Event Wrap Up: Tasting Table Rocks with Lobster Roll Rumble

by Deanna Dong
June 2012

Lobster Roll Rumble Contenders

B&G Oysters (Boston, MA)

BLT Fish (New York, NY)

Ditch Plains (New York, NY)

Freddy’s Lobster + Clams (Bethesda, MD)

Island Creek Oyster Bar (Boston, MA)

JCT Kitchen & Bar (Atlanta, GA)

Little Neck (Brooklyn, NY)

Lobster Joint (Brooklyn NY)

Lots O’ Lobstah (New York, NY)

Luke’s Lobster (New York, NY)

Lure (New York, NY)

Mary’s Fish Camp (New York, NY)

Red Hook Lobster Pound (Brooklyn, NY)

Smack Shack (Minneapolis, MN)

Thames Street Oyster House (Baltimore, MD)

The Clam Shack (Kennebunkport, ME) - TT Fan Favorite

The Hungry Cat (Hollywood, CA)

The John Dory Oyster Bar (New York, NY) - Editors' Choice

The Mermaid Inn (New York, NY)

Waterbar (San Francisco, CA)

If there’s something as wondrous as death by lobster, then many were on the brink of fatal seafood overdose last Thursday at Tasting Table’s Lobster Roll Rumble. The event showcased 20 sandwiches: simple rolls dressed in lemon and butter, festive rolls spiced with pico de gallo, and gluttonous rolls sprinkled with bacon. Of the contenders, 11 were from New York. The rest hailed from seacoast to shining seacoast, lugging bags of bread and tubs of butter from California, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, and even landlocked Minnesota. Despite the vastness of their geographic origins, everyone was gathered at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan for a single purpose: to celebrate the tender sweetness of the crimson crustacean.

As seafood lovers wandered through the Pavilion with crisp beers and refreshing Paloma cocktails in hand, chatty chefs greeted them with their proud creations. And while the name of the game was simply lobster on a roll, variations were plentiful. Lobster meat came warm, chilled, simply steamed, and heavily creamed. Most contenders delivered a classic buttered split-top bun, but The Smack Shack delighted some and shocked others (as much as one can be shocked at a seafood soiree) by forsaking the bun entirely, sandwiching their shellfish between slices of griddled milk bread (oh, the horror!).

Hometown heroes at Luke's Lobsters were slinging their no fuss sandwich. Call us old fashioned, but sometimes chilled Maine lobster, lemon butter, and a dab of mayo is all it really takes. The John Dory Oyster Bar disagreed with the "simpler is better" mantra; their warmed lobster meat was all dolled up with lobster-roe butter, celery-seed mayo, dill, celery, red onion, and white wine vinegar. Busier than your classic roll, sure, but after a few bites, it could turn almost anyone into a believer of lobster accessorizing (others agreed; they walked away with the title “Editors’ Choice”).

The real belle of the rumble was The Clam Shack from Kennebunkport, Maine. Maybe it's proximity to the harbor or there’s just something in the coastal Atlantic winds, but they just seemed to get it just right: morning-caught shellfish dressed in the little-black-dress of lobster roll couture (lemon, mayo, and butter) was fresh, sweet, tangy, rich, and balanced. And fellow lobster lovers agreed, voting with wristbands equipped with tap-and-go technology to crown them the “TT Fan Favorite.”

All in all, the Rumble was as classy as a Kennedy clambake. Lines were short, drinks were plenty (thanks to sponsors Stella Artois and Don Julio Tequila), and music was awesomely 80s. And whenever you needed a break between bites, there were the roving grown men dressed in full-body lobster costumes to remind us why we were all there.