There is only one national park in New England: Acadia National Park, my favorite place on earth. It’s my favorite not just because of the stunning natural beauty at every turn, but also because it is a hotbed of quality lobster rolls.
I’ve found that the farther North I go in Maine, the more likely it is that I can stop at any random place and be served a fantastic, fresh-picked lobster roll. Likely, the establishment is also owned by a lobsterman. Don’t try this in the Southern Maine beaches, and certainly not any farther South, where such blind choices can go very, very wrong.
The “Best of Acadia” list (mainly Mount Dessert Island, or MDI, where the majority of Acadia is located) was one of the more challenging lists to make. It ended up being longer than I planned, but I just couldn’t cut any more. Though you should hardly consider it an exhaustive list of lobster rolls worth trying in the area, these are my favorites:
Sawyer’s Lobster Pound
465 Seawall Road, Southwest Harbor, ME 04679; (207) 244-8021; sawyerslobsterpound.com
This is not only easily THE best lobster roll of Acadia, it is now among my top 5 of all time. I’m terrible at deciding on the actual order of my favorites, but suffice it to say, these are the life-changing lobster rolls I am always seeking. This little 50’s-style drive-in style spot on the far side of the island serves up freshly picked lobster (I mean freshly picked, as in, while I was actually waiting) on a fresh baked, buttery grilled, top split, hot dog style brioche bun with barely any mayo. They also happen to have a “lob-steer” (a baby cow with a lobster hat on) hanging out, grazing in the field, so there’s that.
Side Street Café
49 Rodick Street, Bar Harbor, ME 04609; (207) 801-2591; sidestreetbarharbor.com
This is not a lobster pound, it’s a restaurant. Good thing I’m no purist, because they happen to serve a lobster roll that rivals many dockside lobster pounds. They go to great lengths on the menu to explain the freshness of the lobster in their roll. This is not the usual frozen crap you will find at many places (yes, even in Bar Harbor). The lobster meat is tender and melt-in-your-mouth, served on a perfectly grilled bun. There is also a sprinkle of Old Bay involved: Very controversial I know, but I rather liked it.
Carrier’s Mainely Lobster
10 Maine 46, Bucksport, ME 04416; (207) 469-1011; Facebook
This spot is not technically on MDI, but it is on the way, and they serve an amazing lobster roll, so I’m including it. Carrier’s prides themselves on the freshness of their lobster roll, and even lists and thanks all the lobstermen who are out working hard to catch the delicious lobster. I respect that. I ordered the large size lobster roll full of tasty chunks of fresh meat…and I didn’t share.
Frenchboro Offshore Store
W Shore Road, Frenchboro, ME 04635; (207) 334-2943; offshorestoreandmore.com
We once took a lovely sightseeing/lunch cruise out to Frenchboro Island, eight miles off the coast. You have an hour to wander about on the pretty, quaint little island and get a lobster roll. This quirky little shop serves a very generous lobster roll full of uncut tail and claw, the only way to go! The cruise recommends you have the lobster roll at the “other” lobster roll spot on the island, but it’s much skimpier and just not as good. Frenchboro Offshore is well worth the walk.
2719 U.S. 1, Sullivan, ME 04664; (207) 422-9072; Facebook
If there is a better deal on lobster rolls, I have yet to find it. Delish, fresh-picked lobster roll for only $10, and with fries no less! Someone recently told me Tracey’s was running a two lobster rolls for $10 special, but that must be just crazy talk. I include Tracey’s in our “Best of Acadia” because it is on the way from the MDI portion of Acadia to the lesser known, but also picturesque Schoodic Point.
48 Granville Road, Bass Harbor, ME 04653; (207) 244-3656; mainelydelights.com
Seeing local lobstermen eating at a seafood restaurant certainly gives it pretty strong street cred. This shop picks fresh meat for their rolls several times throughout the day, and serves it with house-made potato chips. If all that wasn’t enough, you can enjoy your lobster roll on their deck with a gorgeous view overlooking Bass Harbor.
C.H. Rich’s Take Out
49 Shore Road, Bass Harbor, ME 04653; (207) 244-3485
Rich’s takeout business has only been in operation for two months, so this felt like a very lucky find. The wharf owners decided that since they were already selling lobsters and picking fresh lobster meat, why not start selling lobster rolls and set up some Adirondack chairs overlooking the harbor for added dining pleasure? I couldn’t agree more.
Abel’s Lobster Pound
13 Abel’s Lane, Mount Desert, Maine 04660; (207) 276-5827; abelslobsterpound.com
I can’t decide if this is a full-service restaurant or a lobster pound “shack” style dining experience. They incorporate the best of both worlds, outdoor lobster cooking and a fresh-picked lobster roll at a picnic table overlooking the only fjord in North America, but with wait service and a full bar. Don’t miss the Maine blueberry martini.
14 Sea Street, Northeast Harbor, ME 04662; (207) 276-3965; Facebook
The peaceful, little town of Northeast Harbor is home to one of the tastiest lobster rolls on the island. They have a cute, cozy, inside restaurant, but it lacks air conditioning. So, on a warm day, you may want to consider getting your lobster roll at the takeout window and walking down to the harbor to enjoy.
Islesford Dock Restaurant
Islesford Dock, Islesford, ME 04646; (207) 244-7494; islesforddock.com
This one probably should have been on my list of most elusive lobster rolls. You can only get this lobster roll at lunch, from Wednesday through Sunday, and you have to take a ferry. It is worth the effort. I’m not sure what they put on this lobster roll: It’s not mayo, and it’s not butter, but it is delightful, and the perfect complement to the tender lobster meat they get from the pound next door.