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.
1. Bay Burger
Bay Burger may be known for their thick, hand-ground patties, and their locally famous Joe & Liza’s ice cream but I come—and stay—for the lobster roll. This is a truly traditional roll, with lobster meat (largely claw, served in large, toothsome chunks) mixed with celery and mayonnaise for good measure. The bun is a hot dog bun, top-split, grilled with just a little butter. There’s nothing fussy about this roll—no paprika for decorative purposes, for instance—and that’s just the way I like it. Authentic, tasty, full of actual lobster meat, and wallet-friendly enough, at $23.
Bay Burger, 1742 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, Sag Harbor. (631) 899-3915. Open daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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.