Photos: Anna Knott
Not long ago, any self-respecting lobster lover would have had to drive way fah—we’re talking Massachusetts and back—to get even close to the true East Coast roll: A mix of fresh cold seafood, mayo, and spices set on a hot split-top bun slathered with more butter than a bag of movie theatre popcorn.
This summer, Chicago, save your gas money. The lobster invasion has begun.
We tested roll after roll to find some of the best selections in town, including a standout from Acadia that rises one claw above the rest.
ACADIA *The Best!
1639 S. Wabash Ave., 312-360-9500
$16 (dinner only)
Ryan McCaskey’s lobster rolls (shown above) are the most authentic in town. The bun he uses—a subtly sweet square-top East Coast roll—isn’t from around these parts. It’s smuggled into his kitchen by a friend who works at a grocery store in Maine.
When McCaskey takes that bun, loads it up with lobster meat mixed with housemade chive mayo, and sprinkles on just the right amount of paprika, like pixie dust, you end up with something special.
435 N. Clark St., 312-610-4200
You wouldn’t normally go trolling for lobster rolls in a barbecue joint that boasts a solid wall of whiskey bottles and something called Giddy Up Fries. But Doug Psaltis knows to apply his mayo to the side of the griddled rolls, not to the lobster meat itself, which is dressed in butter, lemon juice, and a vibrant dose of oregano, garlic salt, and “secret spices.” Texturally, it can’t be beat: warm bread, crunchy as Texas toast, set against the chill of high-quality lobster, cool as a breeze from the Northeast.
2956 N. Sheffield Ave., 773-687-8177
Michael Kornick has thought this one out. Disappointed that so many lobster rolls are dry in the V-shaped crevice in the bottom of the bun, he makes sure his kitchen applies extra butter and mayo in that little nook. Then Fish Bar finishes the lobster meat with extra virgin olive oil for even more moisture. When the celery salt and cayenne pepper in the mayo hit your palate, you’ve got a dynamic flavor combination—a Yankee sandwich with a Cajun soul.
GT FISH & OYSTER
531 N. Wells St., 312-929-3501
Giuseppe Tentori’s lobster rolls—sold at market price so they can be stuffed with meat from a one-pound lobster—aren’t your typical grab-and-go lobsta shack snack. They’re a sit-down affair, paired with Vidalia onion strings and seasonal pickled veggies. The New England rolls are pan-fried with enough care to make a delicate crêpe envious, but it’s the touch of Dijon mustard in the housemade mayo and a liberal use of dill that give GT’s rolls both nuance and depth.
SABLE KITCHEN & BAR
505 N. State St., 312-755-9704
$15 (for two mini sandwiches)
Freckled with freshly grated lemon zest and topped with dainty sprigs of microcelery, Heather Terhune’s miniature lobster rolls look like they were created for teatime in Kennebunkport, Maine. But we’re glad they’re close to home. By using only the smallest touch of mayo—“no bigger,” Terhune says, “than the top of a pencil eraser”—she’s created the lightest and most citrusy roll around, with big chunks of celery for just the right amount of bite.