Where To Find The Best Lobster Rolls In South Carolina

Where To Find The Best Lobster Rolls In South Carolina

If you live in South Carolina, there is a good chance that you know the history of shrimp and grits, she-crab soup or low country boil. But lobster rolls? Not so much. Let’s look at a little Lobster Roll history and who has the best Lobster Rolls around here in South Carolina!

Summertime and the livin’ is easy. Long days, balmy nights, beaches, picnics, vacations and our favorite summer foods. Seafood smacks of summer – shrimp, crabs, oysters, clams, scallops and (my personal favorite) lobster.

Over many, many years I have always managed at least one trip (sometimes 2 or 3) to Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island or Connecticut to indulge in a critical summer activity – eating a lobster roll. Seriously, what’s better on a summer day than sitting on a wooden picnic bench with a view of the Atlantic, sipping a cold one and chowing down on a toasted buttery bun piled high with lobster? Answer: nothing.

But this summer is different and I won’t be going to New England. But how to satisfy my lobster roll cravings? Despite all my South Carolina culinary journeys I had never sought out the lobster roll. To be candid, I have never thought about it.

The lobster roll was my New England thing. But a summer without a lobster roll. That’s like Thanksgiving without a turkey or Halloween without trick or treating….or worse, St Patrick’s Day without a Guinness. That is unacceptable. It was time to take action.

A time to go on a quest to find the best lobster rolls in South Carolina. At the outset, I was not sure if I could find my New England keepsake, however, six weeks later, I am glad to report that the lobster roll is alive and well in South Carolina.

Once you have your fill of lobster roll check out our favorite breakfast sandwiches in South Carolina; these morning delights are the lobsters rolls of breakfast!

If you are not from New England (and lately Long Island) this may seem like a trivial argument. But, rest assured, when you experience your first taste of an authentic lobster roll you will understand the hype. One bite of that sweet, buttery, toasted goodness and your tastebuds will be changed forever. Not convinced? Read On.

Lobster is one of the most decadent foods of the 20th and 21st century….but it wasn’t always that way. In fact, in colonial times, lobsters were considered to be poor man’s food and fed to prisoners.

No story about famous Lobster Rolls would be complete without a little context and history, but if you just want to jump right to the meat of the matter, then here is our list of the best Lobster Rolls in South Carolina! You can click here to jump straight to our reviews of each location!

Take Me To The Reviews

Poseidon
Hilton Head, SC

Pearlz Oyster Bar
Charleston,SC

Pier 41
Mt. Pleasant, SC

167 Raw
Charleston, SC

The Sugaree
Bluffton, SC

The Immortal Lobster
Foodtruck in Charleston Area

The Darling Oyster Bar
Charleston, SC

The Ordinary
Charleston, SC

Lowcountry Lobster
Bluffton, SC

Oyster House Seafood Restaurant
Charleston, SC

The Claw House
Murrells Inlet, SC

Honorable Mention

Sea Captain’s House
Myrtle Beach, SC

Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls
Charleston,SC

LOBSTER FACTS

  • When the first Europeans arrived in America they found piles of lobsters on the beaches, sometimes two feet high.
  • Native Americans and early settlers used lobsters to bait their fish hooks and used lobster shells for fertilizer.
  • Servants in colonial Massachusetts got so tired of lobster that they had clauses inserted in their contracts limiting lobsters to two dinners a week. But things did change. 
  • In 1876, the first lobster pound was founded in Vinalhaven, Maine. By the turn of the century, sophisticated diners in New York City and Boston began to acquire a taste for the humble lobster.
  • By the beginning of WWII, the lobster was elevated from the poor man’s food to a gourmet delicacy. Interestingly, it was among the foods that were not rationed during the war.

Diagram Courtesy of Lobster Anywhere

LOBSTER QUIRKS

Lobsters have some of the strangest anatomy in the animal kingdom.

  • A lobster’s brain is in its throat 
  • Its teeth are in its stomach
  • Its nervous system is inside its abdomen

Despite all this I think we can agree on its wonderful flavor. You might view lobster as a rich and unhealthy food, but lobster meat is actually good for you.

A four ounce serving of lobster meat has less calories than a four ounce serving of chicken breast. Great taste and packed with healthy nutrients: good omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, vitamins E, B6 and B12.

