To many people, a lobster roll, with succulent, sweet lobster meat piled high on a toasted, buttered bun, is the essence of Maine summer.
But the price of a lobster roll is a complicated thing, as inflation and other pressures bear down on both lobstermen and eateries. Last summer, $34 lobster rolls made headlines in the New York Times. That number has crept up this year, with some locales pricing their rolls at $35, $40 or even more.
At those prices, the iconic lobster roll has become a splurge that not everyone is able to swing.
Still, lobster lovers should take heart. There are still plenty of places in Maine where you can enjoy a lobster dish and still have a little money left over for ice cream. Here’s a by-no-means comprehensive list to whet your appetite.
The Family Dog, 6 Mill St., Orono
Lobster roll: $16.99
For about 100 days most summers, The Family Dog puts lobster rolls on its menu to the delight of its customers, who gobble them up. The rolls feature 3 ounces of lobster meat adorned with mayonnaise, butter or avocado and bacon. The avocado and bacon version is far from traditional, but it is a fan favorite, according to Kaylee Perkins, the manager.
“A lot of people have been saying they’re really, really good. I know some people who have been down to Bar Harbor, and they say that ours are better,” she said of the lobster rolls. “We want to try to have a really high-quality product and keep it a low price, as low as we can for everyone.”
2 Feet Brewing Co., 80 Columbia St., Bangor
Maine Lobster Rangoon (Deconstructed): $14
Maine Lobster Pot Pie $8.50 or two for $16
For Nok-Noi Ricker of 2 Feet Brewing Co., it’s important to offer lobster on the menu, especially in the summertime. Her offerings, though, are a little different than the usual fare.
“Both the lobster dishes I offer are based on a family recipe,” she said. “I want to offer [customers] something that is Maine but also something that is 2 Feet.”
For the deconstructed lobster rangoon, she takes fresh lobster meat and mixes it with cream cheese, onion, carrot, garlic and cilantro, bakes it and serves it with pita chips and a sweet, slightly spicy dipping sauce. The pot pies are freshly made, puff pastry-wrapped lobster mixed with savory mayonnaise, cream cheese and other ingredients.
Governor’s, locations in Old Town, Bangor, Waterville, Ellsworth, Lewiston and Presque Isle
Lobster roll and fries: $21.99
Lobster roll by itself on Lobster Roll Day on Wednesday, June 29: around $10.
No list of more affordable lobster options in Maine would be complete without a shout-out to Governor’s, which offers bargain prices on lobster rolls for one day every year. This year, inflation has caused the statewide chain to raise its Lobster Roll Day prices from $7 to nearly $10.
Because of that price increase, Aaron Harburger, the general manager of the Governor’s in Old Town, expects to sell fewer than the 6,000 rolls that the restaurant has sold in the past. Still, he hopes to sell at least 4,000 lobster rolls during the one-day event.
“It’s crazy and a lot of fun. The first couple of years we did it, it was a challenge. We’ve kind of fine-tuned it now,” he said. “It’s our way of saying thank you to the people that support us all year.”
Erica’s Seafood, 505 Basin Point Road, Harpswell
Lobster roll: $25
Each lobster roll at Erica’s Seafood is made with the meat of an entire 1.25 pound lobster.
“There’s a lot — it’s pretty stuffed,” Andrea Hunter, the eatery’s co-owner, said.
She’s able to keep prices for lobster rolls a little lower because her family owns a commercial fishing wharf. They buy lobsters directly from the fishermen and cut out the middlemen, she said.
Lori’s Cafe, 504 Belfast-Augusta Road, Liberty
Lobster and haddock chowder with cornbread: $15
Lori Mayer of Lori’s Cafe does have a $35 lobster roll on her menu, which she makes with 5 ounces of meat and serves with fries. But the locals really love her lobster and haddock chowder, which she offers as a special every day she can get lobster. It’s rich, creamy and satisfying, and some days it’s hard for her to keep up with the demand..
“People want something with lobster in it, but they don’t want to pay $35,” she said.
Geddy’s, 19 Main St., Bar Harbor
Mini lobster bake: $22
When it comes to the state’s favorite crustacean, this Bar Harbor stalwart doesn’t mess around. Among its options are a $35 lobster roll and a $48 lobster bake, complete with clam chowder, a steamed lobster, fresh corn on the cob and a slice of blueberry pie.
But for those whose appetites, or wallets, may be a little smaller, Geddy’s also has a mini lobster bake for $22, with a mini fresh-picked lobster roll, a cup of clam chowder and a blueberry cream cheese tart. You’ll feel like you have experienced the best of Maine flavors but at a price that has no room for regrets.