Maine thinks it owns lobster rolls, but for 200 years Massachusetts owned Maine. So by the transitive property, Boston is actually the place to be for lobster rolls, anything related to Stephen King, and whatever else Maine has (talking moose, maybe?). If you want to try a great lobster roll without running the risk of getting lost in the woods, accidentally crossing into Canada, or getting pig’s blood dumped on you at the prom, you have plenty of options. These are the best lobster rolls in Boston.
Update June 10th 2020: After months of being closed, Boston restaurants have been allowed to reopen. Check out the list of Boston Restaurants Reopened For Outdoor Dining for up-to-date info.
We almost don’t want to give the roll at Neptune the top spot, because the rest of the menu is excellent and it would be a tragedy if you only went here for the roll, stuffed yourself with lobster and carbs, and then didn’t have room for the bluefish johnnycake. But Neptune left us with no choice. This too-big-for-one-person roll of sweet, buttery lobster heaven would be Boston’s flag-bearer in the sandwich Olympics. (Can we get a sandwich Olympics please?)
Like those tiny round-tip scissors you used in kindergarten, some lobster rolls appear to have been deliberately made small enough for children. Then there’s the lobster roll at Belle Isle in Winthrop, which is nearly big enough for a kindergartener to take a nap on while dreaming of playing on the see-saw with lobster fairies. (Is that what kindergartners dream about? It’s been a while.) This roll isn’t just huge, though. With a perfectly toasted bun, a nice touch of mayo, and lobster that you know is fresh because it came out of a tank in the restaurant, it’s damn delicious.
The cold roll at Summer Shack is made with cucumber, but this isn’t a case where a restaurant trying to put its own mark on a classic ends up overwhelming it with something that doesn’t quite fit. The cucumber is subtle and works perfectly with tarragon mayo on a toasted potato bun that’s just the right size.
There are no shallots, rosemary infused buns, or beurre rouge messing around with the warm lobster roll at Row 34 in the seaport. There’s just a lot of lobster covered in hot butter, and it’s almost perfect.
After biting into the warm roll at Saltie Girl, you may spend the next several hours trying to place a flavor that’s familiar, yet pretty distinct in Lobster Roll Land. We’ll save you the trouble: it’s a white wine and butter sauce and it tastes great when it seeps into the grilled split-top hot dog bun. You’re going to love it, and you’re going to love the housemade salt and vinegar chips that come with it.
With brown butter and a steamed bao bun, this is one of the most untraditional rolls that made the list. But breaking tradition here results in a roll that you will finish in under a minute and then seriously contemplate ordering again. It’s rich enough to make the Harvard fencing team, and we actually recommend going with the small in order to try other things on the menu.
Sure, strictly speaking, this is not a roll. But we’re not about to let bread-truthers boss us around - especially when the cold “lobster sandwich” is as good as it is here. The toasted slices of white bread do a good job holding everything together, and then they sort of just disappear in your mouth, providing a nice little crunch to go with fresh, sweet, lobster meat and little hint of mayo. Don’t be a breadist, try this.
Yankee Lobster in the Seaport is a simple seafood shack where everything is served on trays and you’ll probably need to wipe off your table before you sit down. The roll is correspondingly simple: cold meat with a little mayo on a grilled hot dog bun. The meat is fresh, though, and the lobster-to-bread ratio is perfect.
Rumor has it that when Mookie Betts lived in the South End, this roll was one of his go-to lunch options. So thank god that the love we have for Mookie overpowers how much we hate places that spell out Boston accents for marketing purposes. Because otherwise we might’ve left a great roll off this list out of spite. What sets the standard cold roll here is a big brioche bun, because when you’re eating tender chunks of lobster covered in butter and mayo, the only thing that makes it better is a bun that’s filled with lots of butter, too. This is one of the few places offering multiple different sizes, too (six different sizes, to be exact).
The roll at Red’s Best in the Public Market has some of the biggest chunks of lobster as you’ll find anywhere in the city. That alone would be enough to put it on this list, but it also has hints of green onion and parsley, which is great, because when you’re eating this much lobster, bread, and mayo, a little fiber goes a long way.
We’re not going to say that eating a lobster roll can be as stressful as, say, defusing a bomb, but having to decide between cold-with-mayo and hot-with-butter can be as stressful as watching a movie where someone has to defuse a bomb, at least. You don’t have to worry about that at Bennett’s in the Fenway, because their roll is made with both mayo and drawn butter, and it’s great. It ends up falling more on the cold mayo spectrum of lobster roll taxonomy, but the butter comes through.
The seafood served at Island Creek in the Fenway is about as fresh and high-quality as it gets. As a result, the lobster salad with creme fraiche and a little pickle that makes up the bulk of the roll here is outstanding. There’s just a little too much of the rosemary bun, though, and while grilled rosemary buns are great, it’s not worth $35.
You have to like chives if you’re going to have the roll at B&G in the South End, because its covered with them and the taste definitely comes through. It’s a nice little twist, and works well on a roll that, as a good roll should, has a lot more lobster than bread.
This is the type of lobster roll that made lobster rolls famous. It’s crisp, it’s covered with mayo (though just a bit too much), it’s made with lobsters that were swimming in their tanks that morning, and it’s exactly what you want on a hot summer day. The fact that you can grab it to go and then eat it on the Greenway makes it even better.
Since eating a lot of food is kind of our thing, we’re generally not fans of fasting. But we’ll make exceptions in two specific circumstances: to get ready for hernia surgery and to save room for the massive 25 ounces of lobster meat that comes in Pauli’s Lobstitution. We don’t recommend making this a regular lunch option (because not many people could afford that) but you absolutely should schedule a day in the future to fast, run 10 miles, and then stuff your face with one of these.
There’s nothing wrong with the roll at Legal’s. There’s just nothing particularly outstanding about it. It’s a tasty little roll, served cold with not too much mayo on a split-top hot dog bun. It gets the job done, but, considering it’s size, it doesn’t quite justify the cost (which will probably be around $35).
If you’re a mayo-hater who feels left out of all the lobster roll fuss, head to Pagu in Central Square. Instead of mayo, the lobster on this cold roll is tossed with avocado, and instead of a hot dog roll, you get a squid-ink infused bun. It’s good in addition to being interesting, but it won’t blow you away.