“Oh, this is so good. Wait, what’s that? Twenty three dollars? Son of a bitch…eh, still worth it.”
~Lobster Roll Purchaser
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again—few creatures of the sea are more American than lobsters. They’re ageless monsters that turn red when we boil them alive, at which point we pay inordinate amounts of money to dunk them in melted butter while wearing a bib at a fancy dinner. The fact that lobsters used to be considered peasant food, to the point that 17th century indentured servants insisted that it was inhumane to be fed lobster more than twice a week, only make its current decadent reputation more American.
Admittedly, much of the reason why the first Americans to encounter the lobster assumed it was only fit for bait and fertilizer stems from its “oh my God, it’s a monster, KILL IT WITH FIRE” appearance, as well as the fact that we used to primarily canned lobster meat to preserve it because we sometimes cannot be trusted with nice things. Now, by the 20th century we realized lobster actually “tastes delicious” and “should probably cost more money” so it began to be treated as such, with “ordering a lobster in order to get the most expensive thing on the menu” being a worn out entertainment trope for quite some time by now.
Now, since we live in America, we naturally have to take expensive and gaudy ingredients and transform them into dishes that are typically served on paper plates with plastic utensils, and that’s exactly what we’ve done with lobster. While we have plenty of “cheap foods made expensive by adding lobster meat” dishes, from lobster mac and cheese to lobster bisque, one of the most iconic, and most satisfying, American preparation of lobster can be summed up in two simple words.
Lobster meat in a hot dog bun that costs way more money than you feel comfortable shelling out for a lunch item that’ll inevitably have half the meat fall out as you eat it, but manages to be delicious enough that you’ll still pay for it, yes, lobster rolls are an American delicacy, despite every outward appearance trying to tell you otherwise. Lobster rolls are sneakily classy, just like America. Lobster rolls are America. And that’s why we’re devoting this fun fact to…
Lobster Rolls: America’s Most Expensive Sandwich That’s Worth Every Penny
Regionally, lobster rolls are associated with the East Coast, and while they’ve pretty much permeated the rest of the country, it’s the East Coast that still insists on treating the roll like it’s some casual dining feature, which is one of the best parts of the lobster roll (besides the lobster, and the butter, and the *eyes roll into back of head*). Sure, you can get great lobster rolls in the Midwest, you just to expect to find it with some gaudy presentation because lobster is a delicacy, and being able to eat a bunch of it on a roll is a novelty best reserved for high end restaurants with cloth napkins and three dollar signs listed on their yelp pages.
Not that there’s anything wrong with a gussied up lobster roll. Unlike other expensive food stuffs we’ve written about, a lobster roll is, by definition, a pretty luxurious meal, but we can’t help but respect the East Coast approach of, “Here’s your damn lobster roll, eat it on a wooden picnic table outside our shack, that’ll be twenty five dollars please” that represents the true soul of this glorious American item.
The East Coast does the lobster roll with their own flare because they were by all rights the inventors of the dish. The first lobster roll originated at Perry’s in Milford, Connecticut around the year 1929, and it knocked out the basic recipe of buttered lobster meat served warm in a hot dog bun or similar roll that is sliced on the top, as opposed to the side. Since New England doesn’t give a shit about your pretension, restaurants serve the rolls with fries or potato chips. Not “truffle fries” or, uh, “gold” potato chips, just regular fast food shit. Honestly, if your lobster roll comes with a wedge of lemon and someone halfheartedly tossing you a recently expired bag of Lay’s, that’s pretty much a guarantee that it’ll be incredible.
However, if you ask for a lobster roll, and get this bag of chips, get the fuck out of there immediately.
With the lobster roll came regional variations. In Connecticut, a lobster roll is served warm, consisting of just lobster and butter on a roll, while any cold variation (which is popular throughout the rest of New England) is called a “lobster salad roll”, though these tend to be filled with celery and lettuce to earn the salad moniker. Elsewhere in New England, 1965 saw The Lobster Roll, located on Long Island in Amagansett, selling a “classic” cold roll alongside sandwiches with hot lobster meat, while Red’s Eats in Maine started selling their own Lobster rolls in 1970.
Now, we tend to associate lobster rolls with Maine, largely because of Maine lobsters, but Maine lobster rolls differ themselves from Connecticut and the rest of the East Coast in several ways. Instead of using a hot dog bun, they bake a “New England” or “Frankfurter” roll that is flat on the sides so they can be buttered on the outside and lightly grilled or toasted. The lobster meat is cooked warm in butter, but is served cold, and light amounts of mayonnaise are usually spread inside the bun or tossed with the meat, bringing truth to the old adage of “if there’s a meal, there’s an American who can find a way to slather that meal with mayonnaise.”
Other variations exist, of course. A lobster roll can have lettuce, celery, scallion, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper added to it without anyone really losing their shit about the situation. There’s even a McDonald’s version available in select New England markets called the McLobster, though the $6.50 sandwich also goes by the name “repent sinners for the end is nigh.”
At this point, it’s our journalistic duty to point out that the fountain drink and two things of ketchup kind of look like a dick and balls here.
Many enjoy lobster rolls as a summer meal, especially considering that many of the best lobster rolls on the East Coast are provided by take-out restaurants with outdoor seating, but as more reputable restaurants provide the roll (probably because when they realized how much money they could make while spending very little on the non-lobster ingredients) you can pretty easily find one year-round whenever you’re craving lobster, but don’t want to deal with lacerating your hands as you strain and twist lobster corpses to rid the meat from its stubborn shell as lobster juice drips down your hands and ruins the cuffs of your shirt and dammit, you just bought that shirt too, you put the bib on and everything, and it still wasn’t enough.
And hey, if you want a winter lobster roll? Go for it! Lobster rolls are democratic, they’re for the people (who want to spend a shitload on a sandwich). Born in America, best enjoyed by Americans (no, shut up Canadians, you don’t get to take this as a piece of your national identity, we claimed it first) and, well, really expensive in America. But worth it!
So here’s to you, lobster roll. Like, we’re not going to buy you right now ‘cause, you know, credit card debt, but we’ll be here, staring hungrily at everyone else eating and enjoying your buttered goodness. Mmmm…