If you live in South Carolina, there is a good chance that you know the history of shrimp and grits, she-crab soup or low country boil. But lobster rolls? Not so much. So let’s try to get up to speed. As things go, it is probably impossible to credit a single person with the invention of the lobster roll, especially a dish that is almost everywhere.

With the lobster roll, it was probably as simple as a lobsterman with leftover lobster and some bread. Or perhaps his wife, pinched for time and trying to put dinner on the table for her family. With a little digging (like clamming) we can find some historical landmarks.

Though we tend to associate lobster with Maine (despite being prevalent all the way down the New England coast and the waters of Long Island) it seems the first lobster roll was prepared in the coastal town of Milford, Connecticut. As the story goes, a liquor salesman walked into a restaurant called Perry’s (probably in 1929) and asked them to make a lobster sandwich.

Harry Perry, the owner and chef, put together what was more or less a grilled lobster and butter sandwich. Perry began to offer it to his customers and it became popular. But there was a problem.

The white sandwich bread he was using wasn’t substantial enough to contain the lobster meat and the buttery sides made for a soggy sandwich. Perry contacted French’s Bakery (now closed) in nearby Bridgeport, Connecticut and had them create a special roll for his lobster sandwich.

Perry then devised a method where he cut a V shaped crevice in the bun, filled it with lobster, buttered the top and grilled it. Perry’s closed in 1977, but the Milford Historical Society has a picture dated 1930 of the restaurant with a large sign in front declaring “Home of the Famous Lobster Roll” which gives some historical credence to the story.

That doesn’t mean the back story is undisputed. The Bayley Lobster Pound, located in Scarborough Maine, opened in 1915 under the ownership of Steve and Ella Bayley. Damaged lobsters were difficult to sell and so Ella picked out the meat and made sandwiches for her family.

She started out making them with white bread, but Steve didn’t like the crust and she had to cut it off for him. That was too much work for her and she thought to use a hot dog roll, which had been invented in 1912. Steve liked the sandwich so much that they put it on the menu of their newly opened restaurant.

This account comes from Susan Bayley Clough, the great-granddaughter of the founders. She, currently, along with her husband, are the owners of the Bayley Lobster Pound which has been in continual operation for 105 years. Her account is based on what their great-grandfather told her before he passed. We do know that Bayleys was opened in 1915 and hot dog rolls were available by 1912 so this story does have legs and the debate is far from settled.

What is definitely not in doubt is that, as years passed, two distinct versions of the lobster roll became popular: the Maine Style and the Connecticut Style.

The Maine version (which is sometimes called a lobster salad roll) consists of cold lobster, usually tossed with lemon juice, and a light spread of mayonnaise. Some lettuce and celery might be added. The Connecticut version has warm chunks of lobster meat doused in butter.

Regardless of whether the lobster is cold and creamy or hot and buttery, it’s the griddled split top bun that holds everything together. Dubbed ‘the New England style hot dog bun’ these are different from the side loading buns most common in America.

In the 1940’s, the restaurant chain Howard Johnson’s approached a bakery in Maine asking for their help in creating a bun for its fried clam strip sandwiches. These rolls are baked very close keeping the sides flat and soft which makes them perfect for buttering, toasting and grilling. And, might I add, perfect for lobster rolls.

So how did the lobster roll become so popular? 

Here is a brief timeline.

  • In the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, the lobster roll was a regional dish confined to a few lobster shacks and restaurants in New England.
  • In 1965, the Lobster Roll restaurant opened in Amagansett, New York, on Long Island. This was the first attempt at a foray into new territory. **Just a pause….The Lobster Roll (affectionately known as “Lunch” for the large sign overhanging its entrance) is still in operation. It offers both Maine and Connecticut style lobster rolls and, based on personal experience, they are classic renditions. If you are ever close by it’s a must stop!
  • In 1983, the acclaimed chef Jasper White opens his restaurant, Jaspers, in Boston. He is the first chef to introduce a lobster roll on an upscale menu
  • In 1997, Rebecca Charles opens Pearl Oyster Bar in Greenwich Village, New York City. She has Maine lobsters delivered to her restaurant, steams them and picks the meat in-house. She uses Pepperidge Farms hot dog buns and Hellman’s mayonnaise to create a sublime lobster roll.
  • Ed Levine, food critic for the New York Times, writes an over-the-top high praise review of the Pearl’s lobster roll in 1999.
  • Lobster Rolls go viral at the beginning of the 21st century. (Not sure if that was the word in 2000, but I spoke to Rebecca Charles once, and the word is apt for what she experienced in the media.)
  • In 2003, Bon Appetit magazine names the lobster roll the dish of the year.
  • In 2009, Gourmet magazine puts a lobster roll on its cover.

