Local Guide: 5 Best Lobster Rolls on Cape Ann
Lobstering is one of Massachusett’s most storied industries - and despite the ups and downs of the fishing industry in general, lobstermen keep a steady pace - bringing around 15 million pounds of lobsters to shore per year. Across the state, the lobster industry represents about $250 million per year of our economy.
There are still dozens of lobster boats across Cape Ann, hauling colorful traps day and night. The best part? These lobsters go right from the boats, to docks, to local restaurants. This means that the lobsters - boiled, baked, or in a roll - consumed on Cape Ann are fresh and full of local flavor, and your money supports the economy right here on the island.
One of the best uses of a lobster? The ubiquitous lobster roll. While the idea for the “lobster roll” originated on the Connecticut coast in the early 20th century and was originally served warm tossed with drawn butter, Mainers soon picked up on the idea, and they gained popularity in the 1970’s. Eventually, the New England-style lobster roll spread - a split-top hotdog bun, most times buttered and toasted, filled with claw, tail, and knuckle meat tossed with mayonnaise and sometimes extras like scallions or celery. It’s rare to have any spices added, other than a very small amount of salt or pepper.
There are dozens of places to get a lobster roll on Cape Ann, from pizza and sub shops to upscale restaurants to seafood shacks. Here’s a list of some of the best spots to grab a lobster roll.
Woodman’s, which claims to have invented the fried clam, is a true “eat in the rough” restaurant, with kids and dogs welcome. It’s a laid back atmosphere, although the restaurant attracts many tourists and sometimes the lines can be long as a result - but they move quickly, and they’re pros at getting food out correctly and accurately.
The restaurant has won countless awards, from Best of North Shore to Best of Boston and even World’s Best Fantastic Fast Food from the Travel Channel. With decades in their current location, Woodman’s is a family restaurant, which has hired more than 300 family members over the years.
With plenty of mayo and not overrun by fillers like celery, the Woodman’s lobster roll is traditional and simple - lobster and mayo piled high on a buttered, toasted hot dog bun, with fries. While clams are their specialty, their lobster rolls are tried and true - and beloved.
Woodman’s is located at 121 Main St in Essex, and is open 11AM - 10PM daily. For more information, visit their website.
2. Lobsta Land
One of the most visible Gloucester roadside attractions, passing Lobsta Land on Route 128 means you’re finally in Gloucester - either home, or for a visit. Lobsta Land has been owned by the Grammas family for decades, and the restaurant is known for giving back to the local community by donating their proceeds from specific meals to nonprofits such as SeniorCare, Gloucester Pride Stride, Gloucester Stage Company, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Fishermen Youth Soccer, Gloucester Little League and Wellspring House, among others.
Their menu is seafood-based, with unique offerings like their Lobsta Land Bouillabaisse, which marries haddock, shrimp, mussels, littleneck clams and lobster, simmered in a saffron and plum tomato-lobster broth with garlic, shallots, fresh herbs and caramelized fennel, and garnished with focaccia toast points. It’s a must-have, but that’s a story for another day.
Lobsta Land’s offers a traditional style, no-filler lobster roll. It’s packed with meat, lightly dressed with a small amount of mayo, no extras - and served on a toasted, buttered hot dog bun, alongside french fries and coleslaw. It’s so good that it’s won Boston Magazine’s Best Lobster Roll in their Best of Boston annual contest.
Lobsta Land is open seasonally from 7AM-9PM daily, and is located at 84 Causeway Street in Gloucester, right off exit 12 on 128 Southbound. For more information, visit their website.
3. Charlie's Place
We’ve written before about local favorite and underrated gem Charlie’s Place, located at 83 Bass Ave across from Stop and Shop in East Gloucester.
Charlie’s is primarily a breakfast and lunch establishment, but serves up plenty of fried seafood along with their sandwiches. Not only do they have massive, delicious clam rolls we’ve written about previously, but their lobster rolls are equally fantastic.
There’s no outside seating at Charlie’s, but it’s an adorable atmosphere - with muffins, desserts, and sandwiches galore. Their lobster roll is another that features the traditional style lobster meat, tossed with mayo, served in a hot buttered hot dog roll, with fries and a pickle. However, the prices at Charlies’ Place are always among the most reasonable on the island, so it won’t break the bank - and it’s perfect before or after the beach.
Charlies’ Place is located at 83 Bass Ave, Gloucester and is open from 7AM-7PM daily. For more information, check out their Facebook page.
4. The Lobster Pool
Up at the top of Cape Ann, just across the Rockport line from Lanesville, the Lobster Pool is a typical, no-frills seafood shack, with indoor and outdoor seating - and an incredible view. It’s self-service, with casual dress, and kids are welcome, as are dogs (leashed at the outside seating only). On weekends, weather permitting, they even have smores for kids! The Lobster Pool is BYOB, however, they request that you don’t bring any outside food to their restaurant.
Their location is perfect to watch the sun set - and Yankee Magazine even referred to it as “Best Lobster with a Sunset and Ocean View”. The restaurant changed hands four years ago, and are now owned by the same group of local entrepreneurs who own the Farm in Essex.
Their lobster rolls, currently priced at $19.99, come with a choice of fries, coleslaw, or chips, The roll is your typical buttered, toasted hot dog bun, and it’s overfilled with delicious lobster meat with a negligible amount of lettuce. It’s very light on the mayo, as is the coleslaw, so if you’re the type to avoid heavy mayonnaise, you’ll truly love this lobster roll.
The Lobster Pool is located at 329 Granite Street, Rockport, MA and is open Sunday-Thursday 11:30-8:30, and Fridays and Saturdays 11:30-9:30. For more information or to contact the restaurant, visit their website.
5. Blue Collar Lobster Co/Gloucester House
The Gloucester House, a family business which has been run by four generations of locals, is already a powerhouse in the local restaurant scene. Tourists and locals alike eat at their restaurant, bar, or book their function rooms for events. In 2015, the restaurant remodeled part of their wharf to add a more casual, eat-in-the-rough cafe-style secondary business, the Blue Collar Lobster Company. The $400,000 upgrade added much more outdoor seating, as well as a cooking station and bar.
Blue Collar Lobster is run somewhat like a fish market with its own restaurant - with the ability to purchase live lobsters to take home, or cook and eat onsite. The restaurant purchases the lobster directly from the boats on their wharf, and patrons get a great view of the working waterfront.
Their lobster rolls are chock full of meat, with just a small amount of mayo, tossed in a buttered roll. Like all restaurants, prices can vary depending on the season.
Blue Collar Lobster is located at 63 Rogers St, Gloucester and is open from 11AM-8PM daily. For more information, visit their Facebook page.