Skip to main content

The great lobster roll battle pits Maine vs. Connecticut: Which is better?

New England makes a mean lobster roll. Which style is better, Maine or Connecticut?

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Anyone who’s spent time in coastal New England is undoubtedly aware of the region’s deep-seated love for cooking lobster. While most lobster fishing occurs in the far-northern state of Maine, chefs throughout the Northeast make use of this delicious crustacean, creating everything from lobster mac and cheese to classic Lobster Thermidor to the handheld wonder known as the lobster roll.

Primarily filled with the tender and flavorful meat of the lobster knuckle (with some claw and tail meat to round it out), a lobster roll typically comes in one of two styles: the Maine lobster roll and the Connecticut lobster roll. These New England inventions feature drastically different preparations, temperatures, and tastes. As a result, they each have passionate fans and equally passionate detractors. But in the Maine vs. Connecticut lobster roll battle, is there a clear winner?

To answer this question, we surveyed a group of pro chefs and came up with five lobster roll judging categories. To see how each version stacks up against the other, read on. And make sure to take a look at the best seafood delivery we’ve found online.

What’s the difference between the Maine lobster roll and the Connecticut lobster roll?

Deane Bayas/Pexels

The Maine lobster roll and the Connecticut lobster roll involve different temperatures and different condiments. The Maine lobster roll is served cold, with the lobster meat gently seasoned with salt and pepper and dressed in a light coating of mayonnaise, sometimes bolstered by the addition of finely chopped celery. The resulting lobster salad then gets packed into a grilled and buttered bun (preferably a top-sliced New England hotdog bun). The Connecticut lobster roll, on the other hand, includes hot lobster meat topped with warm butter.

On the topic of flavor

lobster roll close-up
Ma-no/Getty Images

When properly executed, both the Maine lobster roll and the Connecticut lobster roll do a beautiful job showcasing the flavor of the lobster itself. A perk to the Maine lobster roll comes from its cold service; “the chilled lobster meat doesn’t lose its natural salinity through the quick steaming,” explains chef Julian Garriga of Seawell Fish n’ Oyster in Miami Beach, Florida.

On the other hand, heat can work to the Connecticut lobster roll’s advantage. “If you want to inject a little bit of science in it, certainly when things are hotter you can taste their flavors better,” The Food Lab author J. Kenji López-Alt told The Boston Globe in a pro-Connecticut lobster roll argument.

While a well-made Maine lobster roll achieves a perfect balance with the rich mayo and the salty-sweet lobster meat, it’s also very easy to go overboard with condiments here, which results in a sandwich filling dominated by mayonnaise rather than a true showcase for the lobster. The Connecticut lobster roll, however, truly allows the lobster to take precedence, with the hot butter highlighting the natural flavor of the meat with no risk of elbowing its way to the forefront.

“I am gonna have to hold the mayo and go with the Connecticut lobster roll. The buttery, toasted New England roll stuffed with lots of warm, bright red, sweet lobster meat doused in butter [is] pure lobster bliss. I love the simplicity of the Connecticut roll and how the decadent flavor of the lobster meat and butter just makes everything taste better!” said executive chef Hannah Hopkins of Bésame Steamboat in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Advantage: Connecticut lobster roll

On the topic of variety

lobster roll
Foodcollection/Getty Images

As with any successful sandwich, a lobster roll benefits from textural contrast and a blend of harmonious flavors, all working together to create a perfect bite. In this regard, the “lobster salad” model of the Maine lobster roll tends to come out on top. “I like the contrasting textures and temperatures [of the Maine lobster roll]. You have the hot buttered and griddled split-top bun contrasted with the chilled lobster salad,” says executive chef Matt Hull of Zynodoa and formerly of BLU Point Seafood Co. in Staunton, Virginia.

Chef Ryan McCaskey of Michelin-starred Acadia in restaurant-heavy Chicago and Acadia House Provisions in Stonington, Maine agrees, adding that “the balance of the sweet lobster meat and creamy, tangy mayo is perfect on top of a buttered bun.”

