The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Sort Of Budget-Priced Lobster Rolls from Luke's Lobster

Each of the three lobster roll-eating experience I've had in my life has been memorable for different reasons. First was my dinner at Pearl Oyster Bar over three years ago with Kathy. Our newly lobster roll-enriched palates were ready to bow down and offer sacrificial goats to the perfectly buttered and toasted squishy buns overflowing with mounds of fresh mayo-bound lobster chunks. It was damn good. Even on our college student budgets, we thought it was worth the $22 price a very occasional treat. So occasional that we have yet to go back, thus preserving that experience as "one of the best sandwiches we would ever ingest."

Second was at Mary's Fish Camp, again with Kathy, but that's where the similarities end. Instead of a heavenly buttered bun laden with lobster chunks blessed by the sea, we got an anemic roll lacking in butter, and lobster chunks missing whatever magical flavor was present at Pearl Oyster Bar. Even the shoestring fries were disappointing, which is quite a feat considering that fried carbs with a high ratio of crispy surface area-to-innards are almost guaranteed to be delicious. Except at Mary's Fish Camp.

Luke's Lobster
Luke's Lobster.

Third was last week at Luke's Lobster, a three-week-old counter-service seafood joint in the East Village featuring seafood from Maine, which, of course, includes lobster rolls. The tiny space paired with a line out the door meant there were no seats left for me, Christine, and her boyfriend Adam, so we got our dinner to go and carried it down the block to Tompkin's Square Park.

And that's why the soundtrack to our cold, tree-obscured-moonlit dinner was the rustling of scurrying rats and the mostly incomprehensible conversations of the homeless men around the chess tables we repurposed as a dining area. Not that I'd say either factor negatively affected our dinner—it was just a memorably atypical environment. "Remember that time we sat near that trashcan and all those rats popped out? And then we ate lobster rolls? Yeaaaah."

lobster roll
Lobster Roll.

A "large" (but quite dainty, which makes me wonder what the small looks like) lobster roll will set you back $14. For two dollars more I went with the lobster schooner, aka "combo meal," consisting of a lobster roll, a bag of Miss Vickie's Chips, a pickle, and a Maine Root drink. The supplementary fried potato matter and gassy drink made for a stomach-filling meal that the lobster roll alone wouldn't have fulfilled.

This lobster roll was quite different the ones I had from Pearl Oyster Bar and Mary's Fish Camp, the biggest difference being the lack of mayo as a binding agent; instead, the bun only contained large, tender lobster chunks sprinkled with a blend of celery salt, thyme, oregano, and black pepper (thanks for the info, Village Voice). As much as I love mayo, I didn't miss it too much here. The nicely toasted and buttered bun was great. Although far from mindblowing, it was a simple, tasty sandwich that just about satisfied my lobster roll curiosity. I wouldn't recommend eating it outside in the cold though considering that the sandwich is devoid of heat.

Was the sandwich's tastiness worth $14? Um. Well. There's a reason I've only eaten three lobster rolls in my life: They're freakin' expensive. I could stuff myself silly for $14 at so many other restaurants that I can't justify eating a kiddie-sized $14 lobster roll again. But in range of lobster roll prices in New York City, $14 isn't bad. I called Pearl's and Mary's to get their latest lobster roll prices: $27 and $30 respectively. Are those sandwiches (and fries) $13 and $16 more delicious? Mary's is definitely not. Pearl's might be. But I'm not a big enough fan of lobster to go back anytime soon to find out.

Empress crab claws
Crab claws.

We also shared an order of Empress crab claws, four for $5. You may not be able to tell from the photo, but they're super tiny. We thought they would've benefited from some sort of seasoning.

I can't say I see myself going back to Luke Lobster—I'm just not into lobster enough to want to pay for it, except for the sake of the occasional lobster roll tasting. But if you do like lobster and you're in the East Village, you may as well give it a shot.


Luke's Lobster
93 E 7th St
New York, NY 10009


Donny / October 22, 2009 1:02 AM

ohh thats too bad, was hoping to go try it. guess i'll stick with the lobster roll from the Lobster Pound at the BK Flea. i'm planning to go this sunday! you wanna hit it up?

roboppy / October 22, 2009 9:12 AM

Donny: I'm going home this weekend! But that reminds me, I ought to try that lobster roll sometime...

Olivia: Well, that is how I feel. It wasn't bad; it wasn't omg-awesome. I'm not that into lobster so I don't think I'm qualified to heartily recommend or not recommend it.

Greg / October 22, 2009 10:06 AM

I went at 8:15pm on a week night a little while back. They had run out of lobster. Seems like if your restaurant's name is "Luke's Lobster" you'd know what ingredients you'll need a lot of.

Danny / October 22, 2009 10:18 AM

yeaa.... lobster rolls are too small. The 2oz version at Luke's is about the same size as a 50mm lens... if that gives you an idea. It's really really really small.

roboppy / October 22, 2009 10:34 AM

Greg: Hey, maybe we can have a lobster roll making party at CHEZ GREG. And not run out of ingredients.

Danny: Oh man, just read your post...that is one tiny nub. Comically so. :( It feels hard to justify paying that much for a lobster nub, but as you said, it's up to you whether its worth paying for or not.

JO / October 22, 2009 11:13 AM

Lobsters are so cheap now too. I think these high prices are grandfathered in. Have you ever heard of a restaurant Lowering their regular prices? cmon, lobster bars...

iamnotachef / October 22, 2009 11:30 AM


The price of lobster has plummeted, so these prices are even more detached from reality than usual. My suggestion is to wait for a sale on lobster at Fairway, buy a couple of big ones, and make your own lobster rolls. It is easy, and if you feel like making fresh mayonnaise (it's easy...don't be intimidated) you will be able to create a fantastic lobster roll experience for about $5/roll.

Lobster Rolls

Phyllis / October 22, 2009 1:56 PM

Hi Robyn, I just put this on my list of places to try, glad I read your review first. I've never tried a lobster roll for the same reason - too cheap. But I read an article recently about how pound for pound, hot dogs have now surpassed the price of lobster!

roboppy / October 22, 2009 5:07 PM

JO: The price at Mary's actually went down since I went!...uh, from $33 to $30. STILL FAIL.

iamnotachef: I would like to make lobster rolls sometime! Shall put that on my to do list. :)

Phyllis: Oo, if you go to one place I'd suggest trying Pearl Oyster Bar. They have the plus of...seating. Among other things!

anna / October 23, 2009 9:01 PM

Haha, regarding the lobster roll suggestion, that is what I always tell people when they find out I am from Maine and inevitably ask where the best lobster rolls are (every single eatery will say theirs is the best and every single one is lying). My boyfriend, who catches the lobsters (but I like to say he fights the lobstery scourge), told me this.

reese / October 30, 2009 8:49 AM

Robyn, maybe it is time for you to come check out Boston and have your fill of lobster roll. That puny looking lobster roll is a far cry from the real deal. Although I must say, lobster is not my thing. Fried clams, on the other hand ........

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