There are an estimated three million lobster traps along Maine’s coast at any given time, so it’s no surprise that the state produces some of the best lobsters in the country. And while there might be some debate on the best way to enjoy Maine’s favorite crustacean, the lobster roll is a top contender.
The combination of fresh and tender lobster meat (served cold, with mayo) and a butter-toasted New England roll is the perfect meal for lazy summer days. You’ll find some of the state’s best versions exactly where you’d expect—lobster shacks with worn wooden walls in sleepy coastal towns—but there are also relative newcomers in cities like Portland putting a modern spin on the dish with steamed buns and hand-laminated croissant dough.
These are the spots worth planning your entire Maine vacation around. Just be prepared to spend anywhere from $20 to $40 for a “market price” roll.
If you’re driving up to Maine, Bob’s Clam Hut should be your first stop once you’ve crossed the state’s southern border. They do excellent deep fried whole clams, and they also make the best lobster roll in the entire state.
You can choose between hot butter or mayo on your roll, but the cold version is the best because it showcases the fresh, sweet lobster without overpowering it. Between the buttered roll and the accompanying well-seasoned fries, you’ll definitely need some of the provided wet naps after eating this one. Bob’s location right off of Highway 1 also makes it a quick detour if you’re planning on road-tripping up the coast.
You’ll likely have to pay an arm and a leg to park anywhere near Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, but it’s worth it to be able to eat a roll at Lobster Shack’s dark and cozy wood booths. This spot is about as old school as they come—the building dates back to the early 1900s—so the ambiance is excellent for spending a few hours drinking with your friends and pretending you live in an era where you don’t have to know what Threads are.
You won’t find any fries in sight, but your roll comes with a generous heap of ridged potato chips and a pickle spear. The lobster is just firm enough to give the roll some bite, and there’s a perfect amount of mayo to dress it. The bread-to-crustacean ratio here is perfect, so you can get lobster in every bite without it spilling out onto your paper tray.
Pool Lobster is inside a general store that has everything you could need for a Maine vacation. The shelves are stocked with great bottles of wine, bucket hats, and condiments for a beach-side cookout, but the line out the door is for their steamed clams and lobster that’s served whole or on a roll.
Come early to snag a picnic table overlooking Wood Island Harbor, and feed your anticipation by peeking into the live lobster tanks as you wait for your order. The lobster here has a whisper of old bay and mayo to keep things interesting, and while the roll doesn’t come with a side, you can either order some fries or grab a bag of chips at the checkout.
Pine Tree uses a longer hot dog roll instead of your standard length New England bun, but that allows them to serve lots of lobster meat and lettuce without each bite causing a huge mess. Consider this a peak sharable roll—ask them to double the lobster if you want a filling meal for two, or are just extra hungry yourself.
Pine Tree also has some fresh produce, local craft beer, and grilling planks, so it should definitely be one of your first stops before you’re thrown into a family trip where you have to share a room with your cousin who’s really into sailing. And at $22, this is one of the most affordable rolls on this guide.
When you arrive at Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster Company, an attendant will guide you into the wharf’s parking lot like you’re at Disneyland. You can order lobster rolls and clam baskets at the window, and whole steamers at the lobster pound around the building’s corner.
The lobster roll here tastes sweet, and even though the bread is on the floppier side, it still has enough structural integrity to support the meat, mayo, and lettuce. The pickle slices might be hidden away at the bottom of your roll’s paper basket, but consider it a little present you get to unwrap while watching the ferry boats head towards Casco Bay.
As soon as you utter the words “Maine” or “lobster roll” near your phone, you’ll probably start getting dozens of TikToks telling you to visit Red’s Eats in Wiscasset. And they’re right. The lobster roll is fantastic, but you should be prepared to set aside a few hours of your day to enjoy it.
You’ll see a block-long line coming from this riverside shack at pretty much any time of day, but the staff will offer you lots of water and bites of fried shrimp while you wait. Your patience will be rewarded with a mountainous roll that contains a whole lobster tail and knuckles, and requires a fork and plenty of napkins to eat. Red’s serves their gargantuan roll with a condiment cup of hot grassy butter, and even though it doesn’t come with fries or chips, there’s so much meat that you honestly don’t need anything extra.
