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The best lobster rolls in NYC

Littleneck, Red Hook Lobster Pound and more top our list for the finest lobster rolls in NYC

Photograph: Noah Devereaux
The Standard Grill Lobster Roll

Years after Rebecca Charles pushed the first Manhattan lobster roll across the marble counter at Pearl Oyster Bar, the simple summertime sandwich has become a New York staple, with dozens of versions on menus all over town. From no-frills sandwich shops to elegant midtown power players and new-wave seafood restaurants, we weeded out tough meat and flabby buns to find the best versions in NYC.

The best lobster rolls in New York

The JDOB lobster roll at the John Dory Oyster Bar

The secret to the intensely flavored lobster meat that acts as the base of April Bloomfield and chef de cuisine Charlene Santiago’s summery sandwich is a lacquer of lobster roe butter. That fresh, Maine-sourced flesh gets tossed with red onion and celery for crunch, celery seed mayo and a splash of white wine vinegar before it’s piled on a crisp-edged Orwasher’s Bakery roll made especially for the restaurant. $29

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Midtown

Maine lobster roll at Littleneck

At this refined clam shack near the Gowanus Canal, chef Joe Atonte poaches live lobsters in house, and nestles the picked meat in an airy, toasted split-top bun. Squirt the accompanying lemon wedge over the stunningly sweet meat—barely dressed with Hellmann’s mayonnaise, lemon juice and bits of diced celery—to add an extra hit of brightness. On the side: semi-sour and homemade bread-and-butter pickles. $18.

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Gramercy

Lobster roll at Luke’s Lobster

Maine native Luke Holden—who trapped lobsters throughout his childhood summers in Kettle Cove, Maine—and partner Ben Conniff now operate multiple locations, plus a roving food truck, for their growing seafood empire. Holden’s story is now a part of NYC lobster lore: The real-estate investment banker gave up a promising financial career to start a lobster roll business with his pops, Jeff, who sources the picked and cooked crustaceans directly from Maine fisherman. For his simple roll, Holden sprinkles the meat with a proprietary seasoning blend, flavored with celery  salt and oregano, along with lemony butter. It’s stuffed with a smidgen of mayo in a golden-toasted New England–style bun from Country Kitchen in Lewiston, Maine. $16.

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East Village

Lobster roll at Pearl Oyster Bar

Inspired by childhood summers in Kennebunkport, Maine, Rebecca Charles opened her West Village restaurant in 1997, practically launching “New England seafood” as a restaurant category in New York. Two decades later, her lobster roll is still a knockout. She griddles the top-loading bun to give it a beautiful, browned crunch. It’s practically flattened under the weight of a heaping mound of home-cooked lobster salad: The huge chunks of the crustacean­—boosted with a slick of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and enlivened with lemon juice and chive—taste of pure ocean. Market price.

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West Village

Maine lobster roll at the Polo Bar

This polished Ralph Lauren restaurant is sharply tailored to all-American classics—shocked?—so it’s not a surprise that a plump, generous New England lobster roll finds itself on the menu. Chef Sepp Stoner dresses the sweet crustacean with a bright, herbaceous mix of chive, tarragon and parsley, using a light brush of mayonnaise just to hold it all together on a tender, butter-toasted brioche bun. $32.

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Midtown East

Maine-style lobster roll at Red Hook Lobster Pound

At the 2009 Brooklyn Flea, Susan Povich and her husband, Ralph Gorham, became the first to bring the lobster roll—already popular at full-service restaurants like Pearl Oyster Bar and Mary’s Fish Camp—to the streets of New York. Today the couple still operates that weekend market stand, plus a shop in Red Hook, a dine-in location in Manhattan and roving trucks in NYC and Washington, D.C. Their unadulterated Maine lobster roll showcases improbably perfect claw and knuckle pieces. The tender meat is kissed with mayonnaise, zipped up with scallion and deposited on crisp shredded lettuce in a buttery bun. $19.

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Red Hook

Maine lobster roll at the Standard Grill

High Line visitors can pop into chef Dan Silverman’s airy brasserie for his chefly update on the seaside classic. He tosses ocean-fresh lobster—plucked from 1.25-pound crustaceans after briefly boiling for six minutes—with homemade mayo, lemon juice, lemon paprika, black pepper and finely chopped celery. A smoky grilled Pepperidge Farm roll cradles the bright seafood salad topped with fresh chives and microgreens, while a paper-lined copper cup of crispy french fries completes the meal. $22.

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Meatpacking District

Comments

11 comments
Michele O
Michele O

Love the ones at Red Hook and Luke's Lobster have to try the rest. Good list!!

Vee H
Vee H

Cannot wait to try these!!!

Roberta Kent
Roberta Kent

Bongo's lobster roll is hands down the best. Plus you get to enjoy it in a fun atmosphere!

Eduardo
Eduardo

Had one at littleneck this week (ok, it was two). Damn tasty. 18$ each. Walked by Ed's - charging $28 ?? Just stoopid. I kept walking.

Bowman
Bowman

I have to agree with Billy P about Luke's. Their lobster roll is a JOKE for $15, and I absolutely don't mind paying for good lobster roll. The portion is insulting. It is indeed slimy, and haphazardly sprinkled with Old Bay which just makes it sad. We ordered crab claws too and they were INEDIBLE, and again, slimy. Frankly, I no longer have faith in these "best of" articles from TONY based on their endorsement of Luke's. Do yourself a favor, stay away.

Yum Y
Yum Y

@Bowman TONY food reviews and lists are intermittently useful at best.  Agreed that Luke's is mediocre.

Mark
Mark

I like Pearl but there are others I like as well.

Jamie
Jamie

The absense of Ed's Lobster Bar from this list is the biggest snub I've seen since Tilda Swinton was robbed out of an Oscar for We Need to Talk About Kevin. Oh, and a note of caution: PLEASE don't confuse Ed's Lobster Bar for the lowly Ed's Chowder House, whose tiny, bland, yet overly priced lobster roll is nothing short of an embarrassment.

Billy Peeeeeee
Billy Peeeeeee

Luke's slime-covered Lobster Roll made the list? Are you kidding me? How/why was Bongo overlooked? Hands-down, it is the finest Lobster Roll you'll find anywhere in NYC.

Johnny Deep
Johnny Deep

I would disagree saying that you 'need' tail meat.....some New Englander's would argue that tail meat is chewier and tougher, therefore not always ideal for a roll.

charlie
charlie

Don't like pre-cooked lobster like Luke's and Red Hook and neither use tail meat, not good. Need all of the lobster. Pearl still serves the best lobster roll that I've ever had. Including Red's. Why do we NEVER tire of lobster roll talk and rounds ups?