When Maine lobster season rolls around — late June through October — true New Englanders don't even bother with the roll part of lobster rolls. They eat the fresh-molted lobsters straight from the sea, tossed into a pot of boiling water, sucking them down with a side of drawn, unsalted butter.
Still, the New England lobster roll remains the ultimate seafood sandwich, as much a summer staple as corn on the cob, watermelon, and backyard BBQs. And all Northeastern natives hold this truth to be self-evident: There is no ingredient more important in a lobster roll aside from the lobster itself. Call it what you like, be it New England-style, Maine-style — even Connecticut-style. It still comes down to just one ingredient.
Sure, some argue it should be served on a classic split-top hot dog bun toasted and buttered, while others go all avant-garde with rich brioche buns. Then there's the question of whether it should be served cold or hot. While the Connecticut style calls for butter-sautéed lobster and nothing else, the better part of New England defines a lobster roll as a chilled seafood salad — just a touch of mayonnaise.
The one thing most everyone agrees on, however, is the meat. It should come from the claw and knuckle, proportioned perfectly. The tail is too tough and can be a bit too dry — not that a little chew ever hurt anyone.
In South Florida, we have enough New England transplants to know what a good lobster roll should taste like. And for that, we thank them. Because without their influence, we wouldn't be able to list the best places in Palm Beach County to find the perfect New England lobster rolls.
The Old Key Lime house is better-known as a sports fan's wet dream — an outdoor tiki-style bar and restaurant where you can guzzle beer, frozen margaritas, and pitchers of sangria while glorifying the Florida Gators. The island-themed eatery is known for its Caribbean flair with foods, from coconut fish fingers to chicken with Key lime butter. But look beyond the menu's seafood offerings, including oysters and steamed clams, and you'll find a lobster roll. It's not exactly New England-style with its mixture of shrimp and lobster meat, but the dressing is light, and the bun is toasted and buttered. It's served with chips, fries, or coleslaw. And if you're feeling extra hungry, you can double the order and get two for only a few dollars more. Definitely worth it, every time.
Like sister restaurants Lobster Bar Sea Grille in Fort Lauderdale and Chops Lobster Bar in Boca Raton, this Buckhead Life institution is one of a dozen seafood houses nationwide that serves a traditional Maine-style roll. Here, it's chilled lobster meat delivered in a split-top brioche bun, with a side of Maryland fries hit and a touch of Old Bay and cayenne for a slight kick.
This Boca Raton seafood and steak house has "lobster" in the name, so you know they have lobster done right. Here, the lobster roll is served all year long — and all day long, but you can snag one for just $15 during happy hour. It's made with fresh-steamed and lightly dressed Maine lobster, piled into a specialty roll and served with a side of "crab" — AKA Old Bay-seasoned — fries.
7. Red Zeppelin
The next time you're in the mood for an authentic Maine lobster roll, look for one of South Florida's mobile kitchens to roll through Palm Beach County. The Red Zeppelin Rockin' Lobster Roll truck specializes in lobster and serves nothing but. The crustacean-focused food truck based out of Dania Beach has been handing out some of the best lobster rolls around. The owners are a family team: Miami-born Bob Barnett and his daughter and mother, Heather Barnett and Robyn Rahman. Together, the trio rolled out their bright-red food truck late last year, selling several specialty dishes that include their own take on the famous New England-born sandwich. The sandwich is a combination of fresh steamed Maine lobster, dressed lightly and served piled into a special egg-based bun prepared just for Red Zeppelin by a local bakery. We suggest ordering it "smothered" with a topping of the house lobster bisque.
You're guaranteed a good lobster roll at a seafoodcentric establishment, and that's exactly what you'll get at Longboards in West Palm Beach. A buttered and toasted split-top New England bun is fitted with fresh lobster meat dressed in a lemon, tarragon, and celery seed mayo and served with Old Bay potato chips.
The Delray Beach fish house and oyster bar is known for its raw bar and fresh seafood. The New England-style lobster roll is no different. The roll is given a chef-driven touch, with rotation preparation methods that give you a slight departure from the tried-and-true. If you're looking for something different, try Rack's lobster tossed in a chive- and Old Bay-accented aioli and served on a traditional split-top bun.
4. Park Tavern
The seasonal summer menu put together by partner and executive chef Anthony Pizzo offers a number of specialty dishes available through the end of August, but the one special we can't get enough of: the lobster roll. Here, it's dressed in a lemon-, chive-, and tarragon-accented aioli and delivered on a buttered brioche bun for a pleasing departure from the standard lineup.
Lola's Seafood Eatery in Palm Beach Gardens is a counter-service establishment with little pretense. The spot may not look impressive, and the location may be hidden away at the corner of Northlake Boulevard and Military Trail, but that doesn't mean chef-owner Bernard Uffer doesn't make one hell of a lobster roll. Thick-cut, split-top rolls, shipped from New Bedford, Massachusetts, are toasted and buttered before accepting a heaping portion of sweet knuckle and claw meat just barely kissed by the mayo dressing. It's served with chips, fries, or coleslaw.
Nothing fancy here, folks. This is simply a true, traditional, Maine-style lobster roll, with large, tender chunks of chilled meat tossed in a light mayo dressing and served in a top-slit hot dog bun. It earns a top spot on this list thanks to what is — without a doubt — the heartiest serving of lobster served at any Palm Beach County establishment. You can order it with fries, chips, coleslaw, or fruit. We recommend the chips. They're Cap Cod, after all.
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This Jupiter establishment is all about choice, and believe it when they say everything on the menu is "wicked good." In addition to clam, scallop, shrimp, and oyster rolls, you can — of course — find the lobster roll. It's served both ways, hot or cold. The sandwich begins with an oversized, side-split specialty hot dog roll toasted on the griddle, slathered with butter, and stuffed with fresh-cooked (live lobsters are delivered up to four times each week) Maine lobster. The secret here is that there is no secret. Nothing but a touch of real Hellmann's mayonnaise, and nothing else. Order it hot and the meat is sautéed in a quick bath of unsalted butter — simple as that. Why isn't there one closer to Palm Beach proper? Oh, wait. There's a new location opening off Okeechobee Boulevard just west of I-95 in West Palm Beach this summer, with more locations in the works. So the wait for these destination-worthy dishes (without the road trip) is over.
Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.