Unless you live under a rock and not just on it, as everyone in Hawaii does, you’ve probably heard McDonald’s of Hawaii recently introduced their infamous Lobster Roll to the islands, formerly known as the McLobster.
See, the McLobster actually goes back to 1993 when McDonald’s first introduced it exclusively in Ontario and Nova Scotia on the eastern side of Canada up north. Then in 2015, they brought it back, taking out the “Mc” and renaming it Lobster Roll, introducing it to the New England area on the Northeast US coast, including Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island (excluding Fairfield County), Vermont, and parts of New York. It then made a comeback again in the summer of 2016, opening it up to wider markets across the mainland US, and now again for the summer of 2017, including here in Hawaii.
Which is surprising, actually. Being the Lobster Roll is such a regional specialty to the Northeast Coast, with Hawaii now having it, it’s like if McDonald’s were to introduce Hawaii’ McDonald’s regional specialties such as the Saimin and the Portuguese Sausage, SPAM, Eggs and Rice breakfast to the that area. Know what I mean? Actually, the Portuguese Sausage, Eggs and Rice breakfast would make sense there, being from what Ken W. tells me, there are a LOT of Portuguese on the East Coast. More so than in Hawaii for sure, including the half-Portuguese person writing this blog.
McDonald’s Kuhio Avenue Waikiki location
Reason I say “infamous”, is because New England seafood snobs were quick to ridicule McDonald’s for attempting to “fast food-ize” the beloved Lobster Roll, which has somewhat of a cult following in those parts by those people. Ask reader and friend Ken, who hails from Rhode Island, and knows all the ins and outs of a properly executed Lobster Roll. How dare the yellow double arches “Mc” the Lobster Roll, right?
Well again, they’ve lost the “McLobster” name, in favor now of simply the Lobster Roll, arriving in a rather generic box that I believe also is used for one of their chicken sandwiches.
Specifically, I got this one from the Kuhio Avenue McDonald’s location in Waikiki, near Lewers Street, costing $9.99 plus tax, or $13.58 for the value meal. So I got the meal, including a side of fries and drink.
Back to the price, I’ve read that the Lobster Roll is currently selling for $7.99 on the mainland, so as usual us Hawaii folks pay an additional $2 as the “price of paradise” fee. You know how that goes, you’re welcome, Matson.
Unpacking it, it comes with a fresh lemon wedge, which I find a very nice touch, further showcasing that McDonald’s is SERIOUS about this Lobster Roll. It’s not just some gimmick. The only thing they dropped the ball on is using a “regular” roll instead of a New England style split-top bun. More on that later.
Also notice there’s corn meal on the soft white bread bun, giving it added flavor and texture.
Uncovering the bun for the “money shot”, notice they included a whole lobster claw on the top, as from what I read from other reviews of this, is protocol. Again, McDonald’s is serious about this, not ripping you off with just random torn-apart lobster meat. They’re really trying to be “PC” about it, especially knowing it will be under the hyper-criticized microscope of hardcore New England lobster enthusiasts.
Also notice the inside of the bun is nicely toasted, showcasing yet again how every detail to this iconic all-American sandwich is check-marked.
According to one article I’ve read, this North Atlantic cold water lobster is sourced from processors in Canada and various parts of New England, except ironically from Maine, which as you know, Maine Lobster is the most highly prized. It’s also worth noting that the lobster meat is frozen upon delivery to each McDonald’s location that’s serving this, then thawed out on site for service, simply tossed with a light coating of mayonnaise and that’s it. Nothing else. No spices, no butter, just mayonnaise. Which I think McDonald’s really should offer the “Connecticut style” Lobster Roll, which instead of being tossed with mayonnaise, which is the New England and Maine style, is tossed with clarified butter, and that’s it.
See, there’s three types of Lobster Rolls in the greater New England area, where note that New England is not a state of itself. It’s a bunch of states in the north east coast of the United States, consisting of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. The latter of where reader and friend Ken W. is originally from. And whom has taught me the ins and outs of an authentic Lobster Roll in all those three styles. As show above.
So this McDonald’s Lobster Roll would most accurately be classified as New England style, being it’s been “dragged through the garden”, meaning there’s lettuce in it. Specifically two types, being chopped Iceberg lettuce and a whole leaf green lettuce. If it were a Maine style Lobster Roll, it would only have mayonnaise mixed with the lobster meat and that’s it. Again, a Connecticut style Lobster Roll is just clarified butter and that’s it. And that Connecticut style with “mo’ buttah, mo’ bettah” again is my favorite!
