Is there any other dish that better denotes July and August in New England than the lobster roll? This signature summer sandwich doesn’t have to be fancy to taste awesome. In fact, when it comes to lobster rolls, less is always deliciously more. Freshness is essential—most city shacks are also fish markets that sell (as well as cook) recently caught fish and shellfish in addition to lobsters.
Fortunately, you don’t have to drive to Maine or Cape Cod to indulge. While Boston’s seafood shanties may not be as atmospheric as their coastal New England counterparts, there’s an unabashed, no-frills simplicity to city lobster shacks that is refreshingly free of artifice. Such establishments understand that the combination of crustacean and mayo on bread is heaven sent. Check out the following urban lobster shacks when you want to rock a roll.
Alive & Kicking Lobsters
Unexpectedly located in a blacktopped yard stacked with lobster traps in a residential Cambridge neighborhood, Alive & Kicking Lobsters' roll is more precisely a lobster sandwich ($16.95) of chunked lobster and a smidgen of mayonnaise layered between two slices of toasted scali bread. Order at the counter inside, and eat outdoors at one of a handful of aging picnic tables. A bag of chips is gratis.
269 Putnam Ave., Cambridge, Massachusetts. 617.876.0451.
James Hook & Co.
This 90-year-old seafood wholesaler and retailer offers a beautifully basic lobster and mayo blend on toasted hotdog buns in two sizes: regular ($16) or large ($19). The trailer-shaped retail shop (which replaced the original building destroyed in a seven-alarm fire in 2008) at the Atlantic Avenue side of the old Northern Avenue Bridge has a few tables indoors, but most guests dine at picnic tables under faded umbrellas in the parking lot across from the Greenway. A bag of chips costs $1.
15-17 Northern Ave., Boston, Massachusetts. 617.423.5501.
Choose between three styles of lobster rolls at this Seaport favorite: lobster meat mixed with mayonnaise ($19.99), lobster dredged in cornmeal and Old Bay Seasoning and deep-fried ($20.99), and warm lobster dressed in herb butter ($22.99)—all served on a grilled bun with chopped lettuce, fries and slaw on the side. The place is tiny, so the best seats are on the cute al fresco patio with its plastic lobsters and marine mural.
300 Northern Ave., Boston, Massachusetts. 617.345.9799.
Belle Isle Seafood
The famed Winthrop restaurant and fish market (Anthony Bourdain paid homage on the Travel Channel in 2011) serves both a lobster and mayo roll ($23.99) and a tail-only roll ($30.99) in sweet, grilled Portuguese bread buns with iceberg lettuce. Your choice of onion rings, fries, slaw or rice pilaf. A giant fiberglass buccaneer welcomes you into the utilitarian room (with adjoining harbor-side deck). Lobster-shaped pagers light up and vibrate when dinner is ready. Cash only.
1 South Main St., Winthrop, Massachusetts. 617.567.1619.