Text & Photographs by Marnely Murray

Lobster rolls on Martha’s Vineyard are a must year-round. They are so deeply rooted in New England culture that they aren’t just a summer treat. It is my duty to you, as a year-round resident and chef on the island, to taste different versions and decide which ones are worth your hard-earned money! 

This delectable creation has become a culinary legend, and we’ll explore its nuances, from the succulent lobster meat to the perfectly buttered bun. Cold lobster rolls, with chilled lobster meat tossed in mayonnaise and nestled in a warm, toasted bun, offer a refreshing contrast of temperatures and textures, allowing the lobster’s delicate flavors to shine. 

In contrast, hot lobster rolls, where the lobster is gently warmed in butter before being placed in a (hopefully) toasted bun, provide a richer, more indulgent experience. They are sure to satisfy even the most discerning seafood lover’s palate. 

Here’s my list of splurge-worthy lobster rolls, where to find them, and what makes them special. 


Lobster Rolls in Edgartown

First up, head to Katama General Store, where we picked up our rolls and headed straight to the beach. (Essential tip: When ordering rolls to-go, ask for the lobster meat to be packaged separately so that the roll doesn’t get soggy!)

Once at the beach, we prepared the rolls with a bit of lettuce. A hint of celery in the lobster salad added great crunch. Not only is the lobster good, but Katama General Store is hands down the best and only beach bodega on the island—this is the place where we always stop for snacks, drinks, and other beach essentials.

Next up is a unique variation: a lobster croissant at the Atlantic Fish & Chophouse. This is arguably the island’s most indulgent lobster “roll.” A buttery croissant with a slathering of avocado purée and cold lobster salad, served with a side salad of greens, is truly what dreams are made of. Just so you know, this is only served during lunch, so plan accordingly.

A few steps over and you’ll find yourself at The Seafood Shanty, where they serve up a very large lobster roll. Complete with a side salad and an option of fries, this is a meal on Edgartown Harbor like no other. We love grabbing a seat on the deck overlooking the water and spending a few hours just chatting and eating. 

Katama General Store 508-627-5071; 170 Katama Rd., Edgartown; katamageneral.com

Atlantic Fish & Chophouse 508-627-7001; 2 Main St., Edgartown; atlanticmv.com

The Seafood Shanty 508-627-8622; 31 Dock St., Edgartown; theseafoodshanty.com

Waterside Market Lobster Roll – Photo Marnely Murray

Lobster Rolls in Oak Bluffs

Let’s head to Oak Bluffs and grab a seat at the Lookout Tavern on the harbor. Here, you can watch the ferries come and go, and the people watching is some of the best. This spot is famous for having both a hot and cold option. Both are said to be huge and very delicious.

The hot lobster roll arrived and was insane in size. They use only knuckle and claw meat, aka huge chunks of lobster, tossed in melted butter and tucked into a toasted and buttered brioche roll. The lemon wedge served alongside makes everything taste bright and delicious, so make sure to give it a good squeeze. 

Meanwhile, the Lookout Tavern’s cold lobster roll might be as good as their hot one. I appreciated the bit of lettuce (which might be blasphemous to some!) and the lemon wedge, which added contrast to the mayonnaise-tossed lobster meat and buttery roll.

Go for the lobster rolls, but if you want just drinks, that’s okay, too. The view here is too good to pass up, but fresh lobster makes it just a little better, don’t you agree?

Stay in Oak Bluffs and make your way to the Sand Bar & Grille. Another spot that offers both hot and cold rolls, the Sand Bar makes thousands every season. Here, you get a completely different view of Oak Bluffs Harbor, with the bonus of having your feet in the sand—that’s why it’s called the Sand Bar! It’s a fun summer spot: packed to the brim, with an exciting atmosphere. There’s always something going on.

My favorite of the two preparations was the cold lobster roll. There was something about the mayonnaise that I loved (and I forgot to ask what kind they used, so I need to go back). For a beach dining vibe in Oak Bluffs, this is your spot.

