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May 25, 2012

Grazing: Lobster Roll Epiphany

Lobster_roll_2The awning of the Route 7 Liquor & Deli in Shelburne advertises, in red block letters, "PIZZA * SUBS* PASTA." It does not read, however, "LOBSTER ROLLS." Should it?

This was the question before me after my food-writing colleague, Alice Levitt, mentioned that this unassuming roadside stop has a lobster roll that some people swear by. I decided to check it out.

I've rarely met a shellfish I didn't like; however, lobster falls to the bottom of my list. Every Christmas, I watch my entire family fall silent as they crack open and devour bright-red, sloppy lobster tails served over plates of pasta, one of the seven fish courses we eat every year. Ambivalent about lobster, I usually stick to smelts and shrimp.

However, the idea of a transcendent lobster roll in landlocked Vermont? I could be down with that. And so in I wandered, studiously ignoring shelves of wine to locate a back counter that resembles a cross between a deli and a greasy spoon — despite the nearby case of fresh fish and the whoosh of water through the lobster tanks. I tried not to look over, lest I locked beady little eyes with a crustacean as I placed my order.

One lobster roll, please. À la carte.

It came in a styrofoam box, a vision in edible pastels: a singed, golden roll loaded up with orange chunks of lobster slathered in mayonnaise, with bits of pale-green iceberg lettuce peeking out from each side.

I'm seasoned enough to know that the flesh should be chunky rather than minced, and Route 7's version is chunky to the extreme. Each piece is so, so, tender, and slightly sweet, too; a few yielded a satisfying little snap as I ate. There was no tang, little salt, nothing briny about this sandwich — in fact, I don't even think there were spices in the dressing. Just a great volume of fresh lobster, some creamy mayonnaise, and a few crunchy pieces of lettuce. 

As fresh as the meat is, though, I suspect that the buttered bun — grilled on both sides to a golden brown — goes far in sealing this roll's reputation. It cushioned the lobster flesh with fatty, filling goodness and left my fingers greasy.

Is simplicity the hallmark of a great lobster roll? Possibly; I'll let others decide. I'll be having this again — and that's saying a lot.

Each week, Grazing highlights tasty, sometimes under-the-radar dishes and drinks that reflect the season. If you know of a local edible (or libation) worth making a fuss over, let me know: [email protected].

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