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New York’s Best Lobster Rolls

For us, summer isn’t really summer until we’ve had our first taste of lobster.  And while we love the challenge of cracking open a whole lobster, there are less exhausting ways to enjoy lobsters’ sweet meat.  That’s right, that iconic summer sandwich known as the Lobster Roll.  It’s the taste of summer, all wrapped up in a sandwich.

Not too long ago, it wasn’t easy to get fresh lobster in Manhattan.  Today, chefs and restaurants around the city have taken it upon themselves to bring the taste of the sea to the city streets, many shipping in fresh lobsters from the coasts of Maine and Long Island daily.  There’s the original NYC Lobster Roll at Pearl Oyster Bar, and the BLT (Bacon-Lobster-Tomato) Roll at Brooklyn’s Red Hook Lobster Pound.  Of course, we can’t talk lobster rolls without mentioning the “JDob Roll” from the John Dory Oyster Bar, where the meat is warmed in lobster-roe butter.  Here’s a list of some of New York’s best lobster rolls…

Red Hook Lobster Pound
Address: 284 Van Brunt St., btwn. Pioneer & Verona Sts. (Brooklyn)
Phone: (718) 858-7650
The husband-and-wife team behind this popular Brooklyn lobster shack knows a thing or two about fresh lobster. In fact, they’re so obsessed that each morning they talk to sustainably-minded lobstermen to ensure they get the freshest lobsters.  The lobsters are plucked from their natural habitat off the coast of Maine, driven directly to the store, and hand-delivered alive-and-kickin’ each day.  That’s what we call devotion.  When it comes to ordering a lobster roll, you have two options: Maine-style (served cold with celery, spices, and a little homemade mayo) or Connecticut-style (served warm with lots o’ butter and smoked paprika).  Lest we not forget the Lobster BLT option.  Whichever way you like it, the lobster meat is guaranteed to be fresh, tender, and slightly sweet – piled high on a JJ Nissen split-top bun.  Red Hook Lobster also has a lobster shack on wheels roaming the city, so keep your eyes peeled.

John Dory Oyster Bar
Address: 1196 Broadway, at 29th St.
Phone: (212) 792-9000
April Bloomfield may be the city’s reigning queen of meat, but at the John Dory Oyster Bar, she proves that she has a way with seafood, too.  Everything on the menu, from the tuna mayonnaise on the Roasted Pork Sandwich to the Oyster Pan Roast, is rich and entirely satisfying, especially the JDob Lobster Roll that’s really making waves, at least in our book.  It’s made with sweet chunks of lobster meat, a celery-seed mayo, dill, celery, red onion, and white vinegar.  Ms. Bloomfield injects a dash of ingenuity to the dish by warming the fresh Maine lobster meat in a heavenly lobster-roe butter and serving it in a custom-made roll from Orwasher’s Bakery.  It’s right up there with her infamous Roquefort-topped Burger.

Address: 269 W 23rd St., btwn. 7th & 8th Aves.
Phone: (212) 627-7700
The popular Chelsea lobster joint expanded to Hell’s Kitchen just a few months ago, making this one of the newest fish shacks in the city.  Their lobster-centric menu is something to behold, but it’s the classic rolls that we’re preoccupied with this time of year.  Claw gets its lobsters from Maine, then steams them in-house before getting a quick toss in mayo, butter, and white pepper bath. Claw takes a no-frills approach, keeping things simple in order to best showcase the sweet lobster meat.  But they do spice things up by offering the option to add bacon lardons to your lobster roll.  Bacon AND lobster?  Sounds like heaven.  If that’s not enough, they also have a huge delivery zone, which means they’ll bring your lobster roll right to your door.  All you have to do is call.

Ed’s Lobster Bar Annex
Address: 25 Clinton St., btwn. Stanton & E. Houston Sts.
Phone: (212) 777-7370
An outpost of Ed McFarlands’s Soho fish shack, the Annex peddles lobster in practically every form imaginable – from meatballs to burgers to tacos.  Call us traditionalists, we gravitate towards the signature lobster roll.  The lobsters are fresh from Maine and cooked on site.  Ed’s rolls are a blend of knuckle, claw, and tail meat tossed with celery, mayo, and lemon juice and served in a toasted brioche roll alongside Ed’s homemade sour pickles.  You can order your roll whole or get a mini version.  Perfect for summer, the Annex has a retractable-canopy-covered backyard, making it the ideal spot to linger while indulging in lobster and cold beverages.