Hope all of this was informative, but now it’s time to bring the lobster roll home. These are my picks for the best lobster rolls in South Carolina. New England, I will miss you this year, but the South Carolina lobster was in my mind and it didn’t disappoint.

Lets review the basics. A great lobster roll needs:

  1. Fresh lobster (served either hot or cold)
  2. A combination of claw, knuckle and tail meat
  3. Plenty of butter or mayonnaise
  4. A split top bun toasted to perfection
  5. A bun brushed with butter – be generous with the brushing, please
  6. Ideally, it should be a hand held sandwich 
  7. French fries or chips on the side, per tradition 

Poseidon

Poseidon Lobster Roll – hot butter, poached lobster, fresh lemon, split-top bun toasted and buttered. By now you know, this is a classic. We will even forgive the lettuce! New England Lobster Roll – Chilled lobster, seasoned mayonnaise, celery, fresh lemon, lettuce, toasted and buttered split-top bun. The lettuce fits here, as it can be a staple in many Maine lobster shacks.

Poseidon does justice to both styles. Appreciate their adherence to tradition.

Poseidon
38 Shelter Cove Lane, Suite 12
Hilton Head Island, SC
(843) 341-3838
Website

Poseidon Seafood HHI

Poseidon’s Facebook Page

Pearlz Oyster Bar

New England Lobster Roll – classic lobster, split top bun, house chips. Salty, Maine lobstermen are persons of few words. With that in mind, few words are needed in the case of this lobster roll. It’s a Maine style classic. A taste of indulgence. Don’t miss! Pearlz Oyster Bar

153 East Bay Street
Charleston, SC
(843) 577-5755
Website
Other locations in West Ashley and Columbia

Best-place-to-get-seafood-in-SC

Picture from Facebook

Pier 41

Lobster Rolls: Cold – lemon herbed aioli pickled celery. A classic Maine style hits all the right notes. Or Hot – uni butter, scallions, celery and cucumber. The thick creamy uni butter with the smell of the ocean is a plus but they should have stopped there; a hot Connecticut style never needs vegetables.

41 Pier
1039 SC-41
Mt. Pleasant, SC
(843) 388-4229
Website

Pier 41

Image from Facebook

167 Raw

Lobster roll – Cold, chunks of sweet meat, almost always find one or two generous chunks of whole claw on top (always a good sign when seeking out a top notch lobster roll) and the rest is made up of plentiful pieces of knuckle and tail meat. Made with sheer aioli and positioned in a warm, toasted, buttery bun. Fresh chives complement the lobster. This is lobster roll Nirvana. Lots of experience, as the chef’s family opened a seafood market and restaurant on Nantucket island in 1974 (still in operation) and he grew up around seafood. After eating this I almost said, “Maine be damned!” (Only kidding.) Access to fresh lobster makes this roll a standout.

167 Raw
193 King Street
Charleston, SC
(843) 579-4997
Website

167 Raw

167 Raw’s Outdoor Seating

The Sugaree

Lobster Roll – Cold, this is the most honest lobster roll I encountered on my quest. A generous mix of claw, knuckle and tail. Incredibly fresh, given the journey (owners’ relatives ship lobster from Maine). A buttery, not too heavy, perfectly toasted roll. A light mayonnaise dressing that allows the lobster to take center stage. Kudos! Amazing! All this lobster goodness in a place that is primarily a bakery.

The Sugaree
142 Burnt Church Road
Bluffon, SC
(843) 290-8585

Tell Them They Need A Facebook or Website

The Immortal Lobster

A food truck serving classic Maine and Connecticut style lobster rolls. Maine lobsters and locally made, toasted, split-top buns. The Connecticut style is so authentic that you could be sitting in Perry’s in 1929. The Maine style was popularized in a shack called Red’s Eats in the 1970’s in Wiscasset, Maine. Immortal’s rendition is its equal. Cannot say enough how good both rolls are.

Their motto is: Bringing Maine Lobsters Down South. After consuming both rolls, I was singing “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees.

