The world is my lobster and it can be found between buttered morsels of bread. The lobster roll is a New England classic and what was once common food-cart cuisine, has morphed into fine fast casual eating. Lobster roll shacks are popping up all over NYC and Las Vegas. Crustaceans are on the move. Boston takes pride in its lobster rolls. Just about every restaurant has some type of lobster roll on its menu. Great if you love lobster, not so great if you love culinary diversity.
So if you love the roll of lobster, come on visit yours truly and I’ll take you to my two favorite lobster roll restaurants: Neptune Oyster House and Alive and Kicking. I’d be remise if I didn’t disclose that I’ve yet to try every lobster roll in the area, that’d be impossible. But to date, both lobster rolls at Neptune’s and Alive and Kicking have clearly fortified their positions in the front of my personal Best Lobster Roll in Boston list.
The tale of two lobsters
To be drawn in hot butter or in mayonaise, that’s the question. If you want to start a culinary Royal Rumble in the New England area, introduce the debate of whether a lobster roll is better when the lobster is served hot with drawn butter or the lobster is cold and mixed with mayonaise (and other ingredients, like celery salt). Topics of heated discussion will range from which format allows for the pure lobster taste to shine to why one does not like mayonaise to Let’s Go Sox.
All lobster rolls should come with some form of buttered bread (be it a hot dog bun, hamburber bun, white bread, etc) that is semi-toasted. Sure, I’ve had lobster rolls with untoasted buns that have been nice, but the textural additional of a buttery crunch is crucial, in my mind, to a successful lobster roll experience.
I prefer my lobster roll to be warm with drawn butter, much like the one we prepared here. But I do also love the cold mayonaise version of the lobster roll. Ultimately, the decision on which type of eat depends on time of season and mood. On a hot summer day, while kicking it outdoors, a cool lobster roll with mayonaise hits the spot better. On those chilly fall nights, when the threat of snow lingers in the upcoming calendar weeks, a hot buttered lobster roll is all the most comforting.
My two favorite lobster roll joints in Boston are a tale of two lobster rolls: Neptune is the king of hot lobster rolls and Alive and Kicking the king of cold mayo-based lobster rolls.
Neptune Oyster Bar
Good luck getting in. This restaurant may be the best seafood restaurant I’ve had in not just the Boston area, but in general, in a long-time. Tucked away on a side street of Boston’s North End, houses a seafood house of worship. The raw bar is limit but tastes as if the fisherman just walked it over from his boat 5 minutes prior. The crudos and sashimis are innovative and always changing. The hot seafood dishes are elegant and empower the sea protein to be the star on the plate. But the main reason why there is always a three hour wait, at any time of day, to sit in this small yet stellar restaurant is because of its lobster roll.
Food Network immortalized Neptune Oyster Bar’s lobster roll on one of its shows. This lobster roll is a beast and a beacon. The restaurant offers it both ways: cold version with mayo or hot and dripping with clarified butter. It is strongly recommended you get the later. Succulent, generous pieces of lobster tail, claw, and knuckle meat sit on melt in your mouth buttery grilled brioche bun. The hot lobster is then drowned with clarified butter. This is decadency to the max.
Alive and Kicking
Talk about a complete 180. Don’t order a lobster roll here, rather the lobster sandwich. Located in a hidden, off the beaten path, deep within a neighborhood off of Central Square, Cambridge, sits Alive and Kicking. This is not an ordinary place and it don’t get any fresher. Locals in the know come here to buy fresh seafood. First and foremost, Alive and Kicking is a small seafood market, packed with quality. Fresh pieces of fish, shellfish, and most importantly, tanks full of live lobster house are to be found. The place is more of a fishmonger shop, than a sandwich counter/restaurant. That works for me. I love these types of establishments.
The lobster roll here is not typical. Rather than in a hot dog-like bun, the the classic chilled lobster salad is served on a toasted and buttered scali bread. This is an airy, artisanal Italian loaf popular in Boston. There is no celery in the lobster salad in the gorgeous mayo. The fresh lobster is juicy beyond belief and when paired with the crunchy, yet airy sandwich bread, the sandwich is wet in a good way. This tender and flavorful lobster sandwich is best enjoyed with one Alive and Kicking’s bottled sodas and eaten outside on one of its picnic tables out in front. A gem in Cambridge and for lovers of lobster rolls/sandwiches.