Advantage: Maine lobster roll

On the topic of seasonality

connecticut lobster roll
Connecticut lobster roll Getty Images

Lobster rolls are frequently considered a summertime-only dish, but diners who can’t get enough of this seaside delicacy often find their cravings extending into other seasons. Therefore, there’s an undeniable demand for lobster rolls that can be enjoyed in cooler temperatures … and the warm Connecticut lobster roll is perfectly suited to this goal.

“In later spring and early summer, when the weather is cooler, I crave a Connecticut-style lobster roll. It’s slightly warm, buttery, and served on a warm bun that really allows you to taste the sweetness of the lobster,” executive chef Bill Telepan of Oceana in New York City explains. Executive chef Brian Dando of ArtBar in Cambridge, Massachusetts also prefers the Connecticut roll when the summer warmth subsides, telling The Manual that “in the colder months, I tend to lean toward the Connecticut style of warm lobster meat; there’s something so comforting about a toasty brioche roll, soaked in butter and topped with sweet decadent lobster.”

Advantage: Connecticut lobster roll

The refreshment factor

The Portland Head Light is a historic lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
Ken Lund/Flickr

The Connecticut lobster roll may feature more seasonal flexibility, but if you’re of the opinion that seafood is best suited to a crisp and clean repast, then you’ll likely enjoy the cool temperature and satisfying tang of the Maine lobster roll. “In the summer [especially], I long for the Maine style, which is cold and refreshing. It also reminds me of summer trips up to Maine and out east to Long Island, where I would always insist on having a few lobster salad rolls,” says Telepan.

Advantage: Maine lobster roll

Taking into account tradition

maine lobster roll
Maine lobster roll Rez Art/Getty Images

Contrary to popular belief, the lobster roll got its start in Connecticut. However, the Maine version quickly became a hit throughout New England and ultimately spread to other regions of the United States, and most lobster-roll eaters now consider the Maine-style roll the sandwich’s Platonic ideal. The cultural impact of the Maine lobster roll in the northeastern U.S. can’t be denied, and New Englanders like chef Brian Poe of  Parish Café and Tip Tap Room in Boston stand firmly behind this shoreline classic. “I feel confident that the state that has a lobster named after it (Maine Lobster), the state that has a gulf named after it (the Gulf of Maine) and the state that I know wears the Red Sox hat with unanimous pride is the state/style in which I would like my lobster roll to be consumed,” Poe tells The Manual.

Advantage: Maine lobster roll

Which is more expensive?

Lobster is expensive stuff, and that’s been the case for quite a while now. These days, lunch-goers could expect to shell out $40 for a single roll. Really, it’s a story of supply and demand, with the former losing out to the latter. Climate change and overfishing are not helping the lobster’s cause. And, because it’s been considered a delicacy for as long as we can recall, lobster tends to invite a higher price tag.

Interestingly, lobster used to be abundant and considered the food of the poor. Not so much today as it has taken on the reverence of caviar or fine wine. Another factor that contributes to the price is the fact that most lobster is wild-caught, meaning the crustacean is often not farm-raised en masse.

Advantage: All even


Stewman’s Lobster Pound (Alicia Dauksis/Shutterstock) Shutterstock

Both the Maine lobster roll and the Connecticut lobster roll make an indelible impression on New England cuisine. And, because they’re both exceptional sandwiches, selecting a “winner” really comes down to personal preferences. While this writer openly admits to having a bias toward the Connecticut lobster roll (I’m a Nutmeg State native, gimme a break!), according to the standards of this survey, the classic cold Maine lobster roll ekes out a narrow victory.

At the end of the day, a lobster roll made with impeccable ingredients will taste tremendous, regardless of its specific preparation style. As owner Paul Barker of Pauli’s in Boston very eloquently puts it: “[A good lobster roll] comes down to ingredients, preparation, and mood. Is there knuckle and claw meat, or mostly tail? Where is the lobster from? Is the bun butter-grilled brioche, or enriched white bread? If you go cold, is the mayonnaise version slathered in mayo, or simply lightly touched? There are so many variables, and as someone that has literally prepared both versions thousands of times, [I can say this]: if great ingredients are being used and it’s done right, the Maine lobster roll and the Connecticut lobster roll are both some of the best-tasting things you can have in-season.”

