For an idea that popped into my head the night before my road trip to Massachusetts this one worked out really well. I went on a delicious foodie tour of the Connecticut coastline to discover the best tasting hot lobster roll out there. And I found it! Now to be fair, I only visited three out of the five places I researched for this trip, late into the night before leaving. And there are dedicated foodie blogs specifically devoted to this subject that have narrowed down their choices to a number that is in the lower twenties. But still, this is my two cents on the subject and I’m happy to share the story and pictures from my adventure.
So the three places I visited were “Lobster Shack,” “Lobster Landing” and “Lobster Dock.” For those travelling along the i95 corridor from NYC area toward Boston, the exits are as follows: Lobster Shack is exit 53, Lobster Landing is exit 63 and Lobster Dock is exit 83. Pretty easy to remember if that’s all you need to know on your travels. I would even suggest that people hit up all three of them, especially if you find yourself fighting heavy summer or rush hour traffic… why not? It would be the tastiest detour you’d have ever taken!
On my trip, I had the luxury of leaving after rush hour traffic from New Jersey, of course once I cleared New York I hit a wall of unusual traffic (not my words, this was said by “Waze” as the phone app was giving me instructions to re-route via Merritt Parkway and that worked) in Connecticut. Thanks to the detour I made it to my first stop around 2:30pm. The weather was nice and cloudy with a threat of rain so I didn’t have to fight for a parking spot upon my arrival, and they didn’t run out of lobster either. So all was good!
First Stop: Lobster Shack in Branford, CT
The Lobster Shack location is quite conveniently located just a few miles/minutes travel time from the Interstate. Situated right on the water with a bunch of fishing boats in the marina.
Got a parking spot right by the “shack” which has obviously seen a makeover… the business of selling lobster must be good because everything looked shiny and new!
The menu. I made a foolish assumption in my planning post that these places fill up your order with fries and coleslaw to justify the price of the lobster roll. But I was wrong. For $16 you get just the lobster roll, no fries or coleslaw. Which is exactly what I was looking for. I knew I was going to be stopping at a few of these eateries and didn’t want to fill up too quickly. I’ve never heard anyone say: “Oh I’m so full on lobster,” never! Seeing the “Whaler” Lobster Roll on the menu was intriguing, but this being the first stop and the benchmark for my future stops I wanted to stick to the original.
It was really good. The roll came wrapped in tin foil, and I asked for a little extra melted butter and lemon on the side. All the while I was thinking to myself: “This is what rich people must feel like” when indulging on something you don’t get to eat every day. It was worth every penny… and I wolfed it down in probably no more than a minute. I was hungry, this was breakfast and I was craving for more.
I left the outdoor seating area overlooking the marina, punched in the next destination into my GPS and I was off!
Second Stop: Lobster Landing in Clinton, CT
I didn’t have to drive very long to reach Lobster Landing. Clinton, CT is only about twenty minutes from the first stop, and exactly ten exits away on the Interstate. Also very close from exit 63 on i95 and also located on the waterfront with plenty of fishing boats in the water behind the restaurant. This place looked far more authentic with a wooden floor that creaked under your every step. The old building with the sign in the picture is where you could purchase fresh seafood, while the restaurant part to place the order was to the left of the car in a separate area.
It was here that I overheard someone called Andrew from the Thrillist magazine/blog doing a story about best lobster rolls in New England. He was chatting with Mr. Bacci the owner and I offered to take a picture of them together, Andrew did the same for me:
Talk about being in the right place and at the right time. Mr. Bacci heard me and Andrew talking about blogging about lobster rolls and brought out some books to give to us, a guide to Lobster Shacks in New England. Completely and totally unexpected gesture of kindness that has never happened to me before. I was very appreciative and couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into the Lobster Landing version of the lobster roll.
My order came out shortly after I placed it. And I got to enjoy it right on the dock overlooking the boats next to their iconic building (dare I say shack?).
Thanks for the book Mr. Bacci!
Now that I could compare the two lobster rolls with my previous stop, I did enjoy this one more because of the way the lobster meet was on the bun. Instead of large chunks, including clearly identifiable pieces from the claw and the tail, the meat was chopped up and nicely lubricated so that each bite was consistent and delicious. You can obviously still spot all the different meat inside the bun, but none of the chunks fell out as I was wolfing it down, and there was a great mixture of butter and lemon for an outstanding taste.
At Lobster Landing you don’t pay until after you finish your meal, and as I was getting a bit thirsty I ordered an ice cream instead so I don’t fill up too much on water. I was still craving for more and didn’t want to ruin my appetite by drinking too much as I tend to do.
Third Stop: Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock in New London, CT
And without wasting any more valuable time I programmed my GPS for the final stop hoping I make it there before they run out of lobster. This was a legitimate concern of mine as after researching the “best” places to eat lobster rolls the comments kept coming up that it’s possible that a place may no longer have this crucial item on the menu after a certain time of the day due to it’s popularity.
The drive to New London, CT was a little while. I always play with patterns based on my observations, so since the previous two places were exit 53 and exit 63 respectively I thought what would be the odds that the next one is exit 73. It wasn’t… but it was pretty damn interesting. Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock is off of exit 83!
Its a bit of a drive through the city to get to the marina where this restaurant sits right along the rail road tracks, which was pretty neat when I noticed Amtrak’s Acela go by in both directions in a short span of time. I wonder if the NY to Boston commuters know what a gem they are seeing out of their windows?
The first thing I noticed about this place is the shiny new food truck parked outside… must be nice to be in the lobster business!
But the actual restaurant looked even more impressive. Of the three I visited this one was the most touristy on a commercial scale.
Pretty impressive menu, and with a big menu like that come choices:
For foodies like me, you have an option to sample a smaller lobster roll for $11.95 or go for the full size version for $16.95. Both come with a side of coleslaw. Did I go for the small version? Nope! Got the full size option and got a bowl of New England Clam Chowder to sample also.
Everything came out very quickly and I was munching away and enjoying the experience on the dock. Here the lemon is served as a slice and the bread looks different. The chunks of lobster are similar to the Lobster Shack on my first stop, the taste was also very similar. Of the lobster anyway, the bread did taste differently but the combination was delicious. The New England Clam Chowder on the other hand was quite watery and the pieces of clam swimming around very very small and few. I always use a local shop in NJ as my benchmark because they make the most amazing New England clam chowder (loaded with fresh clams the size of potatoe chunks) so this one was a bit generic. But it filled me right up and I was very happy with the whole foodie tour. In all I spent almost $70 bucks for this “lunch” but the experience will last a lifetime.
The most beautiful bit at Captain Scott’s was the dock area:
If someone were to organize a Miata meet with a “lobster roll” cruise through Connecticut I would be the first to sign up, it was such an Adventure! Someone even said I drive a Lobster Red Miata, I don’t know about that…
PS. if there’s any doubt about the freshness of the seafood, I went snooping around in the “fish store” area of some of the places I visited, and found some happy live lobsters swimming around:
Lobster Landing above and Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock below.