Our lobster rolls might not necessarily have the same reputation as Maine's, but then again Boston reaps the benefits of having both lobster rolls AND more than just LL Bean outlets. It's about time to show any skeptical out-of-towners what the city’s seafood scene is made of with any of Boston's eight best lobster rolls.
The Scene: A small water-adjacent spot -- the retail outlet of a decades-old lobstering biz -- that feels worlds away from the big-box restaurant mayhem nearby.
The Roll: Classic split-top that's lightly grilled with butter.
The Meat: All claw and knuckle, whittled down to bite-sized chunks.
The Mayo Quotient: Negligible. This one lets the natural sweetness of the lobster meat shine through, amplified by a touch of tarragon.
The Verdict: Solid winner. Grab a beer and wait for your order at an outdoor table. And don’t eschew the fried lobster roll, either: our accompanying guinea pig ordered it, regretted it, then dumped drawn butter all over it and declared it his new favorite Dagwood.
Cost: $18.99 ($19.99 for fried lobster roll)
The Scene: The reservation you book a nanosecond after your parents book their Labor Day flight.
The Roll: Hand-rolled brioche bun with chopped rosemary folded in, griddled to order.
The Meat: A balanced blend of tail, knuckle, and claw. All of Sewall’s lobster is caught by his cousin off a dayboat in Maine. So, yeah, fresher than Doug E.
The Mayo Quotient: Hellman’s -- score one -- enhanced by celery, pickles, red onions, and -- score two -- crème fraîche.
The Verdict: Hearty thanks to Grandma Ethel for giving up her A-1 secret salad recipe.
The Scene: That double-wide trailer? Home to the steadiest lobster bargain this side of the harbor.
The Meat: Nice balance of claw and knuckle.
The Roll: Traditionally an uncooked hot dog bun -- but they’re now happy to toast it.
The Mayo Quotient: Slightly sweet, but kept to a minimum.
The Verdict: The lack of a middleman means you can order these like you would a lunchtime pizza.
Cost: $15 small, $18 large
The Scene: Pretty much our new favorite Friday night spot with industrial decor, singular beer lines, and all.
The Meat: Chef Sewall’s at it again, but this time turns up the heat a notch. Translation: the warm roll is the way to go. Tail, claw, and knuckle meat is steamed and chopped, then tossed in melted butter.
The Roll: A traditional New England soft roll griddled in clarified butter.
The Mayo Quotient: What mayo? A touch of sea salt and you’re golden.
The Verdict: Should be a special treat but might become part of your regular rotation. Hint: rolls can be had at the bar during the afternoon service between lunch and dinner.
The Scene: Classic Quincy clam shack where your order is shouted out from the counter. With the beach across the street, pretend you’ve hightailed it to your annual Cape rental.
The Roll: The typical hot dog roll.
The Meat: Simply enormous in quantity.
The Mayo Quotient: Definitely the mayoiest of the bunch ("mayoiest" is definitely a word, or at least it is now).
The Verdict: Your beach vacation on a bun.
The Scene: The quintessential subterranean South End seat you covet.
The Meat: Hard-shell lobster meat cooked fresh daily from a full 1 1/4lb lobster -- so tail, claw, the whole deal.
Roll: Pepperidge Farm hot dog bun toasted in butter.
The Mayo Quotient: Made in-house and mixed with diced celery, lemon juice, salt, and fresh cracked pepper. Dressed sparingly -- as Chef Stephen Oxaal says, it’s a lobster roll, not a mayonnaise roll.
The Verdict: Priciest in town, but do we care? We do not. Bonus: those kickass accompanying bread and butter pickles.
The Scene: Slightly out of the way, but worth trekking out to this takeout spot with terrific views of the city skyline.
The Meat: Breathtaking in its volume. We’re talking a whole claw nestled atop a full 1/2lb of meat, including copious chunks of tail.
The Roll: Almost swallowed up by the massive quantities of meat. But traditional grilled and buttered hot dog bun.
