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Best Lobster Roll in the Bay Area?

Hi Chowhounders,

I'm looking for the best lobster roll in the San Francisco or the Bay Area and hope you can help. We were supposed to be going to Maine for my husband's birthday, but are unable to now, so I'd like to be able to take him somewhere to get a little of that Maine taste.

Thanks for your help!

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  1. We like Woodhouse's because fried whole belly clams are also on the menu for the starter or main, depending on how you like to start. Many Happy Returns.

    1. The best lobster roll I've had in the Bay Area was from the New England Lobster Co.'s truck. Since opening its sit-down place in Burlingame, the truck has been grounded. Here's more about the Eatery.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        thanks, Melanie, I'll check it out.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I second Melanie's suggestion. Also, sam's chowdermobile up in half moon bay - they also visit various markets and street food setups across the bay area.

          1. re: majordanby

            I have not been to NE Lobster Co. I like Sam's Chowder House, specifically the restaurant in Half Moon Bay. The lobster roll is good, but I think what really makes it satisfying is sitting outside on the deck with a great view of the coastline and sea breeze in your face. It is quite popular on sunny weekends, but they do take reservations.

        2. We haven't gone to the others, but we enjoyed NE Lobster Co. as Melanie did. Good lobster-corn chowder (not as good as Seattle's Pike Place Chowder, but tasty stuff). Crab melt was on thin fresh sourdough, all crabmeat not the idiotic crab salad so often found. Lobster cocktail (NOT lobster claws, which is different) have a great spicy non-horseradish sauce we loved. Lobster roll very good but be careful, the lobster is generously piled on top and falls on the floor easily! A lot of Asians go there for the raw oysters as well; there were 3 different kinds when we were there.

          Order at the back counter, receive a number, they'll bring the food to you. If you're a first-timer, scoot up to the counter to get the printed paper menu that is by the cash register, and take it off to the side to read. It has a fuller explanation of some dishes than the wall menu everybody's craning their necks to read, so your ordering will go much faster.

          We bought a whole bunch of frozen seafood at the market counter on the left as you walk in. The Dungeness crabmeat was superb, almost no cartilage bits, exquisitely fresh upon defrosting. We've bought bulk Dungeness crabmeat all over the Bay Area from specialty markets as well as direct seafood vendors at farmers mkts, and this was the best quality we've ever gotten, at a very good price too.

          The market sells lobster in all ways: whole raw, whole cooked, raw and cooked tails, frozen lobster meat, as well as the all-important lobster butter and lobster oil, if you're making your own Thermidor or bisque!

          2 Replies
          1. re: tre2012

            NE Lobster Co is my favorite too, I stick with just the lobster roll. We have tried other items on their menu but there's nothing super compelling that I would want to order repeatedly.

            Lobsta truck is okay but smaller portion than NELC.

            My husband tried Old Port Lobster Shack in a Redwood a City and didn't like it as much as NELC.

            1. re: tre2012

              thanks for all the good suggestions; sounds delicious.

            2. Up in Mill Valley, there's a fish place, the Yankee pier in Larkspur. I always try and get there n a visit to SFO for their wonderful clams(and get yelled at by everyone out there because the West coast has such great seafood) Casual, fun, good portions

              2 Replies
              1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                We're also onto Yankee Pier's full belly clams from the Atlantic.

                The closest thing the West Coast has to offer in that department is home cooking pounded razor clams cleaned on the front lawn, breaded in crushed Tabasco-seasoned saltines, and butter pan fried -- truly good stuff after you've spent before dawn out in the mud flats catching dinner . . .

                1. re: BoneAppetite

                  sounds fantastic!.as long as cleaned on the front lawn involves a cutting board!........lol

              2. I'm a big fan of Sam's in Half Moon Bay and my sister will drive from Fairfield for one of their lobster rolls.

                Has the advantage of a great view (being on the water) and if you go on Tuesdays, between 4:00 and 7:00 p.m., oysters are $1.00.

                6 Replies
                1. re: CarrieWas218

                  I'd read about Sam's, so it's good to hear positive reports. If we're staying in the city it's about a 40 minute drive which isn't too bad. Maybe we'll hit the NE Lobster Co on the way.

