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LOBSTER ROLLS: DOES SIZE REALLY MATTER?

Living in Boston for the past ten year, I have set out on an adventure to find two hidden treasures amongst the mysterious past of this historical city.

1.) Orignally being from San Diego (Northern Mexico), Mexican food, more specifically TACO SHOPS reigns supreme. And the king of all Mexican food is the CARNE ASADA BURRITO. So prior to diving into the discussion of Lobster, I pose a question to all you Bostonian foodees. Carne Asada: Do they exist in Boston? (Carne Asada Steak, Salsa Fresca, Guacamole, Tortilla--nothing more--... Don't bother responding if your burrito has cheese, lettuce, RICE!!! or BEANS!!!)

2.) In the search for the Ultimate Lobster Roll in Boston, I have searched everywhere for the restaurant that is capable of offering diners the complete lobster roll experience. Browsing the boards, surfing the strings, and tackling the topics of the chow hound discussion section, I have come across many great suggestions:

B&G Oyster
Belle and Isle
Kellys
Skipjacks,... Etc.

As a lobster fan, all have been quite a treat to enjoy. Some with toasted buns, others warm with butter, ALL enjoyed with a nice New England Ale; but, the issue lies in my prior statement. All of these have been one thing... A TREAT.

You take your first bite, and two seconds later (after your pupils roll back) it is gone along with your $17.95 (not including the beer). So I pose to you one question, well two questions: For those of you who love the decadent treat suggested on prior posts, would you rather have preferred it to be twice the size, triple the size. And furthermore, if you had to choose between a skimpy delicious lobster roll with a little more TLC, or a monster Lobster roll to wrap your teeth around, which would you choose.

And where would I get it (in Boston...as the Raw Bar on the cape takes the cake for New England)?

Hopefully we can get to the bottom of this age old question for Women, Men, and Lobster Lovers alike.... Does size really matter?

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  1. Different ends of the spectrum w/an ample portions: Neptune Oyster, Boston - http://www.neptuneoyster.com/menu.html and Alive & Kicking, Cambridge: http://boston.menupages.com/restauran....

    2 Replies
    1. re: Taralli

      Yeah, I have to agree with Taralli, have you tried the roll at Neptune Oyster? No way, no how, could you call that small.

      1. re: purple bot

        there is varied opinion here on Neptune, but I don't think anyone has criticized the lobster roll, especially the hot one. It is pricey, but it is huge......easily enough for two people, and the fries are good. I don't have a photo to show and don't have the money to go there now to take one, but I'd challenge anyone to come up with a larger one that is also better. Now cheaper, that's easy.

    2. Belle Isle is the biggest and the among the best, so no need to compromise.

      10 Replies
          1. re: plot921

            Would MUCH rather smaller with better quality and 'TLC'. The Raw Bar is a great example of what is sacrificed to put out a huge roll. I'm not a fan of frozen canned Canadian Lobster meat and that's all they use. Horrible stuff.

            If you really want a gigantic roll, why not make it yourself? Lobster Meat is going for $25/lb. these days (down here anyway) so you can make a giant roll, exactly to your liking, for well under $20.

            1. re: CapeCodGuy

              Heck, or buy them at the former Super88 or Market Basket and shuck em yourself.

              1. re: StriperGuy

                yeah, but at $25/lb. for cooked and shucked meat, why would you bother?

                1. re: CapeCodGuy

                  True, true. I guess I've bought shucked meat and it never tastes as good/fresh/sweet as the stuff I shuck myself.

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    live lobster is still under $7 pp. market basket steams them for free. i never ever eat lobster at a restaurant.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      Heck the former Super88 had 4 pound monsters for $6.99 or $6.99 two weeks ago.

              2. re: CapeCodGuy

                The other bad thing about canned is that it's only knuckle and claw meat.

