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Review: McDonald’s Lobster Roll

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?  


McDonald’s Kuhio Avenue Waikiki location

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. 


Pomai’s homemade Lobster Rolls (left to right): Connecticut, New England and Maine style, with Maui style potato chips, a Vlassic dill pickle spear and Fosters lager

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. 


King’s Hawaiian Sweet New England Style Split-top Buns, pan-toasted in butter

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

9 thoughts on “Review: McDonald’s Lobster Roll

  • July 4, 2017 at 1:34 pm
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    I tried it they should try making a cole slaw out of their Big Mac sauce , i think would be good

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    • July 4, 2017 at 2:20 pm
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      Dnakaza,

      Cole Slaw made with their Big Mac “Special Sauce” is genius! I remember recently they were giving away their Big Mac Sauce in bottles. I wish I got some. It tastes basically like Thousand Islands dressing. So what did you think of McD’s Lobster Roll? Do you agree with my assessment, or do you have a different opinion on it?

      Other reviews out there on it are quite polar (either love it or not at all). And there’s no shortage of Lobster Roll “purists” who are snobs about it, which is why I say McD’s had b@lls to promote this, especially in the New England area where everyone will be super critical about its authenticity.

      All things considered, I think they did a really good job. They just need to use a New England Split Top bun instead of the one they’re using which is borrowed from one of their chicken sandwiches (and I think the McRib also uses this bun).

      Reply
      • July 5, 2017 at 6:03 am
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        I thought it was ok, but I’m thinking of taking one home and drenching it in butter  like your sandwich

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  • July 5, 2017 at 4:14 am
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    had the lobster roll in Saratoga Springs NY last summer (2016). Why don’t they serve them again this year? I notice they have them in VT.

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  • July 5, 2017 at 11:55 am
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    @ dnakaza – Ah, so you’re in the middle on it like I am. Not bad, not great. Yup, I think drenched in melted butter would definitely improve it. Also take out the iceberg lettuce, but leave in one of the leaf lettuce. Butter the bun too.

    @ Joyce – Yeah, McD’s seems very selective which markets they’re choosing to offer this. I’m sure there are major supply and distribution factors to consider. That’s a lot of lobster to  process to supply the biggest fast food chain in the world! So much so, they couldn’t land a contract with the lobsterman in Maine, instead having to turn to processors in Canada for it.

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  • July 5, 2017 at 12:48 pm
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    I prefer crab roll to lobster roll.  I had lobster roll in San Francisco it was OK but still like crab.

     

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  • July 5, 2017 at 1:55 pm
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    Pomai,

    Not surprised Mc “D’s” is at it again with the lobster roll. They tried it in New England and got hammered with big thumbs down! Why would anyone in their right mind in New England sea coast want a $7.99 frozen soggy diced lobster meat (est. 3 oz.) with one whole claw slathered with unknown bland chemical tasting mayonnaise dragged through lettuce garden on God knows what type of bun with corn meal roll; when they can purchase a fresh typical toasted top split buttered hot dog bun, ocean fresh shucked chunky lobster meat (3 oz., 4 oz., 5oz., 6oz, 7oz. or 8oz.) with two whole claws, lightly coated with Hellman’s (Best Foods) creamy real mayonnaise, one leaf of lettuce to keep bun from getting soggy ocean fresh New England style lobster roll (Maine style has no lettuce and Connecticut Style has no lettuce and is sauté in clarified butter).

    The more fresh lobster meat in the roll commands a higher price with average running about $9.99 to $11.99 per (3oz. to 4oz.); $12.99 to $18.99 (5 oz. to 7oz.) and $21 averaging for (8oz.). Of course the fancy high end gourmet restaurants really try to go way over the top with all sorts of high end culinary arts add-ins which totally take away from the true lobster flavor and cost a lot more. When it comes to lobster “Keep it simple” for true flavor!

    According to famous Maine eatery (where most people gauge the lobster roll by) “Red’s Eats” in Wiscasset, ME they use a single whole chicken lobster (1 lb. to 1 ¼ lb.) with both claws to show they used whole lobster which shucked provides (3oz. to 3.5oz.) of lobster meat. Rule of thumb is 6 whole chicken lobsters provide 1 lb. or 18 oz. of shucked lobster meat. A fresh whole live and kicking lobster purchased in Honolulu currently is running about $15.99 per pound.

    I have tried Mc “D’s” lobster roll and could not finish it because I was gagging so much with foul chemical taste. My suggestion is save your money. Right here in Hawaii and Honolulu you have all the fresh ingredients to make your own and far better tasting than Mc “D’s”. All you have to do is look around the supermarkets and seafood markets. Pomai did a whole blog on making your own all three New England styles.

