The quest for the perfect lobster roll

The only way I got through the long, icy winter we recently endured was by dreaming about sunny summer beach days. The beaches in the Northeast are some of the most beautiful in the world. And for sunbathers looking for great eats, close to the sand and waves are shacks, stands and restaurants serving up the best lobster rolls in the world.

Lobster rolls and summer are inseparable in my (hungry) head, so when summer weather finally hit last week, I immediately started craving one of these iconic sandwiches. In the last four days, I was able to satisfy this craving pretty close to my office and home, only venturing to an actual ocean beach location once. Here's my four-day journey, marked by lobster rolls ranging from good to excellent.

First stop: Ed's Lobster Bar Kiosk, World Financial Center, New York City
From our office, it's a nice walk along the Hudson River to the World Financial Center—the office complex in Battery Park City. Since May, three food kiosks have been set up in the plaza, dispensing burgers, pulled pork sandwiches and lobster rolls respectively. A couple of us took a lunchtime walk up there and I, of course, went straight for the lobster roll at Ed's Lobster Bar Kiosk. My first of the season, it brought back fond memories of lobster rolls past—chunky lobster salad in a top-split hot dog roll. But the roll was a little squishy and the portion a little skimpy ($13 for lobster roll and Cape Cod potato chips). Plus, there wasn't quite enough mayo to bind the salad.

Second stop: Half Moon, Dobbs Ferry, New York
This restaurant sits right on the Hudson River too, but about 20 miles north of the World Financial Center near my home in Westchester County. You can sit at an umbrella table on Half Moon's patio—about ten feet from the river—and enjoy a cocktail and menu of bar food. Going there feels like a mini-vacation.

So on this particular night, as I watched the gorgeous sunset with a group of friends, we sipped mojitos and ordered Half Moon's Lobster Roll ($24). It's a hearty, overstuffed knife- and-fork affair, with visible pieces of claw meat and just enough mayo to hold it together, sided by potato salad and a few dressed green beans. The untoasted roll was a little too soft but the lobster was fresh and tasty.

Third stop: Lunch: The Lobster Roll, Amagansett, New York
I made it out to the East End of Long Island over the weekend and drove directly to Lunch for lunch. Also known as The Lobster Roll, this quintessential seaside spot evolved from a tiny clam bar into the destination for lobster roll lovers. It's always been my benchmark for the perfect lobster roll and it didn't disappoint this time around.

The top-split roll is buttered and toasted, then filled to overflowing with sweet, rosy pink lobster meat bound with mayo and studded with crisp diced celery. The lobsters come straight from the docks of Montauk to the kitchen of Lunch, so you know this sandwich is super fresh. It's served with tangy cole slaw and OK french fries, but it's all about the lobster roll. The feast on a plate goes for $21.95, but I was as stuffed as the roll when I finished—and happy as a clam (which Lunch also does, fried and succulent, in a basket.)

Last stop: Luke's Lobster, Financial District, New York City
I was really excited when this place opened diagonally across the street from our office. Luke's has several other locations around Manhattan, as well as a few food trucks that can be found via Twitter (@LukesLobsterNY), and I've heard great things about their lobster rolls. For lunch today, I chose the a la carte version ($15)—a single, "Maine-style lobster roll served on a buttered and toasted New England-style split-top bun with a swipe of mayo, a sprinkle of lemon butter and a dash of secret spices," as the menu described it.

I have to say I relished every bite. The chunky lobster filling was moist and flavorful, enhanced by what looked like a paprika-based dusting on top. The warm, crisp, buttery bun provided just the right contrast with the deliciously chilled lobster salad. Tucked inside was a whole piece of claw meat—quite a pleasant surprise. The amount of mayonnaise was just right. I'll be back soon; the summer is just beginning.


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