Not being a native Mainer, I’d never truly cottoned to the appeal of the lobster roll. Just seemed like a waste of crustacean on a glorified hot dog bun.
Then, about a year ago, I watched Adam choke down a far-from-perfect specimen in a place whose name claimed the opposite.
That didn’t help.
So, I stuffed the idea of this state-sanctioned sandwich onto the far reaches of my mental shelf. And there it sat – until a group blogger assignment dusted it off.
When A. requested that we pick a place – I stalled. Prejudice breeds lethargy in me and I didn’t call “dibs” fast enough. By the time I rallied, the Portland area “biggies” had been snagged. Perennial Phoenix “best of” winner Portland Lobster Company, as well as Cape Elizabeth’s Lobster Shack and the venerable Old Port Sea Grill had slipped through my net.
Stories of stomach upset kept me from sampling another local institution. I did try the lobster sandwich at the Porthole, but, in a last-minute flurry of confusion and missed opportunities, I grudgingly (hey – it was already written!) ceded the review to Kate. I did include my photos of the Porthole below, though, and tend to agree with her review’s sentiments.
So – what was a blogger to do?
I got outta town.
Brunswick Diner - $13 (without sides)
Set on the busy intersection where Route 1 bends north from its journey east from Highway 95, the Brunswick Diner itself is an intersection – of cute and crusty. Opened in 1946, it ain’t no retro throwback. It’s the real deal with naugahyde stools, a classic jukebox and locals milling about.
Once featured on the Today Show for its roll, the diner’s been riding the wave ever since. I’d seen the boastful banner (see photo) on treks to the Midcoast, and, being a skeptical soul, decided to put it to the test.
It truly was a revelation. Adam (who demurred from purchasing his own roll due to “a lack of hunger” – always a dubious claim) practically arm-wrestled me for it in the end. Heavy on fresh lobster (with a healthy amount of the succulent claw) and light on the mayo, it featured a crisp lettuce leaf and a generously buttered, split-top roll toasted to perfection. A seriously awesome sandwich. Simple. A credit to it’s genre. A roll that tempered my biases and made me hanker for more.
So, we tried another at –
Billy’s Chowder House, Wells – $19 (with sides)
Feeling mighty peckish after a photo shoot in York, we sojourned to Billy’s Chowder House in Wells on the way home. I’d spied the joint on Ricchio’s Maine mag list and determined to “go for two.” It didn’t hurt that Joe had also lauded the cocktails.
Rolling up to the valet (yes – really – the valet) at 5:30, we were shocked at the crowd of cars – until we strolled into the bar. Just about every hair was blue. Ignoring Adam’s snarky comment about our compatriots “getting liquored up before Dancing with the Stars,” I settled onto a stool and was soon sipping a cold one and enjoying a view of the marsh.
A communal vibe and a lobster roll as big as my forearm (you can opt for a $13 “junior roll” – but why?) made the evening sing. While I missed the lettuce of the Brunswick version and wasn’t quite as enthralled with the bun, the lobster on Billy’s roll was just as perfectly cooked (no rubber here!) – the mayo as lovingly balanced. A crunchy side of slaw (I swapped out the fries) and a pickle elevated the experience.
And, I admit, it probably didn’t hurt that Billy’s early-evening patrons made me feel quite young for a gal in her mid-forties.
Portland Lobster Roll Search
Now a firm fan, I tried one last time today to sample a lobster roll in Portland. Hearing tell of the sandwich at the new food cart, Lindy’s Lunch, I took a sweaty slog the breadth of Commercial Street just now – narrowly missing a downpour. While I spied Eric’s Pizza Express and Jen’s Hot Dog’s, there was no sign of Lindy’s Lunch (at least on a Monday). I even popped by Monument Square to no avail. Ah well, another time. . .
Blogger’s note: Visit Portland Food Map for a round-up and links to other blogger reviews of local lobster rolls.