Every summer when we head into New England, we systematically work our way through the local seafood shacks. This tradition started four summers ago in Maine, where we happened to eat the best lobster roll of our lives at Marriner’s Restaurant in Camden.
Then the quest began. We couldn’t help ourselves. Every lobster roll thereafter has been compared to that exemplar. Many have been delicious, but none have measured up to the memory. At this point we don’t even know if we are being fair. Perhaps our nostalgia has gotten the best of us. Nevertheless, there are worse things than feeling compelled to sample lots of lobster rolls in New England, so I have a feeling the search will continue.
We tried the lobster rolls at three different seafood shacks in Cape Cod last week and all three were delicious. You can’t go wrong at any of these road food joints, but your own favorite will probably depend on personal preference in the age-old ‘perfect lobster roll debate’.
Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar, Eastham
This is the place that comes up again and again when you ask people for recommendations or read about this particular area of Cape Cod. It has a reputation for being the ‘go-to’ place for seafood and for good reason. You can get all of your staples here–clams, scallops, oysters, and lobster. You can also get the standard burger and fries fare for those in your party not keen on the bounty of the sea.
We ordered the hot lobster roll here and it was ridiculously good. There was so much lobster on the bun that I actually questioned (only for a moment) if I would be able to finish it. I liked the mix of claw and body meat, which gave it perfect texture for my taste. Overall, it was a rich and satisfying lobster roll.
There is an attached ice cream parlor and miniature golf course which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective. All food and activities are cash only. Oh, and it was a convenient 500 feet or so from where we were staying at the Atlantic Oaks campground.
The Friendly Fisherman, North Eastham
While the tourists flock to Arnold’s, it seems that the locals head to The Friendly Fisherman. This seafood shack was recommended to us by local relatives, and then we met a few year-round residents of the Cape while we were eating there. The lobster roll here is overflowing with claw meat and done in the traditional northern New England style, with mayo but none of the other add-ons (celery, etc.). It was another delicious experience that left us simultaneously stuffed…yet considering ordering more.
The restaurant is BYOB, and there is a liquor shop right next door. We loved the outdoor picnic tables, and the staff was very friendly. The best part? If you have children, you will love the small playground right next to the eating area. Let them play while you finally give in and decide to try the stuffed quahogs with that beer.
While we were hanging out in the Provincetown library, a kindly librarian told us where she would eat lunch in town. This happened to be Mojo’s, a seafood shack with picnic tables and seats that look straight out on a beach where it seems a lot of kite flying takes place. Here you will also find a wonderfully surly and simultaneously chatty couple swinging barbs behind the counter for added entertainment.
The lobster roll was excellent, but definitely had less meat on it than the other two we sampled. In all fairness, though, it was notably cheaper. The fish and chips and the fish sandwich were absolutely the scene stealers for all of the boys here, and Max and Theo shared with their father remarkably well.
I’m going to be honest and admit my favorite item on the menu. The homemade onion chips were perfect and abundant…I was able to pack up leftovers and heat them up later over the campfire. Yum. Yum. Yum.
We know we will be returning to Cape Cod soon, so tell us if there are any other lobster rolls we absolutely must sample. We are always up for a challenge!