A few days into my Cape Cod Discovery Tour I decided it would be fun to do a Lobster Roll Tasting Challenge around the Cape. All along Highway 28 and in each town I explored there were so many lobster and seafood restaurants that it sort of suggested itself. There was the “Lazy Lobster”, the “Lobster Shanty”, the “Lobster Pot”, the “Lobster Trap Fish Market“, the “Wicked Oyster”, “Seafood Sam’s” …. the list goes on and on. Growing up seafood was not served in our house. It just wasn’t on the menu. The closest I came to eating fish of any sort were Gorton’s Fried frozen fish sticks… and even those were very rare. (Since I grew up in the Army, moving from base to base, the joke in our house is that it took me quite a few years to realize meat did not originate from a Commissary.) In complete contrast, Scott grew up hunting on the farm and vacationing in Maine fishing camps before his earliest memories. In fact by age eleven, he was “working” as a camp boy during the summers up in Maine. So the tradition continues and we make the annual fishing trips to the lakes and woods of “Downeast Maine” every year. (Why they say “downeast” is a mystery to me as it is about four hours north of civilization in my book.) But I digress. The thing about where we go on Big Lake in Maine is that to get a lobster roll in a restaurant it is about a one hour drive… each way! We make that trek once or twice every time we are in Maine. They are not as good as when we make the trip to buy fresh, whole lobsters… but no trip to Maine would be complete without at least one lobster roll. So imagine, by comparison, that I am driving down the Cape and it is a literal repository of lobster fare! Hence the “Great Cape Lobster Roll Challenge” begins. Each day in my wanderings I was too busy to stop for lunch. Around 4:00 pm I would be hungry enough to stop and search for the “best lobster roll in” whichever town I happened to be near.
Lobster Roll Contender No. 1 – The Black Cat Tavern, Hyannis
I had walked around five miles in Hyannis and when I searched for the “best lobster in Hyannis” the Black Cat Tavern popped up first. I was seated on the front patio and the menu read “Giant Black Cat Lobster Roll” for $ 28.95. In Perry, Maine the price is $ 19.99. I asked if they had a regular sized lobster roll and the answer was no, the giant one was the only one but that it was seven ounces of the very best lobster meat. I also asked to substitute coleslaw for the potato chips. When the roll arrived it did not seem that “giant” but it was certainly delicious. The meat was very fresh (thankfully no marine residue which sometimes sneaks in there) with just enough dressing that the lobster flavor really stood out. When I got the bill I noticed that they charged me an extra dollar to substitute the coleslaw that I didn’t care for, but the lobster roll was divine. This challenge was off to a great start and contender number one was a big success!
Lobster Roll Contender No. 2 – Skipper Chowder House, South Yarmouth
The next day I was mid-Cape, so I just searched “best lobster roll in Cape Cod.” Not very scientifically- one restaurant that popped up several times was the Skipper Chowder House in South Yarmouth. It was also on the way back to my hotel so that worked perfectly. The staff there was awesome. Chatting it up with my waitress, who was born and raised in Yarmouth, she gave me her insights into more fun places to see on the Cape, as well as her favorite surf spots. She let me know that Skipper had won multiple awards for their clam chowder, so we added a cup of that as well. They actually had three different lobster rolls on the menu. The “Traditional Lobster Roll – 4 oz” ($ 21.99), “Skipper’s Lobster Roll Supreme – 8 oz” ($ 26.99) and “The Wicked Awesome- 8 oz” served hot with melted butter ($ 29.99). After a little back and forth we decided that since I was also getting their signature “Cape Cod Clam Chowdah” we would stick with the traditional lobster roll. The “chowdah” arrived and it was decadent and delicious! The very best I can remember. From now on every cup of chowder I order will have big shells to fill. Then the lobster roll arrived and I could not believe my eyes. “Are you sure this is the regular?” I asked. “It looks like a lot more than four ounces!” She just laughed and said “well, they don’t actually measure.” The lobster was incredible. I had to eat some of the lobster first before I could actually eat it as a roll and the meat was fresh, tender and oh so lightly dressed. Wow! We have a race!
