Every Mainer has their favorite lobster roll.

Whether it be the place where they first enjoyed the delicacy – Pine Tree Frosty in Rangeley for me – or the one that keeps them up at night during the winter pining for summer – Becky’s Diner in Portland – Mainers have spirited debates about who serves the best.

According to lobsterman Nate Venno, who has been catching and selling lobster at Hiram Blake Camp since he was 5, freshness is the most important factor. “If you really want an experience, I would go to the most local place,” Venno said, urging travelers to avoid chains. “There’s only one of these, and that’s the place to go because chances are, they pick out their own meat [and] they put everything together by hand.”

With everywhere from Panera to roadside stands offering “fresh” lobster rolls, it can be difficult to find the perfect version to complete your Maine vacation. So to help you along, we talked to a lifetime lobsterman, a food writer and a travel agent to help narrow the list.

The lobster roll at Red’s Eats. The father of the current owner put it on the menu. Brianna Soukup/Press Herald

1. Red’s Eats

When I told my family I was writing an article about lobster rolls, I was continually harangued to include Red’s because “it’s not a real list of lobster rolls if it doesn’t include Red’s.” Off Route 1 in Wiscasset, this staple has been serving up overflowing lobster rolls for over half a century.

With more lobster than roll, Red’s piles on high-quality meat with no frills. Get your lobster roll served with a side of mayo or Kate’s Maine Butter. There are no gimmicks or reinventions, Red’s just offers quality seafood at fair prices. Al Gagnon bought the stand in 1977 and passed down the business to his four children who run it to this day, with almost all of his grandchildren having worked at Red’s at some point in their lives, according to the restaurant’s website.


“If you’re serving [up] a not-good lobster, people probably aren’t going to go there for that long,” said food writer Joe Ricchio, who works as a private chef and host “The Food Coma” podcast.

41 Water St., Wiscasset, Maine; redseatsmaine.com

A historic Portland Co. building was taken down and rebuilt as the Thames Street home of restaurant Twelve. Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald

2. Twelve

“My last meal, death-row lobster roll would be the one at Twelve,” Ricchio said. What makes Twelve so special, beyond their high-quality lobster, is the unusual substitution for the traditional roll.

“They do on this absolutely astoundingly delicious, buttery croissant,” Ricchio said.

Twelve is one of the few sit-down restaurants on this list, and the only one that offers a prix fixe menu. This $39 a la carte lobster roll, higher than what you’ll see at a roadside stand, is served warm with butter and in a piece of light, laminated bread.

“We were all in agreement pretty early on that we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel . . . we just wanted to make the most delicious version of it that was possible,” pastry chef Georgia Macon said in an email.


115 Thames St., Portland, Maine; twelvemaine.com

Abel’s Lobster in Bar Harbor opened in 2020. Photo courtesy of Bar Harbor Catering Co.

3. Abel’s Lobster

The lobster roll at Abel’s is served with chive mayo on a grilled brioche roll and offered at market price. Amanda Davis, a travel adviser and native Mainer, says it is “hands-down” her favorite around Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island.

“They’re right on Somes Sound and it’s a really great setup,” Davis said, highlighting the outside seating and cornhole set. Now a sister company to Bar Harbor Catering Company and Merchant & Frye, Abel’s reopened under new ownership in 2020.

13 Abels Lane, Mount Desert, Maine; abelslobstermdi.com

A High Roller lobster roll at Bug Light. Photo courtesy of Baxter Key

4. The Highroller Lobster Co.

At Highroller, your condiment choices go beyond same old butter vs. mayo debate. You get to pick from dressings such as lime mayo, lobster ghee and curried ketchup. You can also try a flight of three mini lobster rolls that you dress yourself.

“They use really high-quality rolls, and the lobster itself is always delicious and perfectly dressed,” Ricchio said.


The rolls come with 4 ounces of fresh Maine claw and knuckle meat, chopped romaine (another controversial topic: lettuce on lobster rolls) and the sauce of your choice. It has a sit-down restaurant but also a to-go counter if the wait is too long. You can grab a roll and head down to the Old Port to watch the ships.

104 Exchange St., Portland, Maine; highrollerlobster.com

SoPo Seafood’s lobster roll with caviar. Olivia McCormack/The Washington Post

5. SoPo Seafood

Named for its South Portland location, SoPo Seafood is first and foremost a fish market. You walk in and are greeted with fresh fish on ice and an impressive selection of caviar. The market has seating where you can enjoy made-to-order seafood dishes, including a lobster roll with caviar (for a $10 upcharge.)

“I think adding caviar to a lobster roll is absolutely delicious [but] for a lot of people, would seem kind of outlandish,” Ricchio said. “But it’s actually kind of perfect together . . . the brininess offsets the sweetness of the lobster.”

If you can’t make the trek to Maine, SoPo Seafood also ships, and you can purchase a Maine lobster roll kit. While the kit does not include caviar, you can order some a la carte to complete the deluxe experience.

171 Ocean St., South Portland, Maine; soposeafood.com

6. Bagaduce Lunch

Located in Brooksville, this quaint takeout counter with outdoor seating on the Bagaduce River provides a classic Maine lobster roll experience. Venno enjoys it because it has “nice fresh lobster, [the] right amount of mayonnaise, some nice cracked peppers, a bit of salt [and] a quality roll.” Venno also commends Bagaduce for buying whole lobsters and picking the meat in-house.

Check this spot out in May; it closed for the season Sept. 12.

145 Frank’s Flat, Penobscot, Maine; facebook.com/bagaduce/

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