Back in the summer of 2014, Mr. HalfFull and I traveled to Maine. Without a doubt, we ate a lot of lobster.

During one meal, we had lobster three different ways — lobster roll, a whole lobster, and lobster bisque. Later that evening, I think we also had lobster mac & cheese. Lobster four different ways in a day was not overkill for us!

While in Maine, we ate lobster rolls almost daily and definitely acquired an affinity for them. Since we didn’t travel this summer, Mr. HalfFull hatched a plan to try a lobster roll a week in Northern Virginia.

Here are our lobster roll rankings:

  1. Hank’s Oyster Bar
  2. Legal Sea Foods
  3. Coastal Flats
  4. America Eats Tavern – José’s style
  5. Lobster Maine-ia
  6. America Eats Tavern – Maine style
  7. BGR The Burger Joint

The Deets

Mr. HalfFull had fun researching where we could find lobster rolls in our area. He read reviews, but the real goal was to try them ourselves.

Our lobster tasting ran the gamut of price points from the least costly at Lobster Maine-ia to the most expensive at Restaurant Eve. But we did not allow price to affect our rankings. Below, I describe the details of what we liked and found lacking at each establishment.

Hank’s Oyster Bar

Ms. HalfEmpty prepares to try the lobster roll at Hank’s Oyster Bar in Old Town Alexandria.

We had a blast at Hank’s. A fun atmosphere is always a plus, but I don’t think it tainted my top rating for this lobster roll.

The lobster roll was classic, just the way I like it. The bread was appropriately toasted and let the lobster shine through.

The lobster pieces were a mixture of big chunks and stringy pieces. I’m of the opinion that a mix of lobster parts is perfect for a lobster roll since it’s all mixed together and I should be able to eat it with my hands. In other words, I prefer not to have half of it fall out of the roll.

Legal Sea Foods

Legal Sea Foods also has an excellent classic lobster roll. They only list the lobster roll on the lunch menu, but you can order it for dinner like we did.

Mr. HalfFull and I had a bit of a difference of opinion on the placement of the top two lobster rolls. Mr. HalfFull thought the chunks of lobster were superior at Legal Sea Foods. But I prefer an even distribution throughout the roll, so I liked the shreds of lobster on Hank’s.

Coastal Flats

Lobster @ Coastal Flats

Coastal Lobster Roll & Lobster Club Salad @ Coastal Flats

I was also a fan of the lobster roll at Coastal Flats. The roll is simple, toasted, and buttery — yum!

Coincidentally, soon after Mr. HalfFull proposed the summer lobster roll rankings, he decided to stop eating bread. So lobster rolls weren’t really an ideal choice. Fortunately, Coastal Flats also has an excellent lobster salad that eliminated the bread (but not the Ozzie Rolls!!!).

America Eats Tavern

America Eats Tavern is a José Andrés restaurant. They serve two different styles of lobster rolls:

Even though we were looking for classic lobster rolls, we decided to try both. Each was served on the same elaborate pretzel roll. The bread was delicious but overpowered the lobster and was not a good vessel in my opinion.

The Maine Lobster Roll included mustard seeds, which was a huge turnoff for me. On the other hand, José’s Lobster Roll was delicious! The mayo foam was a fun texture that complimented the lobster nicely.

We love José Andrés, but his lobster rolls were too far from classic to rank well.

Lobster Maine-ia

Ms. HalfEmpty bites into a lobster roll outside Lobster Maine-ia.

Ms. HalfEmpty bites into a lobster roll outside Lobster Maine-ia.

Maybe including Lobster Maine-ia in this list of restaurants isn’t fair since they are not a restaurant.  They sell seafood and are actually the source of the lobster at America Eats Tavern (and perhaps other restaurants in our rankings).

The Lobster Maine-ia location is industrial with a garage door for the main operations and huge tubs of live lobsters inside the customer entrance. Despite the lack of atmosphere, the staff is very welcoming and customer-focused. We met two of the 20-something brothers and enjoyed chatting with them both. There is even a photo album of the family catching seafood on the water that we were encouraged to flip through while they prepared our lobster rolls.

On certain days of the week, Lobster Maine-ia sells lobster rolls in twos. The price of two lobster rolls at Lobster Maine-ia is about the price of one at the restaurants listed above. But the restaurants serve their lobster rolls as part of a meal, which includes a side or two.

The Lobster Maine-ia lobster salad filling was good, but their lobster roll was lacking. The bread wasn’t toasted; so even though we ate them in the parking lot right outside the store, the bread got soggy. I would recommend buying the lobster salad instead and toasting your own bread at home for the classic taste of Maine.

BGR The Burger Joint

Ms. HalfEmpty with a burger and lobster roll at BGR.

Ms. HalfEmpty with a burger and lobster roll at BGR.

As you can tell from the name, BGR does not specialize in lobster rolls, but we were trying to be thorough. This is the only one I would not recommend at all. There was a big piece of lettuce on the bun and an odd mayo mixture.

Restaurant Eve

Restaurant Eve does not serve lobster rolls. But Mr. HalfFull saw that they serve butter-poached lobster (BPL). After our delicious experience with BPL in José’s Lobster Roll, we were ready for more!

chef's butter poached lobster creation @ Restaurant Eve

chef’s butter poached lobster creation @ Restaurant Eve

Mr. HalfFull often uses OpenTable for restaurant reservations. He’s also a people-person who leaves notes in his reservations. I find it slightly embarrassing sometimes, but this time it was very helpful that he let Restaurant Eve know we were looking forward to trying their BPL.

They called us in advance to let us know that they were out of BPL — quelle horreur! So we changed our reservation to a different date.

When we arrived and looked at the menu, we noticed that BPL was no longer available. We were slightly disappointed, but excited to try new things.

After we ordered, the manager approached our table to say that the chef had been preparing BPL just for us; we weren’t supposed to talk about it or post on social media that day since it wasn’t available to other patrons. So she canceled our order and brought us the chef’s BPL surprise creation. He wouldn’t even tell her what is was. As we finished savoring the dish, the chef stopped by to explain his inspiration. What a fun, personalized experience!

All Good Things Must Come to an End

When you read that headline, did you think I was talking about this stellar blog post? =) Of course, I’m talking about lobster season! Lobster is generally a seasonal item in Northern Virginia, so the restaurants listed above may not have it on their menus any longer. But there’s always next summer!


  • Do you prefer a classic lobster roll or something with different inspiration?
  • What restaurant serves your favorite lobster roll?
  • What’s the ideal bread for a lobster roll?
  • Do you have a preference on the type of lobster pieces in your roll?


Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!