          2. The B&G one has shrunk...brought some visitors to it over the summer and was disappointed :-P

            1. Grumpy White's in Quincy has a pretty sizable and good lobster roll. I usually order mine on what they call a long roll (basically a crusty sub roll). Not bad at all. Comes with french fries.
              15 Minutes out of downtown with no traffic. Free parking.
              Enjoy,
              CocoDan

              1. Kelly's is frozen claw meat, and should not be considered in any discussion about the best.

                I've never had Neptune's Lobster Roll, but of what I've had (and I've had lobster rolls in close to 100 spots)

                Red's Eats is the best.

                Belle Isle is a very close second.

                And of course size matters. If you're eating something good, you want as much of it as possible.

                On the contrary, if it's bad, as my Nana used to say*:

                "So terrible, and such small portions".

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                *It really wasn't my Nana who said that.

                1 Reply
                1. re: L2k

                  Yea i agree on Kellys, disgusting.. It pains me to see people recommend their lobster roll. Last time i decided to give it one last try, the meat was still ICE cold and the entire thing was soaking wet.. Guess they didnt have enough time to properly thaw it. Flavorless.

                2. Kellys is the worst lobster roll I have had to date. Small and expensive. Taste isn't there. No care at all. ICOB makes a decent sized lobster roll (very good lobster salad) with coleslaw and house made kettle chips making a great plate. At 19$ this is a good deal at a nice restaurant. I have not been to neptune to compare.

                  1. Plo, no one has addressed part 1 of your question. I hate to be the guy the guy who breaks your bubble but rice and beans are what makes a burrito a burrito..If I roll a flour tortilla around carne asada, rice, bean, cheese, and maybe guac,maybe veggies,. I have a burrito. If i put carne asada on a corn torrtilla, add a little cilantro, onion, salsa fresca, ..and don't roll it up, but leave it open face,I have a taco.

                    Cheese, rice or beans does not disqualify a burrito from being a burrito.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: 9lives

                      a quick search of these boards also will turn up many, many threads bemoaning the dearth of "true" mexican in boston. we don't have all that many mexicans, ya know?

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        HT, If you read the the threads by homesick SoCals or Mexican run tacqueria's, youll quickly see that when you see burrito... burrito means rice and beans... so to say I want a burrito..w/o rice or beans is absurd. Look at Herrerera"s, Anna's or any tacqeria joints menu in MX...burrito +rice/ beans are what distinguishes a taco from a burrito...and people will disagree on whether it should be corn or flour.

                        I've owned several tacqueria's in the Southeast,US which were modeled after many SD/N Baja places. The only way I can get what I want is to say no rice/no beans when I order a burrito. My Espagnol is not perfect and it's the easiest way to order...without sending it back.

                        Buenas Noches! Feliz Navidad! Feliz Ano Nuevo! manana..:)

                    2. If in the north end and not craving Italian, Neptune for lobster roll is a good choice. As the weather gets better, a walk over to Yankee lobster is a better choice. Less money and more lobster. Outside seating in the warmer months and next to the pavilion in the seaport area.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: libertywharf

                        silver line drops you almost at their door while the weather is challenging.

                      2. I have yet to see an amazing lobster roll in Boston. Red's is pretty darn good (but are you going to drive to Wiscasset from Boston for a lobster roll?). The only consistency I have seen is that everyone charges a lot for them. Even the crappiest of lobster rolls gets a premium. I agree with StriperGuy- go to the market and have them steam the lobster, shuck it yourself, mix in a tiny bit of mayo - a little dash of salt and some pepper -- a shard or two of super-finely chopped celery if it is to your liking - barely a dusting of paprika and you are totally in business. Hard to beat the simplicity if fresh lobster meat. If you like hot dog rolls, or nice french rolls or no roll at all - just the lobster salad you are in business (and it is just about the easiest thing in the world to make). By the way - Shaw's has a special on Fresh Steamed lobsters for 4.99/lb today).

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: PhuKew2

                          I throw in a smidge of celery seed along with the celery, and a tiny bit of finely minced onion and a small squeeze of lemon.