OK, enough jib-jab. Let’s do this!
And? Um. Try wait. Let me take another bite….
OK, clearly this is NO COMPARISON to the Lobster Rolls I made thanks to the guidance of Ken W., even though the lobster meat I used was previously frozen as well from Nova Scotia in Canada. Mainly because A: I used the proper King’s Hawaiian New England style Split Top Bun, which made all the difference, and B: I was able to make one the Connecticut style, simply tossed in clarified butter. In my opinion, Lobster meat tastes way better with butter vs. plain or with mayonnaise. Sure fresh Maine Lobster is sweet and succulent all by itself, but still, after trying the three styles as noted above, the Connecticut style drenched in clarified butter won me over.
Also, the Mayonnaise McDonald’s uses for this Lobster Roll is kinda’ bland. I don’t think it’s Best Foods (a.k.a. Hellman’s), but some generic brand they’re using that tastes kinda’ like low fat mayonnaise, hence notice the relatively low 290 calorie count (a Big Mac has 568 calories). Screw the calories I say, and make the lobster meat really stand out with the fattiest mayonnaise (or preferably butter) you can get! As other reviewers have noted as well, you can tell the this lobster meat was previously frozen, having a sort of watered-down, kinda’ bland taste. The Nova Scotia lobster I used in my Lobster Rolls had a much more distinctive fresh, sweet flavor.
The hint of tangy citrus from the squeeze of the lemon wedge definitely helped enhance the flavor of the Lobster, so make sure you use that if you try this.
Also like other reviews have noted about the McDonald’s Lobster Roll, the lettuce kind of gets in the way of the Lobster Meat as unnecessary filler. I don’t think it needs it, or at least less of it. I personally think just use Lobster meat and that’s it. Keep it simple. I will give it props for the generosity of Lobster Meat, especially for what really is a bargain at just $9.99 here in Hawaii. Consider if you were to order a Lobster Roll from any given restaurant or shack, it will typically set you back up to $20 or more. Albeit you’d be getting fresh Lobster, not frozen at a true Lobster Shack, so that’s something to consider.
Temperature-wise, it’s served about room temperature, which I believe most Lobster Rolls are served that way, or slightly warm if its the clarified butter-coated Connecticut style. Not cold nor hot.
As for the bun, again, they really need to 86 the one they’re using and get their hands on a genuine New England style split-top bun that’s been toasted with butter, like that shown above from King’s Hawaiian. You can buy these at most supermarkets in Hawaii in the King’s Hawaiian section where all the breads are.
Don’t get me wrong though, I think McDonald’s Lobster Roll is still delicious even if it’s not “great”, and again, a good deal, at least for the Hawaii market, where such a delicacy is relatively rare to find. I highly respect McDonald’s for having the b@lls to bring this to market, as it really is a bold statement. I’m definitely ordering it again while they still have it throughout the month of July. From what I understand, many McD locations here in Hawaii were selling out of them fast, so there’s definitely demand for it.
Summing it up, I even if it’s not perfect, I think McDonald’s Lobster Roll fits the bill. I like it!
What? McDonald’s Lobster Roll
Where did you get it and how much? McDonald’s Kuhio Avenue (Waikiki), $9.99 for the sandwich alone, or $13.58 for the value meal (with fries and drink).
Big shaka to: Overall it’s a pretty big sandwich that will fill you up. Generous portion of Cold Water North Atlantic Lobster meat, including knuckles and one whole claw; reasonably tender and juicy; supple toasted bun with a somewhat crisp crust. The comparatively salty McDonald’s fries as a side dish compliments the Lobster Roll quite nicely in a Fish ‘n Chips kinda’ way. Pretty good value, all things considered.
No shaka to: lettuce gets in the way of the flavor of the lobster meat as an unnecessary filler; the previously frozen lobster meat is relatively bland, compared to ones I’ve had in the past; the what tastes like low-fat mayonnaise doesn’t really help to enhance the flavor lobster meat (clarified butter would be way better!). The bun would be better if it were the New England Split Top style, buttered ‘n toasted.
The Tasty Island rating:
(3 SPAM Musubi) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase.
Tasty Island related links:
• Lobster Rolls 103: Connecticut, New England and Maine Style
• Review: McDonald’s Guava Pie