Lobster Roll Contender No. 3 – The Lobster Pot, Provincetown
Provincetown has a lot of restaurants and night life. There were three top options that came up as “best lobster roll” in Provincetown so I opted for the iconic Lobster Pot. Their menu touted that their chowder had won “Best Of” by Cape Cod life for nineteen years and seven different Chowder Festival grand prizes… so I started with a cup of chowder here as well. Had I not just had the incredible Skipper clam chowder the day before I might have been impressed. But today it did not compare to the flavor, the amount of clams or the richness I enjoyed the night before. Next up was the lobster roll itself. It was certainly more typical of the lobster rolls I had experienced in the past. It did not seem as fresh, which may be because it had too much dressing, so the flavor was more of the mass-produced and stored lobster salad. Don’t get me wrong… it wasn’t bad. It just did not compare to the prior two. The best thing that happened there was the couple at the table next to me had just driven down from Maine and had happened across a place called “Red’s” that Andrew Zimmern had featured. They said that the lobster roll there was unbelievable. Their cell phone photo revealed that it was located in Wiscasset, Maine… which was somewhat on the route up to Big Lake.
Lobster Roll Contender No. 4 – The Tavern, Nantucket
When I arrived on Nantucket Island from the ferry out of Hyannis I walked around the docks and saw a fun restaurant called “Cru” right on the water. Imagine my shock to see their menu listing… “Nantucket Lobster Roll – warm and buttered” listed at $ 38.00!!! Toto… something tells me I am not in Kansas anymore! After getting lost in the whimsy of Nantucket for most of the day, I didn’t have very much time before I had to catch the ferry back to Hyannis. My google search tells me that the “Straight Wharf Restaurant” has a highly rated lobster roll, but as I walked in they told me that they were not serving them today. Running out of time meant the next option was The Tavern right by the ferry dock. Their lobster roll was a solid, basic roll you would expect in size and in dressing. It was really good and a little on the small side, which meant I still had room for the French fries for the first time!
Alas, my time in Cape Cod, and therefore the Great Cape Lobster Roll Challenge, comes to an end. There were several towns and several highly rated lobster rolls that I missed. So what is a girl to do? Why close off Round 1 and do the next round on the next trip of course.
So, without further ado, here are my rankings for the lobster roll contenders.
#4- The Lobster Pot, Provincetown
#3- The Tavern, Nantucket
#2- The Black Cat, Hyannis
#1 -The big WINNER of Round 1 is the amazingly sweet and tasty Traditional Lobster Roll at the Skipper Chowder House in South Yarmouth!
If you love lobster I highly recommend a visit when you are on the Cape. It is a wonderful, casual restaurant with something for all ages right by the water in South Yarmouth. I have heard that the local owners are awesome and treat their team really well… which is probably one of the reasons the service is so awesome! Keep it up Skipper…. see you next time for Round 2!
They say that once you get Cape Cod sand in your shoes you will keep coming back… and in my case that is certainly true.
Since it is not on the Cape, but actually in Maine it did not qualify in our Great Cape Challenge, but I did manage to stop at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, Maine on my way up to Big Lake. Holy lobster roll! It was unbelievable! It is a road side shack that always has a line. There are some patio tables out back where you can sit to enjoy your feast. One lobster roll will set you back $ 27.95 plus tax. It. Was. Huge. They serve it with local Katy Maine drawn butter because of course you have to eat over half of the lobster meat before you can even think about picking up the roll. As I was dipping the lobster in butter I picked up not one, but TWO whole lobster tails. I believe this roll had about two lobsters worth of meat on it. I personally hate the work of picking a lobster, so usually I will eat the tail and call it a day. I was in lobster heaven. The best lobster I have ever tasted already picked for me!
So yes, Red’s Eats is simply the best and the biggest lobster roll I have ever experienced. If you are driving the coast of Maine it is worth the trip, and, for what it’s worth, the line at about 6 pm isn’t even that long!
Thanks for wandering with us!
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