Pearl Oyster Bar’s Rebecca Charles and Red Hook Lobster Pound’s Susan Povich share their thoughts on iconic summertime sandwich the lobster roll.
By Mari Uyehara|
New lobster-roll joints pop up around New York faster than a buoy in the bay, and not all live up to their hefty price tags. But two stalwarts—Pearl Oyster Bar and Red Hook Lobster Pound— stand out from the ever-growing pack. We sat down with Rebecca Charles and Susan Povich, the spots’ respective owners, to learn the secrets to a great lobster roll.
Rebecca Charles, Pearl Oyster Bar
Cooking the lobster: “The lobster has to be alive when you cook it. You don’t want to cook any dead lobster. They float when they’re cooked.” Mayo philosophy: “It’s the same thing as pasta. If it winds up being saucy, it’s too much. We’re looking for enough mayonnaise to coat the lobster.” Formative lobster-roll memory: “I didn’t actually start eating lobster rolls until I was about 13. What I remember about it was the warm bun. It’s that perfectly toasted, buttery bun that makes the sandwich for me.” Secret to a great lobster roll: “Details, details, details. The lobster can’t be overcooked. It needs to be seasoned properly. It needs to have just the right amount of mayonnaise.” On staying true to the original: “The big sandwich in Maine, where we summered, was the fried-clam roll; the lobster roll was not actually that well-known. When I opened Pearl, I decided [that I needed to serve] a sandwich, and I thought, You know, let me do a lobster roll. And let me do it the way a chef would do it. Some people say it’s only supposed to have a skim of mayo on the bun. [I say] well, if you wanna be that accurate, [you’re only supposed to use] the disgusting mayonnaise that they have up [in Maine], Hain, which is really awful.”
Susan Povich, Red Hook Lobster Pound
On outsourcing: “I get my lobster meat from a really high-quality processor in Maine. I leave it to the experts—it’s always consistent.” Mayo philosophy: “Homemade lemon mayonnaise. Period. End of conversation. I use a tiny little bit—just enough to hold the lobster together.” Formative lobster-roll memory: “My grandfather was raised in Maine and I spent every summer there. I would stop at an old carhop, Fat Boy, in Brunswick before I got to my house. It wasn’t a fancy lobster roll. It was just greasy and buttery, but it was so good.” Secret to a great lobster roll: “It’s just all about the friggin’ great lobster, great bread and not messin’ with it too much.” Best part of the lobster: “Claw and knuckle meat is the sweetest meat in the lobster. The tail is kinda like an overcooked chicken breast, as far as I’m concerned.”