Be Prepared for Lobster Roll Sticker Shock

A $30 lobster roll isn't out of the question in 2021.

Lobster rolls have never been considered an inexpensive option, but in 2021 so far, the prices have been through the roof. And though costs may come down as the lobster harvest season picks up, if you plan on grabbing a lobster roll made with fresh meat this year, make sure to prepare yourself for a steep sticker price.

Red's Eats in Wiscasset, Maine, has been named on our lists of The Top Seafood Shacks in Maine, America's Best Road Trips, and The Best Classic Restaurants in Every State -- and can also be seen as a kind of lobster roll price barometer. The last week in May, a single lobster roll was selling for $34 according to Maine Public. This week, the New York Times has pegged the price at a mere $30. And yet, customers could consider themselves lucky forking over those prices: When Red's Eats opened in April, the legendary joint didn't even have lobster rolls on the menu. A slow start to the season meant frozen lobster was all that was available. "It's not who we are," co-owner Debbie Gagnon told the Times. "I would never, ever serve frozen lobster."

Lobster roll. Maine lobster mixed with mayo, celery, onions, garlic, scallions, chives, lemon juice. Lobster roll on toasted hotdog bun w/ lettuce, tomato, garlic mayo seasoned salt & pepper. Classic American restaurant or diner lunch sandwich favorite.
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Similarly, high pricing was found around the Northeast: The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport, Maine, charging $24.95 for a lobster roll, $6 more than last year; or the Lobster Landing in Clinton, Connecticut, tacking on 75 cents to its price to keep it just below 20 bucks at $19.75. "For me, I didn't want to go $22 and shock the people," co-owner Enea Bacci was quoted as saying.

Exacerbating the issue is that no one issue appears to be causing the spike: Instead, seemingly everything is a bit off. Beyond the harvest's slow start, the pandemic has driven up prices on seafood as quarantined home cooks experimented with foods like lobster, and now that restaurants are reopening, demand is increasing there as well. Plus, of course, all the things that make Maine lobster pricy to begin with haven't changed: independent fisherman and difficult processing.

Still, at least some in Maine have remained optimistic. "I know in a couple of weeks, I said [lobsters will] be coming out my nose, and I know it," Gary Blackman Sr. of Karen's Hideaway in Boothbay told Maine Public. "And then I'll be growling because there's too many."

And frankly, any lobster that's come out a man's nose will hopefully be sold at a discount.

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