Walk away from the harbor and head to the iconic Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company for a half-pound hot lobster roll that will bring you to tears with its distinct and incredible flavor. Eight ounces of lobster meat are tossed with a butter sauce, preserved lemon, cooked bacon, and herbs. The mixture is served on a grilled brioche roll with a side of fries. And don’t forget to sample their award-winning clam chowder, one of my favorites.  

Lookout Tavern
508-696-9844; 8 Seaview Ave., Oak Bluffs; lookoutmv.com

Sand Bar & Grille
508-693-7111; 6 Circuit Avenue Ext., Oak Bluffs; mvsandbar.com

Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company
508-696-3000; 9 Oak Bluffs Ave., Oak Bluffs; chowdermv.com


Grace Church Lobster Rolls MV – Photo by Marnely Murray.

Lobster Rolls in Vineyard Haven

Now, head to Vineyard Haven! If it’s Friday at 4:00 p.m., it is your civic duty to make your way to Grace Church for their ever-so-popular lobster rolls. We arrived at around 3:45 p.m. and the line was already out the door, so make sure to get there early. They stay open until 7:00 p.m. but tend to sell out beforehand. 

This version was a simple mayonnaise-based lobster roll, sans toasting or buttering, served with classic Cape Cod chips. We placed our order to-go, and the amount of lobster meat we received was enough to make two very generous rolls. So even if you just eat outside, order to-go for that extra meat!

Up next is the lobster roll at John’s Fish Market. Samantha, part of the family at John’s, tells me the key isn’t just a toasted bun but a hot buttered bun with cold lobster salad meat. They use Cains mayonnaise, extra heavy. Served with Lay’s chips, this is a classic roll that you’ll enjoy. 

As the island’s oldest fish market, John’s is owned and operated by the third and fourth generations. You’ll not only love the food but also the familiarity. Everyone is family when they enter, and everything is delicious. My friend is obsessed with their bluefish pâté, and I agree, it’s the best on-island.

Next, at the top of Main Street is Waterside Market, a local favorite. Not only do they serve hot and cold lobster rolls but they also have the following menu items: lobster cobb salad, a lobster BLT, and lobster eggs Benedict. Waterside is a must for the lobster lover!

Stick around and grab a seat at one of two spots for waterfront dining in Vineyard Haven: Garde East (the other spot is Black Dog Tavern). Open seasonally between May and September, Garde East serves up a very flavorful lobster roll packed with herbs and tossed in a lemon aioli. It is seriously delicious and elevated for those with fancier tastes who want to dine while overlooking million-dollar yachts. 

Grace Episcopal Church 508-693-0332; Woodlawn Ave., Vineyard Haven

John’s Fish Market 508-693-1220; 5 Martin Rd., Vineyard Haven; johnsfishmarket.com

Waterside Market 508-693-8899; 82 Main St., Vineyard Haven; watersidemarket.com

Garde East 508-687-9926; 52 Beach Rd., Vineyard Haven; gardeeast.com

Sand Bar and Grille Lobster Rolls – Photo Marnely Murray

Lobster Rolls Up-Island


Finally, we head up-island for a lobster roll dinner you won’t forget. I’ve had lobster rolls at Larsen’s Fish Market and Menemsha Fish Market and I love supporting both family-owned businesses. The cold rolls are pre-made and easy for takeout. But when you order the hot roll, you get the special treatment of seeing your bun and lobster meat drowned in almost two ounces of melted butter. It’s a treat unto itself. Grab your roll, a cup of lobster bisque or clam chowder, and head to the beach for the best sunset on the East Coast. 

This is not, by a long shot, a complete list of all the lobster rolls on Martha’s Vineyard. Every restaurant, shop, and snack bar has its own version. There are good ones and bad ones—I am only sharing the good ones! If you plan to visit Martha’s Vineyard this summer and need foodie recommendations, make sure to let me know. cookingwithbooks.net 

Larsen’s Fish Market 508-645-2680; 56 Basin Rd., Chilmark; larsensfishmarket.com

Menemsha Fish Market 508-645-2282; 54 Basin Rd., Chilmark; menemshafishmarket.com


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