I was nervous when I walked in. Considering how cool the evening was, there was no reason my palms should have been that sweaty. Would I be able to do it this time? Would I be able to walk up to that wall of butter and face it down? I had to try.
At last year’s Lobster Rumble, I didn’t make it. I failed to clear the butter wall. As someone who spends a lot of time with food, I felt defeated. How are these people around me so happy looking? Were they not defeated as well? Did they not even try? I didn’t understand. I needed to understand. And that’s why I had to go back.
I tried to channel Adam Richman, and thought, “how would Man conquer Food in this particular battle?” I decided that my best bet was to outrun the butter. I had to eat fast.
And then, before I knew it, it was done. I won. I made it over the butter wall. Did I feel good about it at the time? Absolutely. Did I have some deep-seated regrets a bit later? You betcha. But in the end, was it worth it? I think so (I’ve also sated my desire for another lobster roll for at least a couple months). Congratulations to The Clam Shack and Thames Street Oyster House who won the fan vote and the editor’s vote respectively; while you guys weren’t my personal favorites, that obviously didn’t matter.
What Was Good
For me, a perfectly executed classic lobster roll is tough to beat. When you get that perfect balance of lobster to buttery roll, it’s a heavenly experience. My personal favorite of the night was from Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co. When you’re trying to eat 25 lobster rolls, you’re usually not going back for seconds, but this is one I wish I had had more stomach-space to fit another in. Ford’s Fish Shack also really delivered on that front, serving up both mayo-based and butter-based rolls that were both exceptional. Their butter version in particular was the most lobster-forward roll of the night. The roll from Burger & Lobster was my favorite that was slightly left of classic, with some really good vibrant lemon flavor against the butter. The Mermaid Inn went the Old Bay route, and reminded me why some people put that on anything out of a shell. Luke’s Lobster toed the line of being too buttery, but the heavy dose of herbs kept it from being overwhelming. The smoked lobster roll from King + Duke was maybe the only major deviation that I really liked; really the only difference between this one and a classic one was that smokiness, so you still really felt like you were eating a lobster roll, just in a bizarro universe.
What Could Have Been Better
There were more than a couple rolls that I had that sort of fell flat on flavor. They weren’t bad, they just didn’t scream delicious lobster roll at me. They were more like “Hey. How’s it going. I’m Lobster Roll,” when it should have been “I AM LOBSTER ROLL AND YOU SHALL DEVOUR ME!”
– There was a roll that was reminiscent of a tuna salad sandwich (which I normally love), but if I’m eating lobster I want to know it.
– There were a few that were so muted in flavor profile that I didn’t know what to say other than that. Like, if you’re going to do a curry lobster roll, just go for it. Lay it on me. Don’t be timid.
– Some forgot that the bun is more than just a vehicle for lobster. I had smushed buns, soggy buns, burnt buns, cold buns, and buns that were just wrong for lobster rolls. If you’re not doing a buttery griddled split top bun, you better make sure there’s a good reason and that you’ve got something good. If you give me a sweet Hawaiian roll with my lobster, I might throw it at you.
What I Didn’t Like
Now, some people might call me crazy here. And maybe in some weird way I’m a lobster roll purist even though I’ve never been to Maine, but there are some things that shouldn’t go in a lobster roll.
– This is a tough one to say, especially considering the internet’s relationship with bacon. But I don’t think a good lobster roll needs bacon. In fact, I think the bacon tends to overpower and become the predominant flavor, in which case a BLT is much more wallet-friendly and tastes about the same.
– Lettuce is unnecessary. In fact, on one in particular, the combo of shredded lettuce and mayo was extremely reminiscent of a McChicken sandwich. No joke.
– Weird citrus is bad. And i’m not talking about exotic citrus like yuzu or buddha’s hand, i’m talking about artificial lemon, etc. I had one that tasted like a Lemonhead, and one that tasted like Fruit Loops. If you’re lobster roll tastes even remotely like Fruit Loops, you need to scrap it and go back to the recipe drawing board.
– Remember that people are eating these, not just taking pictures. I had a roll that was a 4 inch piece of claw meat on a “bun” that was 1 square inch. It reminded me of a subway flasher.
So there you have it. I cleared the butter wall, and I learned about myself and my lobster roll proclivities. I was also reminded that everyone has different tastes, because as I grimaced at the taste of fruit loopy lobster, a couple ladies a few feet from me were in heaven with theirs. And I got down on bacon, but bacon is a populist food, and I was probably one of the only people who felt that way. What that means for you, is that next year you should go to the lobster rumble and decide for yourself what you like in a lobster roll.