Want to stay on topic? Be sure to check in on the tinned fish craze and, if you need a lobster on the other side of the country, read about the California spiny lobster. Get the bread and butter ready.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
Wondering how to get rid of bloating? The best foods to beat belly bloat
From apples to rhubarb, here are a few of our favorite tasty bloating remedies
Man with bloated tummy.

No one likes to feel bloated. Not only may you feel a little self-conscious if you have a prominent, protruding, bloated belly, but bloating is also physically uncomfortable and can make you feel sluggish. Unfortunately, quite a few foods can cause bloating, and there are additional factors that can make you bloated, so feeling bloated after eating, drinking, or even exercising is rather common.

The good news is that there are certain foods that can reduce bloating to help you relieve the discomfort. Foods that help with bloating do not make you lose fat, but they can reduce inflammation in the gut and reduce fluid retention to help you get rid of any gas or water causing a belly pooch.

Read more
Is erythritol harmful? What a dietitian says recent data means for your keto diet
Erythritol is common in many keto foods — what does that mean for your health?

While sugar substitutes have been around for more than a century, they didn't really become mainstream here in the U.S. until around the mid-70s. According to Carolyn De La Pena, professor of American Studies at UC Davis and author of Empty Pleasures: The Story of Artificial Sweeteners from Saccharin to Splenda, between 1975 and 1984, Americans increased their consumption of artificial sweeteners by 150%. This timeline makes sense when you take into account that the late seventies coincided with the start of our crazed diet culture and the revolving door of fad diets.
One such diet that doesn't seem to be going anywhere, however, is the keto diet. Still hugely popular among Americans trying to shed a few pounds, keto focuses heavily on limited or no carbohydrates. Because sugar contains carbohydrates, followers of keto have turned to artificial sweeteners to satisfy those late-night cravings — sweeteners that, more often than not, contain erythritol. Erythritol, in particular, has become hugely popular because it's much better for baking than other sugar substitutes, has less of an artificial flavor, and will keep the eater in ketosis, which is key for losing weight on the keto diet.
A new study has made waves recently because its findings indicate there's a link between erythritol and higher rates of heart attack and stroke (though the study did note that only an association was found — not causation. So should you be worried?
We asked Dan LeMoine, board-certified holistic nutritionist, the award-winning author of Fear No Food and the clinical director at Phoenix-based Re:vitalize Nutrition, what he had to say about erythritol, including its benefits and potential health risks. "Artificial sweeteners are still sweeteners. While many are non-nutritive or zero-calorie, we tend to view them similarly as we do regular sweeteners or sugars — moderation is key. While many have amazing implications on weight loss — being low to no-calorie options and having little impact on blood sugar, some have their downside," he said.

Is there a cause for concern with sugar substitution?
While some of that sugar substitution has been good for waistlines and health issues that come from obesity, it seems to be causing more and more concern when it comes to other potential health issues. "For example," said LeMoine, "some research indicates the popular sweeteners stevia may have negative effects on the gut microbiome. And the recent study showing a correlation between the sugar alcohol, erythritol, and heart attack and stroke."

Read more
This empanadas recipe is actually the perfect ‘second meal’ for leftover pot roast
Make a big pot roast, then make these awesome empanadas

We love a good pot roast. The thing about a pot roast, though, is that there always seem to be a ton of leftovers. No matter the amount you made or how many guests you had around the table, there's extra. Perhaps that's one of the comforting things about pot roast - there's always more to share. But if we're honest, on the second or third day of leftovers, most of us are ready for something different. That's where this handy recipe comes in, and it's for another delicious food: empanadas.

All you need to transform your pot roast leftovers into something new and enticing is a little pie dough. By filling that pie dough with your leftovers, you're creating flakey, steamy, golden-brown little meat pies that will make just about everyone happy. Not only are they delicious, but they're perfect for any occasion. Serve them with rice and a salad for a beautifully savory dinner. Pile them on a platter with a creamy dipping sauce for the next football game, or bring them on a fall picnic with a bottle of your favorite Burgundy. Whatever the occasion, though, be sure to make enough because these are oddly addicting.

Read more