I was raised in New England, so I’m persnickety when it comes to my lobster rolls. I prefer the traditional Maine style (mayo over butter), served in a still-warm, char-marked hot dog bun. Read on for my take on the best rolls the East End has to offer.
Tucked away on a Sag Harbor side street is the unassuming, local-obsessed Harbor Market & Kitchen. You can find some of the Hamptons’ best pizza here, as well as outrageously good sandwiches and prepared goods (cauliflower salad for the win), not to mention a dazzling array of drinks, sweets, and cooking accouterment. But seriously—that lobster roll? For $19.95, you have my attention. The roll is an unadorned masterpiece, and I say that as someone who really prefers a little crunch with her crustacean. No matter. Harbor’s lobster meat is so sweet—poached in butter first, natch—that it hardly needs anything at all. Sufficient is the charred bun (top-split, of course) and the swath of mayonnaise, just enough to catch those thick, sweet pieces of meat.
Harbor Market & Kitchen, 184 Division Street, Sag Harbor. (631) 725-4433. Open daily, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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Colin Mather’s Wainscott outpost, The Seafood Shop, provides the most bang for the lobstery buck. For $15, the crustacean-crazed can be treated to an overstuffed top-split bun, with a lot of really fresh, really sweet lobster meat. Meat is largely from the claw and is dressed traditionally, with a little mayonnaise and chopped celery. The bun comes without the grill marks I prefer, but, given the price, I can forgive the impasse. One thing you can be guaranteed with a visit to Mather’s iconic market is that fish will be fresh, local, and really tasty. You can eat your roll on a seat outside, or take it to go. As for me, I didn’t make it out of the parking lot, which probably tells you all you need to know.
The Seafood Shop, 356 Montauk Highway, Wainscott. (631) 537-0633. Open daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Bostwick’s weighs in as one of the Fork’s most expensive lobster rolls ($28), and for good reason. The classic lobster roll (they also offer a Connecticut-style, made with drawn butter) comes in a soft, warm potato bun that can barely contain its contents. Meat is nice and chunky and celery offers a welcome crunch. Despite my belief that lobster rolls should only ever be eaten with one’s hands, I’ll demure on this one: Bostwick’s roll requires an extra fork for the spillage. Is too much lobster ever a bad thing?
Bostwick’s Chowder House, 277 Pantigo Road, East Hampton. (631) 324-1111. Open daily, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
First of all, some may disagree, but I believe there is no more beautiful place to eat lunch on Long Island than at Montauk’s Inlet Seafood Restaurant. Perched over Gin Beach, at the edge of the man-made inlet that allows fishing boats in and out of the Harbor, Inlet’s lofted, light dining room enjoys panoramic views of the water, a view that’s stunning by day and breathtaking by twilight. And of that lobster roll? Maybe the lobster filling itself is not my favorite in the Hamptons—meat is chopped a little too fine for my taste, though the balance of mayonnaise and celery is excellent—but the bun is magic. A tall, thick bun made of brioche is buttery in the way that really good cookies are buttery. One can feel the cholesterol, and not in a bad way. Sadly, the price of this roll has risen with the price of lobster (it used to be one of the Island’s more affordable rolls, at $19; today, it’s $26), but I’m happy to throw down a few extra bucks for the view and, of course, for that incomparable brioche.
The Inlet Seafood Restaurant, 541 East Lake Drive, Montauk. (631) 668-4272. Open daily in season, 12 to 8 p.m.