Lobster Rolls: the Next Big Trend in Fast Casual Dining
The American lobster industry has come a long way since early settlers began to fish and harvest them commercially. From the original colonial lobster boats called "smacks," to a sprawling, modern-day industry that nets more than $1.5 billion in yearly revenue, the face of New England's lobster trade has changed dramatically.
Lobster rolls—both the Maine and Connecticut versions—are a hallmark of the New England shoreline. In fact, the lobster roll is more than just a delectable and emblematic treat: they might be the next big thing in fast casual dining.
A Brief history of the lobster roll
It's hard to say where the lobster roll originated exactly–-there are two schools of thought on the matter. According to Sandwich Magazine, the signature preparation of the Maine lobster roll can be traced all the way back to 1829, when it first appeared in the widely circulated "American Frugal Housewife" cookbook. It didn't find its way into roll form until the early 1900s, however.
The first commercial lobster roll came from Perry's restaurant, located in Milford, Connecticut. This is commonly considered the birthplace of the butter-tossed Connecticut sandwich. Today, the lobster roll is now a verified New England delicacy.
Visit any of the hundreds of crab and lobster shacks dotting the Maine coastline, and chances are you'll see lobster rolls on the menu at each and every one of them. It's important to note, however, that there are two different lobster roll types in direct competition with one another for sandwich supremacy. They are the Connecticut and Maine lobster rolls.
Amongst New Englanders, there's been a good-natured debate raging for decades as to which version is the best. Both sandwiches traditionally use the highly sought-after, cold water lobster harvested from the frigid waters of the Northern Atlantic in just the right season: when their shells are soft, and their meat is its sweetest.
The classic Maine lobster roll, considered by many to be the true king of lobster-based sandwiches, features lobster tossed in creamy mayo and lemon butter, served chilled on a freshly toasted, buttered, split-top roll. The Connecticut version, on the other hand, features steaming hot claw meat tossed in butter, also served on a buttery, toasted split-top roll. The best, genuine and authentic lobster rolls use only meat from the Maine lobster, fresh caught by lobstermen on the Long Island Sound. No matter which version floats your boat, modern diners are fortunate enough to be living in the golden era of lobster, where seafood restaurants from coast to coast now offer this irresistibly simple delight.
Now that we've seen where the lobster roll comes from, let's take a look at where this incredible slice of seaside cuisine is headed.
Lobster rolls: the next level in fast-casual dining
Before we go any further, some definitions are in order. We all know what fast food is. McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's: there's an endless array of burger joints spread across the country. Fast casual isn't the same thing as the burger joint derivatives, however.
Think of fast casual dining as the midway point between formal, full-service dining and drive-thru. Examples include Chipotle and Panera. A fast-casual establishment typically offers an elevated menu and ambiance with the convenience of quick service.
Fast-casual is more than just a fad, though. At the close of 2022, the US fast casual market sat firmly at a value of nearly $190 billion. By the end of the current decade, it's expected to reach a staggering $364 billion in revenue. This brings us to the emergence of lobster-based, fast-casual establishments.
Why lobster is the perfect fit for fast-casual
Why are lobster rolls such a good fit for the burgeoning fast-casual industry? Besides being genuine, simple, and offering amazing flavors perfect for a quick business lunch or an evening visit with friends, Here are a few reasons why.
For the most part, fast food, and even many fast-casual to a lesser extent, are still dependent on traditional menu items like burgers, fries, and tacos. Fast-casual has started to emerge from those old standbys with artisan subs, specialty pizzas, Mexican fusion, and a host of other options.
One restaurant type that's few and far between is seafood. That's not to say that there aren't any fast-casual fish, crab, and lobster joints; there just aren't that many, making an establishment centered on fresh and simple lobster rolls a one-of-a-kind experience.
The elevated taste
People dine fast-casual instead of the drive-thru because they want something that's not only unique but also better quality than the mystery-meat burger. Regardless of the entree, nothing says class quite like Maine lobster. Lobster is considered gourmet fare, so decadent lobster rolls serve as an exceptional treat that’s often more affordable and accessible than what you’d find with pricey fine dining.
The health benefits
Lobster rolls have one other major advantage over fast food: they're healthier. The cold, mineral-rich New England waters not only provide growing lobsters with ample energy to thrive, but they also pass that nutrition on to you and me.
Despite the succulent taste of buttery lobster, it's a low-calorie, high-protein alternative to other meats. A single serving has only 129 calories. In addition, lobster boasts a number of essential vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin E
- Omega 3 fatty acids
Next time you're tempted to stop for a cheap burger, why not level up your restaurant game with a healthier, high-quality alternative instead?
Enjoy the Simplicity and Taste of the World's Best Lobster Rolls
Our world moves at a break-neck pace. It's easy to give in to the temptation of cheap, low quality fast food. The right lobster rolls manage to bring back a sense of simplicity, with nothing but genuine lobster meat and a fresh baked bun. It's a taste that conjures up a relaxing visit to the Maine coastline, filled with crab and lobster shacks as far as the eye can see.
If you're looking for a delicious, fast-casual alternative to the usual, reach for an authentic Maine lobster roll at Mason's Famous Lobster Rolls. Visit us online to view our full menu,find the location nearest you, or have our famous lobster rolls shipped fresh to your door.