A Brief History of the Lobster Roll

Lobster roll
Lobster roll | © Neil Conway / Flickr
Photo of Ashley Kane
Freelance Writer30 January 2017

Love lobster? Love it even more already out of the shell, soaked in butter, and on a steaming roll? Eating lobster rolls is a New England pastime, and traditional restaurants across the region serve them. Here’s a look at the origin of the fresh seafood served in a bun. (Disclaimer: You may become hungry.)

Lobster Roll | © Erin / Flickr

Who invented the lobster roll?

A Milford, Connecticut restaurant named Perry’s served the first documented lobster roll in 1929. The sandwich quickly became popular along the coast but never spread far beyond the state. Later, in 1965, the lobster salad roll took off in Long Island, New York, at a restaurant called – you guessed it – The Lobster Roll.

Despite this, the lobster roll’s origin generally traces to Maine – understandable because the state’s coast makes for some pretty fantastic seafood – where lobster meat was served in butter on hot dog buns at various road stands beginning in 1970.

Nowadays, nearly every seafood restaurant in New England serves lobster rolls. While there is no single “founder” of this delicacy, it’s safe to say that a few restaurants caught onto the tasty idea over time, and the love for the sandwich grew from there.

Lobster Roll | © Olaf / Flickr

What are the types of lobster rolls?

This question is an important one. The traditional lobster roll, as it was in 1929, features chunks of lobster meat soaked in butter on a steamed hot dog bun, usually with a side of chips or French fries.

With the lobster roll served in a similar style in Maine, there are a few exceptions. The hot dog bun is usually slightly toasted or grilled so that its sides are flat. The lobster meat is often cold – usually four ounces of knuckle, claw, and tail meat – and there may be just a light spread of mayonnaise.

There are now many variations of this classic sandwich. In parts of New England, you may come across lobster salad rolls which include celery, lemon, lettuce, salt, pepper, and mayonnaise. Some restaurants will serve them on baguette rolls or hamburger buns. Certain menus may even offer two versions of the sandwich: one as a tradition roll served warm with buttered lobster and another as a cold version with mayonnaise and lettuce.

Take your pick, and enjoy the summertime staple meal year-round in New England.

Lobster Shack | © Robyn Fleming / Flickr

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