                          1. re: StriperGuy

                            Agreed. Great additions -- keeping everything proportionately in the tiniest amounts so as not to impede at all on the wonderful lobster flavor. With this being a cornerstone recipe for success - it is amazing to me that there are not a few restaurants that can seize upon this and truly make a landmark statement with a lobster roll that is excellent let along decent in this area?

                        2. As others have said, I have yet to find a lobster roll anywhere that is as good as the one you can make yourself. Plus, you don't have that feeling of being ripped off while still being hungry.

                          Yes properly "shucking" a lobster takes time, but the more you do it the better you will get. And don't forget to use a rolling pin to get the leg meat out-its super sweet!
                          Size does matter though-I find 1.75 lb. hard shells to be perfect. And you can make it anyway you want, hot, cold, with may with olive oil-whatever you want.

                          Let the tourists buy the $20 hot dog roll with a 1/2 cup of lobster salad. Just my 2 cents.

                          15 Replies
                          1. re: AdamD

                            Agreed AdamD. I love the 2-6 lb/sizes just as much. I have made so many dinners/salads/newburgs whatever you like with the larger lobsters and find them every bit as tasty as the chix at a pound or 1+1/4 -- 2 /bers. I like 'em all ! (Can you tell ?)

                            1. re: PhuKew2

                              I love a large steamed lobster (3 lbs. is perfect) when I put on the bib and have drawn butter. Even though its more work, I think the texture of the smaller lobsters is better for lobster salad-the claws are just right. But really, its tough to find a bad lobster (maybe that crushed 1.5 lber in the bottom of the stop and shop tank at $5.99 a lb.). I can see how a larger lobbie would work well for bisque, newburg or stuffing. And dont get me started with a jasper white style pan roasted"fra diavolo" or a Chinese style chili lobster definitely need a larger bug for that!

                            2. re: AdamD

                              I have a rec license, !0 traps...and rarely get a 2# +. Fact of the matter,with bait and labor..it's a loser.;but I do it cuz I enjoy. It's fun to throw carcases in the trap.

                              If i want to actually EAT a lobster roll, at a specified time....Chinatown gets the nod.

                              1. re: AdamD

                                Once you get good at it it takes 10 minutes tops to shuck 5-6 bugs.

                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                  Agree. It takes less than a minute to rip the tail off...push out the meat, and crack the claws. I like the rolling pin idea for larger than 1 /2#...and spoon out the tomalley for the chef..:)

                                  1. re: 9lives

                                    I like the rolling pin suggestion.

                                    1. re: StriperGuy

                                      The rolling pin works great-you would be amazed how much meat you can get out of the legs-cut them at the joints and make sure you have an opening or you will just squish the meat rather than roll it out of the shell. I forget where I saw the technique.

                                      1. re: AdamD

                                        If you want to see expert lobster breakdowns, order a twin lobster or one ginger and scallion lobster at Peach Farm or similar high volume seafood place in Chinatown. They stir-fry of course, but their exacting cuts are the way to do it. To be honest, lobster in a quick stir-fry tastes better to me than boiled. The tail stays tender, it has a lovely aroma and there is less liquid spilling all over your dining table. I have not attempted this at home however.

                                        Plus there is no arguing about value when you order a whole lobster vs a roll.

                                        1. re: tatsu

                                          I have also seen a spectacular handling of a lobster at Jo Jo Taipei and the price was gentle, $20 or so for twins chix.

                                          1. re: StriperGuy

                                            Agreed, SG! They do a marvelous job with the ginger/scallion preparation, IMHO.

                                    2. re: 9lives

                                      another reason my b/f and i get along so well is that he happily gives me his tomalley. :)

                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                        So does Ms 9. give me hers..

                                        You and I would never make it...fighting over that tomalley..:) but I always enjoy your posts.

                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                            Get a room, you two!! ;o)
                                            Happy New Year!

                                            1. re: justbeingpolite

                                              Ha, I don't think our respective SO's would be amused.

                                              I did just book a room at the Ritz, and ordered 12 lobsters...tomalley only..no silverware..:) their first request of this type..

                                              No, not really., I didn't call the Ritz...don't know how many requests they get for this use of tomalley..:)

                                              Happy New Year to you too!