                  1. re: sportcat

                    That's the spirit! A comparison of two or more different lobster rolls would be a real celebration.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Old Port Lobster Shack in RWC (fairly near the freeway) hasn't gotten any mentions here, and I think deserves to be in any comparison.

                      I share that Sam's Palo Alto seems very disappointing. I do think the original in HMB must be better, I haven't eaten much there, but the atmosphere is a more serious place.

                  2. re: CarrieWas218

                    I went to Sam's in Palo Alto for lunch. I don't know if the half moon bay location is different, but my lobster roll contained 80-90% claw meat. Everything was well prepared, and there was a lot of lobster. Unfortunately the lobster meat was flavorless and I would have had a tastier sandwich if the lobster was shrimp instead.

                    1. re: felice

                      We were sad to read your report. We thought the brilliance of a lobster roll is the whole thing is in a bun in your hand. A lobster's meat is not 80-90% claw, so how can a "lobster" roll be predominantly claws. The appeal of a good lobster roll is having a bite of every part at the same time. Sam's must think the menu pricing arbitrage between tail and claws is worth a poorly constructed roll?

                      1. re: BoneAppetite

                        My dining companion's lobster roll was also similarly claw-heavy. At a glance, I counted at least six small claw pieces but there were likely even more. I couldn't figure out if the body pieces went towards a different dish on the menu, if the restaurant purchases claw meat instead of whole lobster, or if the body pieces stay in Half Moon Bay! The bun was good.

                        I will be sticking with New England Lobster Company from now on.

                  3. Contrary whine: While I've had some decent lobster outside New England, it's never as good. I had thought it might be that most people over-cook or re-cook lobster, but it's also been not as good when I've eaten it at a brilliant restaurant like French Laundry or bought lobster live @ a great place like Monterey Fish & cooked it myself. Even though they're alive in those tanks, lobsters surely suffer from transport, are never as lively as they are in a tank in New England. So I've stopped buying/ordering it unless I'm in driving range of Maine waters. And if I'm homesick for New England fare, I whip up something that travels (baked beans, chowda, grapenut or Indian pudding, Bailey's hot fudge sauce, a lime rickey....) & check on how those Red Sox are doing.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sundeck sue

                      The butter poached Maine lobster at Campton place is worth a try. when I miss Boston, I just order a 1919 cocktail and dream about Regina pizza or Sam LaGrassa's pastrami (or the roast pigs head at Craigie)

                    2. We ended up staying in Tiburon and going to the Yankee Pier in Larkspur; cute place--rustic patio and deck, but underwhelming food. They didn't have the whole belly clams so I can't comment on them, but the oysters were flavorless, the wild gulf shrimp over cooked, and the lobster roll generous, moist--but under-seasoned--a 7.5/10. But perhaps that's the lack of flavor that Sundeck Sue is complaining about.
                      On the fish front, we had fabulous omakase at Sushi Ran in Sausalito--thoughtful, interesting presentations of local and Japanese fish (we went twice :)
                      Thanks for all your suggestions!

                      1. My Bay Area experience is limited to Off the Grid's Lobsta Truck -- the buttered version with extra meat. A couple of caveats about my point of view: I'm from Connecticut, not Maine so I'm probably suspect. I believe All True Lobster Rolls are composed solely of lobster, butter, and a spongy split-top hotdog bun, itself generously buttered and griddled. Lobster rolls are consumed in establishments that typically holler your name/number when your lobster roll is "up."

                        That said, I thought Lobsta Truck was pretty good -- mostly for what it *didn't* do, which was deviate from the lobster+butter+proper griddled bun trinity. It wasn't as big as the ones I eat on the CT shoreline but it tasted like it should. Like lobster and butter. Not too salty and good mix of big/small chunks of meat.

                        That's why I didn't order a lobster roll at Yankee Pier. In addition to being a non-hollering type of place with a wine list and table service, their lobster roll uses mayonnaise -- also available at Lobsta Truck -- and (I shudder) chives. I wouldn't be surprised if it's accompanied by a garnish of some kind. It may taste okay but I will probably never know.

                        Happy hunting!