For many Maritimers, the lobster roll is a summertime rite of passage. While we almost all agree that it is one of the province’s iconic dishes and a must-have summertime treat, we can’t all agree where to get the best one, or even how it should be constructed.
Pam Wamback, a media relations specialist with Tourism Nova Scotia, is a lobster roll fanatic. Unsurprisingly she gets asked a lot of questions about lobster rolls. Wamback says “as simple as they are to make, the best lobster roll always comes down to two things: butter and mayonnaise. Classically, lobster rolls are really sandwiches that mount chunks of fresh lobster meat onto a buttered and griddled split-top hotdog bun. But just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. The key is to seek out and use the best, most tender meat possible and most will argue that meat comes from the lobster knuckle.”
The meat plays center stage, but there is so much more to it. Served cold tossed in mayonnaise? Or warm drenched with butter? According to Prince Edward Island-based Chef Ilona Daniel “it’s a loaded question like this that can lead to some heated debates in these parts, but at Dave’s Lobster you can have either or. Their Some Fancy roll is PEI lobster warmed in Island butter and lemon and the Local’s Roll is a chilled lobster roll tossed with chives, celery and just a touch of mayo. If having to pick just one style is too challenging (which is totally understandable), you can get the half and half. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?
How about the bun?
Most would concede that lobster rolls are traditionally served in hot dog buns, but Wamback says “no matter what you choose, a soft, squishy, and slightly sweet roll is ideal. I like a toasted bun exterior brushed with a bit of garlic butter. Keeping the inside soft and the outside golden and crusty makes for some nice textural contrast against the tender lobster”
Should other ingredients grace your lobster roll? Purists would argue there is no need for anything with the lobster, but others suggest adding the freshness of dill and chives, or the crunchiness iceberg lettuce and celery adds to the dish. Then, of course, there is also the Crobster roll crazy – the combination of lobster and crab meat – as made to perfection by the likes of Dartmouth’s The Canteen, but that’s another article.
I asked Pam, Tammy Brideau (Executive Director of Food & Beverage Atlantic and former Director of the Shediac Lobster Festival), Chef Ilona Daniel, and sommelier Lesley Quinn for their favorite places to enjoy a lobster roll.
10 Places for a Lobster Roll Feed This Summer
Dave’s Lobster Shack- Halifax, Nova Scotia, Cavendish and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
According to Wamback “they offer a traditional ‘local’ cold roll and a warmed ‘fancy’ roll… or even better, “The Half & Half Roll.” Half the roll was traditional cold lobster with celery and mayo (called the local); the other half was warm lobster with garlic and lemon (called the fancy).
Tom’s Lobster Shack- Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia
According to Wamback “the classic roll has heaps of lobster lightly tossed with mayo with just the right amount of celery, shallots, green onions and lettuce to provide a lovely flavour. All served in a toasted bun with a side of kettle chips.”
Osprey’s Nest Public House- Petite Riviere, Nova ScotiaWamback says of the 2022 Lobster Crawl Festival Lobster Roll Winner, “large lobster pieces served on a fresh made roll from Boulangerie La Vendéenne and well seasoned with a house-made lemon aioli sauce.”
Aubrey’s North Shore Lobster Rolls- Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia
Wamback says “A healthy amount of lobster lightly dressed, seasoned and tossed with a bit of celery on a warm buttered bun. Keep in mind you can only get this roll on Saturdays at the Farmers Market in Tatamagouche.”
The Rusty Anchor Restaurant- Pleasant Bay, Nova Scotia
Fresh Nova Scotia lobster layered on a bun and drizzled with melted butter.
The Roquette, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island According to Lesley Quinn “The Roquette Kitchen is a small spot on Queen Street in Charlottetown. It’s in the back of a record shop (Back Alley Music). They use lemon zest in the roll which I adore as it gives the roll a certain freshness.”
End Takeaway, Tracadie Beach, Prince Edward IslandOf Fin Takeaway’s lobster roll, Quinn says “it’s hard to say if the lobster roll is really great or if it is the view of Tracadie Beach that makes them so delicious.”
Richard’s Seafood, Covehead Wharf, Stanhope, Prince Edward IslandAccording to Ilona Daniel “Richard’s Wharf located at Covehead Wharf has one of the very best lobster rolls on the Island and they are enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. The roll is generously stuffed with chunks of lobster and a little bit of celery and chives. I love getting to enjoy eating those rolls while looking out at the water. It’s perfection!”
Lobster Shack, Souris, Prince Edward IslandAccording to Chef Daniels, “here you will find one of the iconic PEI lobster rolls that will have you wanting to go back for another one. The bun is butter toasted and the freshly shelled lobster meat is judiciously treated so that the inherent sweetness of the lobster is highlighted in all its crustacean glory.”
Bistro Le Moque Tortue, Shediac, New BrunswickFor those traveling to New Brunswick this summer, Tammy Brideau recommends stopping in at Shediac’s Bistro Le Moque-Torque for their lobster roll which features lobster, mayonnaise, lettuce, celery, and chives.
Lobster Roll with Browned Butter + Chives
Recipe from Canada’s Food Island: A Collection of Stories and Recipes from Prince Edward Island by Farmers and Fishers of Prince Edward Island. The book will be released this September but can be pre-ordered from most bookstores.
Half cup unsalted butter
4 lbs cooked lobster, shelled, chopped (keep claws intact)
Freshly ground black pepper
4 split top hot dog buns
Half cup shredded iceberg lettuce
2 tbsp finely chopped chives
Directions: In a small pot melt butter over medium high heat, and then let it cook and bubble until it starts to foam and smell like toasted nuts and caramel, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Brush each side of the buns with browned butter. Toast on a grill or frying pan until each side is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. In a large bowl toss together remaining browned butter and lobster, season with salt and pepper. Fill each bun with lettuce and lobster, top with a lobster claw and garnish with chives.