Luke’s Lobster
Address: Various Locations
Phone: (212) 387-8487
This lobster joint is serious about all things Maine.  So serious, in fact, even the murals on the walls and microbrews on tap hail from Maine.  But perhaps the best homage to the state is their fresh lobster rolls.  The meat is brought in directly from the docks of Maine, daily.  (They’ve got a killer connection with a  seafood supplier in Portland – Luke’s Father.)  Each roll is stuffed with chilled claw and knuckle meat and served atop a lightly buttered split-top bun.  They use a swipe of mayo, a little lemon butter, and then finish it off with a sprinkling of Luke’s homemade spice blend.  Luke’s got its start in a tiny storefront in the East Village, but it wasn’t long before the shop burgeoned into a small empire, with five locations around the city and a roving lobster-filled truck to boot.

Lobster Joint
Address: 1073 Manhattan Ave., btwn. Eagle & Dupont Sts. (Brooklyn)
Phone: (718) 389-8990
With its laid-back vibe, casual service (you order at a walk-up window), and New England-style comfort food, this is as close to a fish shack you’ll get on the island of Manhattan.  And with a name like Lobster Joint, you know it’s passionate about all things lobster.  They’ve got a Lobster Bloody Mary, a Lobster & Corn Bisque, Lobster Mac & Cheese, and a full lobster dinner.  And then there are the rolls – New England and Connecticut style rolls.  How about a Lobster Club with bacon and avocado?  We’re game.  There’s even a Lobster Joint satellite shack along the Boardwalk at Rockaway Beach.  But if can’t make it to the beach, head to Brooklyn and set up shop on the Lobster Joint’s outdoor patio replete with picnic tables and umbrellas.  Summer in the city never tasted so good.

Pearl Oyster Bar
Address: 18 Cornelia St., btwn. Bleeker & W 4th Sts.
Phone: (212) 691-8211
This is the place where it all started.  It might be hard to imagine a New York without lobster rolls, but back in 1997, that was exactly the case.  At least, that is, until Rebecca Charles took it upon herself to bring the taste of New England beach towns to the streets of New York.  15 years later, the lobster rolls at Pearl Oyster Bar are still outstanding, with a sweet and creamy mix of diced celery, chives, mayo, and lobster meat.  With a pound of lobster meat in each roll, these rolls are larger than most.  The good news is you won’t have to attempt to eat the whole thing with your hands while balancing napkins on your lap – there are forks and knives available for cutting up that bad boy…and for snatching up those stray chunks of meat that spill out with each bite.

Mary’s Fish Camp
Address: 64 Charles St., btwn. Bleecker & Charles Sts.
Phone: (646) 486-2185
Leave it to a bare bones joint to keep things simple… and delicious.  The store itself is no frills, but functional – there’s just a counter and a few tables in the tiny space.  The lobster rolls are at once straightforward and legendary.  Filled with generous chunks of mayo-bathed lobster meat, they’re creamy without overdoing it.   They’re also huge, so be prepared for some spillage out of the warm, buttery, top-loaded bun.  The lines here can be epically long, but after that first bite of succulent lobster, you’ll forget all about how long you waited for a table.

Address: 288 3rd Ave., btwn. Carroll & President Sts. (Brooklyn)
Phone: (718) 522-1921
While it may be less than a year old, the relaxed beachcomber vibe, impressive beer and wine list, and irresistible steamers have quickly won over Brooklynites.  As the name implies, they specialize in full-belly Ipswich Clam Rolls, but it’s the Maine Lobster Roll that keeps us coming back to Littleneck.  They’re refined little sandwiches, with meat piled high, minimal mayo added, and homemade pickles on the side.

Ditch Plains
Address: Several Locations
Phone: (212) 633-0202
Marc Murphy has a special place in his heart for the shores of Ditch Plains: he caught his first waves there.  Now, he pays homage to this surf beach with his own, laidback fish shack in the middle of Manhattan. Even the lobster meat hails from Montauk, with lobsters arriving daily from Long Island.  A warm, buttered potato roll is packed with thick chunks of chilled lobster meat, tossed in a house-made garlic aioli, a blend of Dijon mustard, Old Bay seasoning, bits of celery, a little green onion, and a sprinkling of tarragon.  It’s a simple, yet stunning take on the classic lobster roll.

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