Located in the Charleston area so go to their website and look at their calendar. Find a place and day that is convenient for you and be prepared for some of the best lobster rolls you will ever taste.

The Immortal Lobster
(843) 633-1088
Website

The Immortal Lobster

Image from the Immortal Lobster’s Facebook

The Darling Oyster Bar

Lobster roll – Cold, but WHAT!! King crab in a lobster roll? What’s next pineapple on a pizza? Oh wait we do have that. This was a hard decision. The pluses: generous, varied lobster, nice amount of mayonnaise with scallions (nice touch) and a beautiful buttery bun. But then, a ribbon of king crab. What is a purist to do? Yet, the lobster was still the star; the crab was more like a supporting actor. Remember, the lobster must resonate, and it does. I guess I’m getting soft, but this is an admirable lobster roll. And didn’t the Beatles sing, “Oh! Darling?”

The Darling
513 King Street
Charleston, SC
(843) 641-0821
Website

The Darling Oyster Bar

Image from Facebook

The Ordinary

Nothing ordinary about their Maine style lobster roll. Lobsters are brought in straight from Maine and given a royal treatment. A half pound of lobster meat (yes, eight ounces! Most lobster rolls are four ounces meat) goes into each roll with a combination of mayonnaise, Tabasco, lemon, garlic, celery, chives, shallots, Old Bay all snugly placed in a beautifully buttery, toasted bun. 

Sounds great? Well….. The Ordinary makes all the lists for best lobster roll in the U.S. But not our list. Why ship Maine lobsters then take the time to steam them and pick the meat only to overpower the lobster? Sorry, this is a great dish but a hybrid lobster roll.

Then why are they on our list? Because they serve a sublime Connecticut style lobster roll: hot with just butter and sea salt. Despite all their accolades, I am not a fan of “Sturm and Drang” with a lobster roll. Take advantage of the Maine lobster and order the hot lobster roll. You will go home a happy diner.

Plan accordingly: lobster rolls are only served on Tuesdays.

The Ordinary
544 King Street
Charleston, SC
(843) 414-7060
Website

The Ordinary

Photo from Facebook

Lowcountry Lobster 

What is it about food trucks in South Carolina making exemplary lobster rolls? Maybe the need to keep it relatively simple is the key. Too many chefs want to put their stamp on a lobster roll and forget to let the lobster shine through. Not at Lowcountry Lobster. Try their Classic – chilled Maine lobster (knuckle and claw), traditional New England style bun, toasted, drizzled with melted butter. That says Down East and Down South at the same time. Take it a step further and ask for a Margarita, everything traditional but with tequila/lime mayonnaise.  

Check out their website to view their calendar. These are exceptional lobster rolls.

Lowcountry Lobster
258 Red Cedar # 15
Bluffton, SC
(843) 290-4388
Website

Lowcountry Lobster

Pic From Facebook

Oyster House Seafood Restaurant

Maine style – lobster tossed with mayonnaise, celery scallions, lettuce. Proper split-style bun toasted nicely. Right amount of butter. This is a go-to roll.

Oyster House Seafood Restaurant
35 South Market Street
Charleston, SC
(843) 723-1151
Website

Oyster house Seafood Restaurant

Image Taken from Facebook

The Claw House

The Claw House serves both hot and cold lobster rolls. They stay in their lane on both and let the lobster rule.Nothing fancy, but all the basics. Your lobster roll fix can be satiated here.

The Claw House
4097 US-17 Bus
Murrells Inlet, SC
(843) 652-4415
Website

The Claw House

The Claw House’s Facebook

Honorable Mentions

Sea Captain’s House

Lobster Roll – Fresh, cold water lobster, mayonnaise, dill, relish, hard-boiled egg, honey and minced onion, served on a hoagie roll. The Captain got carried away. But this is not a lobster roll. Hard boiled egg? You are insulting the lobster. Hoagie roll? Try again. However, good effort on flavor combinations and maybe just right (and super tasty) as a salad.

Sea Captain’s House
3002 North Ocean Boulevard
Myrtle Beach, SC
(843) 448-8082
Website

The Sea Captains House

Image from Facebook

Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls

Mason’s can be found at numerous locations from Maryland to Florida. Not sure about a lobster roll? Don’t want to break the bank? Then try a Mason’s Classic: all traditional, a little more bun a little less lobster but the least expensive on this list. Very good value on their Connecticut style. If you are hesitant, use Mason’s as lobster roll 101.

Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls
36 North Market Street
Charleston, SC
(843) 974-5103
Website

Manson's Famous Lobster Rolls

Image from Facebook

That’s our South Carolina list. During the long, beautiful summer days we all could use a great lobster roll. Enjoy! Indulge!

Looking to go a little further? Maybe you will travel? A longer vacation? A bit further from home? If you do and you crave a lobster roll, here is a list of the best in New England with a little side trip to NYC. 

I had my first lobster roll in 1978 and never looked back. I will keep this section simple: name the place and location. This is a 42 year old quest.

CHATHAM PIER FISH MARKET

Chatham Pier Fish Market
– Chatham, Massachusetts –
excellent cold lobster roll with fresh
picked lobster meat, toasted split top bun and paprika on top.
Website

Bite Into Maine

Bite into Maine
– Cape Elizabeth, Maine –
Chrome food trailer with a big following. Both Maine style and Connecticut.
Website

Red's Eats

Red’s Eats
– Wiscasset, Maine –
Be prepared for a wait upwords of one hour. Tail, claw knuckle meat from a 1 pound lobster. Big meat, big roll.
Website

The Clam Shack

The Clam Shack
– Kennebunk, Maine –
Arguably the best lobster roll anywhere. Every other lobster roll is measured by this.
Website

The Lobster Pot

The Lobster Pot
– Provincetown, Massachusetts –
Best lobster roll between Boston and New Hampshire.
Website

Anthony's Seafood

Anthony’s Seafood
– Middletown, Rhode Island –
A six ounce bonanza, a little pricey but well worth it.
Website

Quoddy Bay Lobster

Quoddy Bay Lobster
– Eastport, Maine –
This lobster shack is about as far northeast as you can go in the United States. Deepest, coldest port in the Eastern seaboard produces big, tasty lobster.
Facebook

The Friendly Fisherman

The Friendly Fisherman
– North Eastham, Massachusetts (Cape Cod) –
Never disappoints. Classic and true.
Website

Abbott's Lobster In The Rough

Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough
– Noank, Connecticut –
Can’t find the words. Want a hot lobster roll in all its glory? If you said yes, then head to Abbott’s.
Website

Pearl Oyster Bar

Pearl Oyster Bar
– 18 Cornelia Street, NYC –
Now hail to the Queen. Pay homage. Rebecca Charles, who put the lobster roll on the map 20 years plus, still going strong.
Website

A few closing words and thoughts. I did not list prices as to the various lobster rolls, especially given that the price of lobster changes and that can affect menu prices.

The last few years have seen stable prices, though. The prices on my list ranged from $17 to $27 with Mason’s Famous being on the lower end and The Ordinary on the higher end.

In formulating the list, my prime consideration was that the lobster should be the star. I searched for the best lobster roll, not a sandwich that happened to have lobster. A classic lobster roll, be it Maine style or Connecticut, lets you taste the pureness of the lobster.

Great classic dishes like the lobster roll, shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, bouillabaisse were perfected many years ago. Now a kitchen just needs to preserve that perfection. In the end, dishes that last have incredible flavor. A classic dish survives just because it is a classic.

Look no further than the hamburger – it has lasted through all kinds of bastardizations and fast food garbage because, in the end, it stands alone on flavor.

Ten years ago, lobster mac and cheese was all the rage. And while it might still be on menus, it never really became a classic. The lobster might help the mac and cheese, but the mac and cheese does the lobster no favors. Of course, there is a place for that kind of dish, and one can enjoy it, but let’s always cherish our classics.

Many restaurants on my journey listed a lobster roll on their menu that was not a lobster roll. One establishment had a camembert fondue as their dressing. Maybe a lobster dish with fondue would be fine, but placing a gooey, glopping mess into a split top bun is not the way to go. Many restaurants need to ‘keep the faith’ with the lobster. As I said at the beginning, be careful when you elevate. I tasted many alleged lobster rolls.

Lobster rolls are our dish. Atlantic lobsters are an iconic American food. All over the world lobster is still considered a luxury dish, but in the US, we douse it with butter or mayo and fit it in a hot dog style roll. We have democratized the lobster and brought it to the ballpark level. This is an American dish. It is our food. Enjoy! Summer isn’t summer without some sweet buttery toasted goodness.