner Store in Oakland, Maine, a large lobster roll is 17.95, plus tax. They will make it with or without mayo or lettuce or order "light" on either of those. It comes in an Italian sandwich roll and consists of all knuckle and claw meat, no minced up filler stuff. It costs 9.95 plus tax for one about half that size.

                1 Reply
                1. re: MemereDi
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                  Elyssa Mar 6, 2009 12:55 PM

                  Oh my God! That is so funny! I went to camp in Oakland, ME for years and I know the Korner Store. I think we use to get HUGE pizzas from there. I always remembered it because as a 9 year-old I was always bothered that they spelled corner wrong :)

                  I certainly never knew they had lobster rolls though.

                2. m
                  meem Mar 7, 2009 01:47 PM

                  The only place I order a lobster roll around here is at Coastal Flats. It has some mayo in it but not too much (or too little as I experienced at several places in ME not too long ago). And it's in the correct roll and the roll is lightly grilled. I'm not a Bostonian but I lived there many years ago and remember when I could easily buy a lobster roll for lunch (about $5 so you know this was *many* years ago :)

                  1. d
                    DPGood Mar 8, 2009 08:19 PM

                    Le Canard in Vienna has re-opened as the Maplewood Grill. On their new menu, a lobster roll. It satisfied my craving and at $22 I thought it was a fair price for here and in these times.

                    1. Insidious Rex Mar 9, 2009 10:57 AM

                      Ah for the days when lobster was considered bait, oysters choked the Chesapeake and top quality Maguro was used for cat food if it was used at all... I love lobster rolls but I just have a hard time paying $20 for what amounts to a hot dog size sandwich. Same with crab cakes that cost $32.

                      1. b
                        BontheC Mar 15, 2009 02:34 PM

                        Lived in the Boston area for quite some time before moving to Annapolis. But I was born and raised in the Mid-west., so my first and only experiences with lobsters was that I knew they had a tail, since that is the only part that was served in all the restaurants and tank grocery store crustaceans were not available back then.

                        Once I moved East, I discovered the whole steamed lobster plate deal with bibs, tools, etc. I was surprised that I had to do all the work to get to the meat and was aghast to discover that the tail was usually about the size of my thumb. I was all confused. But we fell into the groove, and being a foodie I did my research. I ended up liking to work for my food, especially when the lobster was oh so fresh.

                        Most of the decent places we frequented (ME, MA, RI, CT) that had lobster rolls, would use at least all of the edible meat of a lobster weighing in at 1 1/4 weight or more. It sounds like a lot, but truthfully, the portion extracted from this size, is just a handful of meat. Depending on the size of the bun, it could look overstuffed or paltry.

                        That said, most steamed/boiled lobster "specials" anywhere in New England would cost around $19.99 or more and that is you wearing a bib and scraping for every last morsel. Somehow, though, the appearance of this large shelled creature on your plate with a side of fries and coleslaw made you feel like you were getting a deal.

                        Well take away the shell, and you don't have but that handful of meat, that has been removed by someone and then tossed with some mayo, lemon, or just butter. Essentially, you are getting the same thing in a different package, and I think that is where the price vs. value question comes in.

                        Being served on a hot dog bun doesn't add to the perceived value of a lobster roll, but in the end, you are getting all the meat without the fuss. In other words, 20 bucks doesn't sound so unreasonable unless you get no sides. New England eateries would stipulate how much meat you get, but in these parts, it's a bit more of a mystery.

                        1. c
                          crispyBacon Mar 17, 2009 02:10 PM

                          Well, you mentioned Annapolis.. head out toward the bay bridge... you'll almost cross it, but like a mile or two before (annapolis side) it is an old shopping center on whitehall road. In there is Caroline's Gourmet deli. I happened to come across it late last year during a back up. Hubby pulled off the road and we ended up there. Been back several times since.

                          They serve Lobster Rolls, and I think I paid like $12.00? I'm from New York, but spent a lot of time in New England, and these so far have been the closest I have ever come outside of NE. They didn't skimp, there was big hunks of lobster and a bit of dressing... and real new england style rolls. Most places cheap out with hot dog rolls, but they didn't. It was really cool. It's only available towards the weekend. Oh and they have a bakery too.. holy cow! The cakes! They said they will be shipping their lobster rolls, but so far not yet. I wish they would hurry up! We are always stopping there when we head over the bay bridge.

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