Dear Janice: The ultimate lobster roll can be found at Day's Crabmeat & Lobster in Yarmouth, Maine, just outside Freeport. This lobster roll can't be beat -- just large pieces of fresh lobster mixed with very little mayo in a New England bun. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
--Colleen, from Elma
Yes, it's probably true. I won't argue -- unless, that is, you count the LR at Bob's Lobster Shack in Kittery, Maine, right across from the mall, or Red's in Wiscasset, Maine, where they line up a dawn.
The thing is, we enjoy food for more than its taste. It gets all mixed in with nostalgia, love and ambience. That is why so many people revere Mom's Apple Pie and -- more to the point -- why I never will forget an afternoon about 20 years ago spent with my young family at a no-name lobster shack outside Bath, Maine, watching the crustaceans being pulled in, staring at blue water and pine trees, and being baked by the sun.
But let's get serious here and make an inland-style compromise. Can you find a good lobster roll in Western New York? It depends on what you're looking for.
If you crave the Classic, you might visit Hayes Seafoods, 8900 Main St., Clarence. Bob Jaus describes it as fresh Maine lobster from Kennebunkport, mixed with a bit of celery and white pepper.
The resulting salad is piled into a New England style bun -- cut vertically from the top rather than sidewise, and that's a pretty important distinction. It costs $16, including a side, and is available any time the place is open.
Casual Hayes is a market as well as a restaurant, so you know we're talking fresh.
You can also find variations on the theme. At Dug's Dive, 1111 Fuhrmann Blvd., the menu includes a Lobster Dawg, combining rock lobster, house-smoked bacon bits and fresh dill on a New England style roll. The price is $11 -- perhaps because it is rock rather than Maine lobster.
Or you can try the Bistro Europa, 484 Elmwood Ave. Here's how Christa Glennie Seychew describes it in an email: "The lobster roll includes a lot of claw meat, house-made pancetta and a split top roll baked by pastry chef Ellen."
Oh, but there's more, Christa: chipotle aioli, tomatoes and fresh greens, too. It costs $16 and is available at lunch most days -- unless, that is, they sell out of lobsters.
You can go even further afield from the classic -- and I do mean far. After I bemoaned the fact that rolls were not served at the Viking Lobster, 366 Tonawanda St., I discovered I was wrong. Here's Richard Leong, who works in the kitchen there from time to time:
"Janice, life can be complete! Viking Lobster Co. has lobster roll. Chunks of lobster, fresh bean sprouts, black mushrooms, bamboo shoots, scallions, sesame oil, five-spice powder, all rolled in egg noodle and deep-fried. Try it next time you're in."
Talk about fusion: The Viking Lobster Rolls are egg rolls really, and they are appetizers meant to accompany dinner. They cost $3.50; the sauce with them, ever so slightly hot, adds a new dimension. (Reservations are necessary at the Viking.)
One more thing: A classic lobster roll is so easy to prepare you can do it at home when local supermarkets have specials on live lobsters. Ask them to cook them for you and remove the meat from the shell. Take it home.
Then you can cut it up -- in big pieces, please; add a judicial dab of mayo -- your own or Hellmann's -- and pepper. (I would forgo celery). Pile it into a buttered, lightly toasted New England style roll -- Wegmans has them -- or a hot dog bun.
No, it's not Maine, but we can live with it.
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