Two weekends ago my parents came to visit, and since we rarely get down to the seacoast (despite NH being a small state, the coast is ~2 hours from here), we decided that would be a good day trip, with some driving, seeing Strawbery Banke, and wandering around Portsmouth. Afterward, we wanted a late lunch, so we ended up heading down to New Castle to the Wentworth-by-the-sea resort so we could indulge in the classic New England summertime treat: the Lobster Roll.
Now, between the Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine coastlines, there are almost uncountably many shacks, stands, joints, diners, and restaurants that will serve up lobster rolls, throwing a mish-mash of shredded lobster (with maybe a token bit of claw meat), onion, celery, and mayo onto a hot dog bun and calling that a lobster roll… indeed, even McDonalds occasionally gets into this act (although it’s been a few years since I’ve spotted a McLobster). But there’s a difference between a good lobster roll and a great one, but even then, there are quite a few good choices in the Portsmouth Area (Red’s Eats and Beach Plum, in particular, have lobster rolls that are well-regarded by both tourists and locals).
But one place that I was told had an outstanding lobster roll was Latitudes Restaurant, the open-air casual dining area down the hill from the Wentworth-by-the-Sea resort. Nestled in between Wentworth’s pool and their little harbor, it’s a modestly sized deck with about 20 tables (and another 8 crammed inside). Despite the questionable weather (clouds loomed ominously the entire meal, and a few drops even sprinkled on us at one point), we opted for a nice table overlooking the boats.
My mom opted for the Ocean Breeze salad (tomato green salad with melon, berries, and chicken salad), which I’m rather disappointed I didn’t photograph, since the description doesn’t do it justice, it was an elaborately crafted and bountiful salad of fresh greens and a really nice chicken salad. I almost wished I had ordered it, but I opted for the lobster roll like Carol and my father.
I’m glad I did, since this was a stunningly good example of what a lobster roll should be. A very bountiful pile of lobster meat, not skimping on the claw meat, spilling out in a way making you certain that you aren’t finishing this sandwich without at least a little fork action. Unlike a lot of lobster rolls, this one was lightly mayonnaised, with no significant filler like onion or celery, allowing the whole sandwich to focus on the perfectly cooked lobster. Served up on a perfectly butters and toasted fluffy jumbo-sized roll with some arugula lettuce, this sandwich was really about lobster, lobster, and nothing but lobster, in abundance, with no evidence of skimping.
However, it didn’t end there. Most lobster rolls, especially those sold from little stands and shacks, typically come with some fries on the side, served up as an afterthought, often reeking of stale oil that’s also been used to fry up fish filets. That definitely wasn’t the case at Latitudes, both of the sides coming with my lobster roll were top notch, with both nice mustard potato salad and apple cole slaw, that, like the lobster roll itself, focused on their ingredients, were simple, and obvious handmade with care.
While this wasn’t a cheap lunch (at $19, I think it’s the most expensive lobster roll I’ve actually had), a typical good lobster roll will set you back $13 or $14 these days, and this was definitely several notches above most of those rolls, both in quality and quantity. I’d gladly pay $19 again for one of these rolls.