The Mayo Quotient: The perfect dab’ll do ya. Add a little melted butter for a wee bit of a savory kick.
The Verdict: Rivals anything you’ll get on the Cape (watch your back, PJs).
The Scene: Lilliputian jewel of a seafood bar. Prepare to wait for an hour.
The Meat: An enormous pile o’ large-chunk claw, tail, and knuckle. But here’s the only thing you really need to know: get it “Connecticut style” -- which means absolutely dripping in hot drawn butter.
The Roll: It says everything that this gargantuan brioche bun still manages to overflow with meat. Also, it soaks up all that extra butter for you (for you gluten-free heathen: the lobster roll is available without the, um, roll).
The Mayo Quotient: Fool. What did we say about the butter?
The Verdict: Skip your weekly 12-pack in favor of this deity.
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1. Yankee Lobster Co.300 Northern Ave, Boston
2. Island Creek Oyster Bar500 Commonwealth Ave, Boston
3. James Hook & Co.15 Northern Ave, Boston
4. Row 34383 Congress st, Boston
5. Tony's Clam Shop861 Quincy Shore Dr, Quincy
6. B&G Oysters550 Tremont St, Boston
7. Belle Isle Seafood1 Main St, Winthrop
8. Neptune Oyster63 Salem St, Boston
This market sells fresh fish, yes, but don't forgo its cooked food menu, which offers up the likes of stuffed scallops, fish and chips, and lobster rolls.
Everything about Island Creek’s modern, simple decor and comfortable atmosphere makes you think of an upscale coastal shanty, not to mention the shellfish is impeccable. The raw bar is the main draw here as some of the oysters are sourced directly from its farm of the same name in Duxbury Bay, but you can also get other local New England staples like, Chatham, Wellfleet, and Pearly White. You’ll find daily changing fresh fish options like, Maine Grilled Salmon with mustard spaetzle and apple purée, Falmouth Bluefish with delicata squash and chorizo, and Fried Ipswich Clams, plus brunch fare like, Salt Cod Cakes with house-made baked beans, a fried egg, and bacon.
You can buy raw, fresh fish from this seafood purveyor, but you should definitely stick around for some of their cooked offerings, including the can't-miss lobster roll.
Row 34 is an industrial-chic oyster bar in Fort Point that complements its menu of fresh, local seafood with a powerhouse 24-tap craft beer lineup (and a sizeable bottle cellar). From the team behind Kenmore Square favorite Island Creek Oyster Bar, Row 34 serves up elegant plates like striped bass, pan-roasted cod, and Jonah crab cake, which the staff will expertly pair with a selection from the impressive beer program (the sour beers are always a good choice) or their favorite rosé.
This classic Quincy clam shack is the place to go to hear your order shouted back from the counter, take in some beach views while you wait for your food, and scarf down some of the damn tastiest lobster rolls you can buy for less than $20.
Barbara Lynch's tiny South End oyster bar is one of the most popular seafood counters in Boston. It stocks fresh seafood every morning, including six varieties of oysters from each coast, a selection of clams, and whole lobsters. The best seats in the house are at the long marble bar, where you can watch expert oyster-shuckers work their magic. If raw bivalves aren't your thing, don't worry, B&G also has a kick-ass lobster roll.
With terrific views of the Boston skyline, you won't mind making the trek out to Bell Isle for some of the meatiest lobster rolls you can find.
Bivalves are king at Neptune Oyster, a popular seafood counter in the North End. The menu is classically New England but a variety of seafood-based recipes come out of the kitchen, from cioppino and fried Ipswich clams to fish & chips and Basque-peppered Spanish octopus. Served two ways, the lobster roll is an award-winning signature, and though it's prepared the typical way with mayonnaise, the hot butter option is the way to go. Neptune draws hoards of seafood-craving hopefuls to its Salem St. storefront on weekend afternoons and evenings, so be prepared to traverse the neighborhood while you wait for your coveted seat at the marble bar.