the Maine Lobster Roll story

A hundred years ago, nobody had even heard of a lobster roll — not even in Maine. According to Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, the phrase first appeared in print in The New York Times in 1937.

For most of the 20th century, a smattering of New England restaurateurs hawked the dish in relative obscurity. Then, at the tail end of the ’90s, a tiny restaurant in Manhattan, Pearl Oyster Bar, transformed the once-humble lobster roll into an object of culinary obsession — and a fleet of eager chefs, hyper-productive Maine fishermen, and savvy New York editors took over from there. By 2006, Bon Appétit had dubbed the lobster roll the dish of the year. It graced the cover of Gourmet in 2009. A 2010 New York magazine feature proclaimed its utter conquest of NYC, even as the lobster roll popped up on menus coast to coast, arguably usurping the classic shore dinner as Maine’s quintessential dish.

Today, perhaps a century after its debut, young chefs and entrepreneurs are pushing the lobster roll’s geographic and conceptual horizons. Put on your bib and enjoy the anything-but-simple story of a perfectly simple Maine treat.