You’ll drive past beautiful waterfront homes to get to McLoon’s Lobster Shack on Sprucehead Island. It’s a bit more remote but it still gets busy on weekends, so if you can, go during the week to ensure you sit in the best sun-bathed Adirondack chair.
The lobster roll is absolutely stuffed, but doesn’t feel too unwieldy to hold and bite into. The mayo is spread onto the roll rather than tossed with the lobster, and you have the option to add hot butter, which you should absolutely take advantage of. You can’t get fries, but you can use the included chips to scoop out bits of the finely minced slaw that comes with your meal.
Thurston’s Lobster Pound is just a few minutes from Acadia’s most famous lighthouse, but it’s also far enough from the main town, Bar Harbor, that you can have a quiet meal alongside day laborers covered in paint having lunch on the deck. You’ll have a great view of boats bobbing up and down in the water, and the lobster itself is much better (and more affordable) in other spots more densely populated by out-of-towners. The less-than-$30 roll is stuffed but manageable to eat, and comes with a bag of chips and a very snappy pickle spear.
It’s hard to find a spot that isn’t overrun with tourists in Bar Harbor, a town surrounded by Acadia National Park, but if you do want to try a lobster roll in the area, it should be at Side Street Cafe. You’ll find Side Street’s porch packed with people enjoying apres-hike beers and lobster mac and cheese, or friend groups looking for an excuse to enjoy alcoholic beverages with blueberries in them. The roll is well toasted, and the lobster is tender and creamy with the mayo. If you want more ways to enjoy your favorite crustacean, you can also have the fried lobster ravioli with scallion butter as an appetizer. Skip the fries here, and get a side of mac and cheese or chips instead.
It’s not often you can physically see where your food is coming from as you eat it—unless you’re at an on-the-water lobster shack in Maine. Shaw’s has a working fishing dock on the water, and there’s a mountain of lobster cages you can see from the second-story dining room and deck.
The lobster is evenly dressed with mayo, and the bun has a toasted exterior and pillowy interior. Traditionalists will be pleased to know that Shaw’s serves their roll with a bag of Ruffles and some pickle chips, but you can also add on an order of fries if you must. There’s lots of fisherman-esque wood paneling inside to really add to the seaside shack aesthetic, not to mention the wharf has boat tours where you can partake in some puffin-watching on the water.
Eventide Oyster Co is a seafood go-to in Portland, where you can spend an evening trying more than a dozen different local bivalves with accoutrements like kimchi and horseradish ice. You might raise an eyebrow at Eventide’s non-traditional brown butter preparation and steamed bun, but sometimes innovation is a path to greatness. The steamed bun feels like a happy marriage between the New England hot dog roll and a bao, the sprinkled chives add some brightness, and the pillowy soft dough absorbs the extra moisture from the browned butter without leaving it a soggy mess. It also doesn’t hurt that you can also order a few dozen excellent fresh oysters and a bottle of Italian sauv blanc while you’re people-watching at the bar.
Five Islands Lobster Co is located on Georgetown Island, the type of place where people bike to the post office in their L.L. Bean sweaters and refer to their summer house “on the island.” You can find sandwiches and fried things like onion rings and clams at the love nest grill, and whole-boiled lobsters at the lobster pound just a few feet down the wharf.
The lobster roll has an ideal meat-to-bread-to-mayo-to-lettuce ratio, and the sweet, tender claws and knuckles were probably fished out of the water that morning. The chips that come with the roll are perfectly decent, but do yourself a favor and order extra sides of french fries and onion rings.
Most people eating at Twelve aren’t coming exclusively for the lobster roll. They’re coming to have a special occasion dinner on the waterfront in a space that looks like it could be in the pages of But you should come here explicitly for the lobster roll, which is served warm, with butter, and a laminated croissant dough instead of a split-top roll. It’s definitely not traditional, but it’s executed perfectly.