Despite the fact that I’ve crossed the Napeague Stretch more than eight million times since moving to Montauk, I had never actually set foot in the Lobster Roll until last Saturday, when fellow waitress extraordinaire Jessie Lavin and I made it our business to sample the fare. Established in 1965, the place is so absurdly iconic that if you live here you might miss it – how many people who live in New York City actually visit the Statue of Liberty?
There is a solid contingent of people who refer to the Lobster Roll as “Lunch,” due to the imposing sign that dominates the restaurant’s rooftop vista. I’ve only met a handful of these people in real life, but when I do, they insist that “everybody calls it Lunch.” I beg to differ, but whatever. Lunch is what we had.
The Lobster Roll has a few new things this year – they’re running happy hour specials at an outdoor counter appropriately dubbed “the sunset boardwalk,” and let me be the first to tell you that their frozen mojitos are spot-on delicious.
They have also debuted a completely gluten free menu, so if you’re into that sort of thing this is the place to go. I guess you could say there’s something for everyone.
On to the food. We started off with clams on the half shell, mussels “steamed in their own bag,” and puffers – delectable little tidbits of tempura-battered blowfish – a perennial favorite and house specialty.
The mussels appeared to be local – not the big Prince Edward Island guys that Jessie and I are used to – and the mesh bag added an authentic touch. The sauce was super buttery, which could be good or bad, depending on your position on butter.
Clams on the half shell were not served over ice, which was kind of a letdown, but they were properly shucked and tasty.
Of course we had lobsters for lunch – I opted for a relatively new menu item, the hot lobster roll – which is essentially an easy way for lazy people like myself to eat steamed lobster. It’s served with a hot dog bun (duh) and a mess of lemons and drawn butter. Jessie went the hard way with a 1 1/4 pounder.
According to owner Andrea Terry, the cole slaw is homemade, as are the desserts. Had I a bit more foresight, I might have skipped the appetizers altogether because the desserts were seriously, orgasmically good. Right now you need to stop what you’re doing and picture me sitting in bed enjoying a post coital cigarette with one of Andrea’s strawberry rhubarb pies. Did I mention they do takeout? Ohmygod those pies are good.
OK, now that you’ve got that picture in your head, enough about the food already. There are two other things about the Lobster Roll which set it apart from the crowd, which I suspect are the major reasons it has survived with such vigor for so many decades.
One is the service. Jessie and I are serious career waitresses and we pay attention to this sort of stuff. This place runs – or cranks, rather, at about 1,300 covers a day – like a well-oiled machine. It’s crawling with task-focused employees, including bussers manned with headsets and get this, plastic gloves. Andrea has more than a few crew members who have been there for ages, including our server Joanna, who is back for her sixth season. That speaks volumes.
The second is the ambiance. There is this awesome retro vibe – the red, white and blue tables, flower boxes, and great selection of 1960’s tunes – we’re talking b-sides from Cher’s Dark Lady and pre-“Maggie’s Farm” Dylan – that makes you feel you’ve been sucked into a really cozy time warp. With screening from the highway and big puffy clouds rolling across the Napeague sky, it’s a little slice of heaven, circa 1969.
According to the menu, everyone from Christie Brinkley to Richard Nixon has endorsed the Lobster Roll. It’s a spot definitely worth checking out.
The Lobster Roll, 1980 Montauk Highway, Amagansett. Call 631-267-3740 or visit www.lobsterroll.com.
You can sample some of the best that The Lobster Roll has to offer at Dan’s Taste of Two Forks on July 14. Click here to get your tickets now.