A true lobster shack is a seafood lover’s mecca. And by “true” we mean the establishments you’ll find concentrated along the New England coastline, as far south as New Jersey. Head any further south and you’ll find that lobster has been replaced by crab, which is a whole other story.
By definition, a lobster shack typically refers to an unimposing establishment — or even a food truck — that serves a variety of quality fresh seafood in an informal atmosphere. The “lobster” part of the equation invariably refers to one of their main attractions, lobster rolls, of which there are two basic variations: “New England,” cold lobster salad in a bun; and “Connecticut,” a split hot-dog bun stuffed with warm lobster and melted butter.
Any list of faves is bound to be subjective — and your personal go-tos may differ. However, if you’re new to the experience, the lobster shacks listed below are a great introduction. Please note, however, that many of these establishments are seasonal. Check the links for more detailed information.
The Clam Shack
Since 1968, this Kennebunkport institution has served boiled lobster dinners and lobster rolls on freshly baked buns from a local bakery. It’s an outdoor setting, right next to the bridge, and the view of the Kennebunk River is amazing. Plus, there’s a lemonade stand just steps away.
Five Islands Lobster Co. - Perched right on an active fishing wharf, the lobsters arrive here fresh from traps sitting at the bottom of Sheepscot Bay. In addition to lobster rolls, it’s known for its whole lobsters boiled in sea water, as well as delicious, deep-fried clams.
Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar
An eclectic mash-up of lobster shack, ice cream stand
, and miniature golf course, Arnold’s is famous for its steamed lobsters, shore dinners and — above all — its New England-style lobster rolls. Not to be overlooked, though, is its incredible raw bar if you’re up for clams or oysters on the half shell.
Brown’s Lobster Pound
A New England fave since 1950, Brown’s is an excellent choice if you prefer dining indoors. Choose your own lobster from one of the saltwater tanks and have it prepared any way you like. If the weather is nice, there’s also an order window with deep-fried seafood, chowders and New England-style lobster rolls you can enjoy at a nearby picnic table.
This no-nonsense establishment on Long Island Sound features outdoor dining on a wooden deck and has just three items on the menu: sausage grinders, hot dogs
, and lobster rolls. Of course, we’re talking Connecticut-style lobster rolls here and the Landing’s variation comes on a grinder roll and adds a dash of lemon.
Slightly more formal than most of the shacks listed, this full-service restaurant has plenty of indoor tables with a splendid view of Gailee Harbor, home to Rhode Island’s largest commercial fishing fleet. In addition to its stuffed-to-the-max, New England-style lobster rolls, its fish fry has been voted the best in the state.
Red Hook Lobster Pound
As you head south, lobster shacks tend to transform into more traditional restaurants and the line between New England and Connecticut-style lobster rolls gets more blurred. At this popular Brooklyn venue, find both variations — as well as a “Tuscan-style” roll, and even a BLT version.
Whether you’re up for dockside or indoor dining, this New Jersey landmark (established in 1917) has something to suit just about every seafood aficionado. Its “Jersey” lobster roll adds ingredients like arugula, tomatoes and celery to the mix, all served up on a toasted brioche bun.
Looking for other unique dining experiences? Or ways to settle into your new digs? Be sure to check out our blog for tips and tricks to help you feel at home.