Lobster Rolls

September 9, 2010

The New York City sandwich craze for the summer of 2010 was Lobster Rolls. I joined the craze and tried to track down as many as I could. Sadly, I only had three. Lack of time as well as the high costs and scattered locations were factors hindering my quest.

The Underground Lobster Pound (Moving Target, Williamsburg, NY)

The simplest of the rolls, these consist of only lobster, Hellman’s mayonnaise, and Old Bay, all on a toasted bun. Although tasty, I could have used more flavoring. There was a solid amount of lobster (I counted three claws), but either more mayo or Old Bay would have greatly enhanced the flavor. Also, the bun was extremely mushy, but I could expect nothing less from a sandwich wrapped in Aluminum foil and then transported back to NYC (estimated 40 minute transit time). The lobster stayed fresh, the bun didn’t.

Others have defined these lobster rolls as “lobster heaven” and “lobster perfection.” I thought it was an overrated hot dog for $14.

Getting these sandwiches is a pain in the ass. You have to wait for the chef to contact you via Facebook, then you text him your order, and then you’re given a location and a time to pick your sandwiches up. It was exciting at first but it became more of an irritation than anything. It also didn’t help that we were scolded for being “too loud” in a residential neighbor. You also need exact change as he doesn’t provide change. Thus, if you only have a twenty, that’s how much your sandwich will cost.

NOTE: The NYC DOH shut this operation down in August, not for health violations, but for running a food service establishment out of a home/basement. He vows to return.

Luke’s Lobster (93 E. 7th St. with other locations in NYC)

Luke's Lobster Roll

Luke’s is perfect for diehard lobster roll fans and tourists, as well as lobster roll newbies (such as myself). The lobster is fresh and tender but also a tad stringy. You could barely taste the seasoning (a sprinkling of celery salt, oregano, and thyme) or the mayo which allowed you to taste more lobster than anything else. However, it’s a great tasting Maine lobster).

Like a good crab cake, the mayo seemed to be there to hold the lobster together rather than for additional flavoring. Thus, there was a minimal amount. There were also large chunks of lobster. The Schooner Special is the way to go, for  $16) you got the roll, potato chips (I chose BBQ), and a soda (I chose Root Beer).

Even when there’s a line it goes by quickly because Luke’s is a well-oiled machine with a friendly, efficient staff.

Pearl’s Oyster Bar (18 Cornelia St.)

One of the main difference between Pearl’s rolls and the rolls above is the large amounts of mayonnaise and seasoning. Because of this, you can’t tell what part of the lobster you’re going to get with any given bite. You can’t aim for a tail or a claw or whatever your favorite piece is, you just eat the roll from front to back. The bartender referred to it as the “Lobster roll dance”, and a dance it was. The sandwich is very, very messy due to the mayo, and you’re constantly licking your fingers clean and wiping them on your napkin. The large amount of mayo makes the bun get soggy quickly, which, in turn, means you have to eat the roll quickly before it falls apart on you.  And fall apart it does. You’ll need a fork for the pieces that fall out. And pieces fall out almost every bite because there is so much lobster.

Another factor that makes this roll different from the others is you can tell when you get a nice piece of tail. However, because of the mayo, you can’t tell where the tail is, so it’s nice surprise when you do find it.

The speed with which the lobster roll is delivered makes you think they’re produced via assembly line, but that doesn’t detract from the overall quality of the roll.