                                2. To me..quality matters much more than size..but if you want both there is only one place to go. Joe Fish in North Andover makes great lobster rolls..one of my favorites. They sell it in a regular size..which to me is more than filling and you can also get something called the Big Kahuna which is a jumbo sized lobster roll. The meat is always light and fresh.
                                  Other places to get great lobster roll are the Ipswich Clam Box and the Beach Plum in North Hampton NH. The Beach plum is for sure packed with lobster meat and I rarely finish the regular size. The Clam Box is less packed but very fresh and tasty.

                                  1. Also addressing question #1:

                                    I agree with 9lives - in Boston, a burrito is always going to come with rice and beans, unless you specifically ask for it without them. I have been to plenty of taquerias in San Francisco and San Diego, too, and this is generally the case (although the very popular "La Taqueria" in SF makes their burritos without rice - but even that one still has beans).

                                    That said, I don't really see why you couldn't get a burrito without rice and beans if that's what you really want. Just ask for it! A good place to try might be Rosticeria Cancun, which is in Maverick Square in East Boston. I like their carne asada, so this might fit the bill!

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                                    Rostiria Cancun
                                    37 Maverick Sq, Boston, MA 02128

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Dave MP

                                      At my Anna's of choice (Harvard Street in Brookline), the guys at the counter always ask if I want rice (no) or beans (yes, pinto) as they're building my burrito. It's certainly easy enough to customize there. I've found that not all Anna's are equal in most regards, however.

                                    2. Sorta off topic: is Villa Mexico still open? I was literally within 20 feet of there this morning and didn't think to check. I guess I can check later, but was wondering if anyone had already seen it go.

                                      And, if it is open, this is a great place to get your burrito, and just ask for them to make it without lettuce, rice, and beans. I don't recall if they have a salsa fresca there, but their standard salsa is probably better than anything you've had, even in San Diego.

                                      1. Going with the idea that a good lobster roll is a treat, try Lydia Shire's lobster popovers at Towne on a day you are really deserving of a treat.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Snowflake

                                          the manager sent my friend and i an order of these one night. it was one of the most awful things i have ever eaten. rubbery pastry with dried out lobster meat and some kind of maple sauce. it was like nightmare french toast.

                                          i know they are sort of a signature at towne, so i can only think we got a bad batch that had been held too long, but i am scarred for life.

                                        2. Had a very nice lobster roll at Island Creek Oyster Bar this weekend. Very nice fresh lobster meat, not overdone with mayo, a nice soft roll - and served with delicious cole slaw and some kettle cooked chips (a side of fries were very nice as well). Not tons of meat so I can't claim it is huge - and at 19.00/roll they could have made it a wee bit bigger - but it was filling and very tasty.

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                                          Island Creek Oyster Bar
                                          500 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: PhuKew2

                                            Sorry, but my experience with the ICOB lobster roll was thoroughly subpar. Tiny pieces of meat with tons of onion and celery filler. Couldn't even taste the lobster! It was probably the single most disappointing lobster I have ever eaten, and paled in comparison to some of the other noteworthy rolls posted in this thread.

                                            1. re: Science Chick

                                              That was my experience as well. Maybe it wasn't the single most disappointing I have ever eaten, but it was pretty subpar and not something I would consider ordering again at ICOB. This was soon after opening, so maybe it has improved.

                                              1. re: Gabatta

                                                The only thing worse would be if there had been spoilage. I had mine just this past January.....

                                                1. re: Science Chick

                                                  Maybe they heard the chatter here and it helped them improve the product? Wishful thinking. I may have hit them on a good day (But it is still not serious competition for Red's Eats in Wiscasset).

                                          2. There are days - when one just needs a taste of lobster. I will confess to have visited Charlie's in Harvard Square, and gotten the double lobster roll with fries for $12.99. Yes, it's more celery than proper, but it is the taste I want, and I leave full, and happy.

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                                            Charlie's Kitchen
                                            10 Eliot St, Cambridge, MA 02138