    Of note, Nadine Kam in Honolulu Star Advertiser CRAVE this week July 5, 2017; on page 11 did a review of McDonald’s lobster rolls ($9.99). She notes she regularly eats fresh made lobster rolls (3 each) out of New Your City during her trips to the Big Apple at Luke’s Lobster Restaurant for $18 each. Her assessment of McDonald’s lobster roll was very measured. She highly suggests if you are going to eat a McDonald’s lobster roll you bring along your own condiments (butter, Best Foods mayo and Old Bay seasoning) to assist the culinary flavor. Both Pomai and I highly suggest you get rid of the shredded lettuce and keep the single leaf lettuce.

    PLEASE NOTE: if you purchase a live lobster keep it on ice cubes or frozen blue ice in an ice cooler. Get it out of plastic shopping bag so it can breathe. Lay the lobster on damp wet newspaper and cover it with damp wet newspaper to keep it from drying out. You will be able to store live lobster up to one full day like this in iced cooler or kitchen refrigerator.

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    • July 5, 2017 at 3:20 pm
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      Pomai,

      Using frozen or canned lobster meat is totally acceptable in New England to augment use of real shucked lobster meat in salads, casseroles, dishes, sandwiches and rolls. One time I was in the kitchen of a very highly respected New England restaurant working on a field service equipment problem when one of the cooks brought out a case of canned lobster meat and started to make a large bowl of lobster meat for lobster rolls. I was shocked because they were known for their lobster rolls.  

      I also worked in a New England restaurant (I was dating the head chef’s daughter) as the lobsterman responsible for keeping the lobster tanks clean and full with fresh lobster of all sizes daily for restaurant chefs. I was also responsible for prepping the lobsters (cutting live lobster down the center and if you didn’t hold lobster right big ones would flap their tails up severing your main arteries at underside of wrist so you would bleed out and die) for stuffing and broiling also steaming for shucking to make lobster salads or rolls.

      When using frozen lobster meat it comes commercially packaged fully shucked turning lobster meat watery and grainy (like McDonald) or like what you get in Hawaii cooked and flash frozen still in the shell preserving the taste and meat texture. Using product as such can become very cost effective without sacrificing taste of product as long as you treat it right. Costco has the best buys of Nova Scotia hard shell frozen unshelled lobster arms and claws about $17 yielding about 1 pound of shucked meat and frozen Nova Scotia hard shelled lobster tails about $27 for 3ea 9 oz. tails yielding about 1 pound of shucked lobster tail meat. Totaling 2 pounds of shucked whole lobster meat for $44 which you can make 4 oversized 8 oz. lobster rolls or 8 regular sized lobster rolls or 24 sized McDonalds sized lobster rolls.

      Please Note: when a lobster dies the body enzymes immediately start attacking the internal meat structure turning it mushy just like shrimp. You must immediately cook it of freeze it to stop the deterioration of flesh. Once you defrost the lobster meat to room temperature the enzymes go back to work.

      You can do the math of purchasing one fresh live chicken lobster in Hawaii for $15.99 per pound to make a single lobster roll or 6 ea. to make 1 pound of shelled lobster meat to make 6 ea. fresh lobster rolls or purchasing frozen unshelled lobster meat still in shell thus preserving taste to make lobster rolls. 

      Reply
  • July 6, 2017 at 11:47 am
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    Ken,

    EPIC, very insightful comment(s), as always! As I noted in the article “all things considered”, meaning being in Hawaii, we don’t have the luxury of Lobster Shacks everywhere like you did out in New England. So obviously the next best option as you pointed out is buying a fresh live Kona Cold Lobster (originally a North Atlantic “chick” flown in to Hawaii and raised here) for about $16, some King’s Hawaiian Sweet Split-top Buns and making it yourself. Yet most people here probably won’t want to go out their way to do that when the neighborhood McD’s has what I think is at least a “passable” take on the Lobster Roll. A little bit of doctoring, such as removing some of the lettuce, buttering the bun, and adding some REAL Best Foods mayonnaise with the Lobster Meat, and it would probably be right up to par. In fact I’ll do a follow-up to this review and get another McD’s Lobster Roll and doctor it to see if that holds true.

    Even if it’s only about 3 oz. of Lobster Meat in McD’s Lobster Roll, it’s still a substantial amount to eat, factoring in the bun, and of course that lettuce filler (mostly water of course). I was definitely full after eating the whole thing, plus the side of fries. And unlike another reviewer who said it “ran out of steam” by the time he was halfway through it, I actually enjoyed it more and more as I was eating it. Still, it needs improvements.

    I see Nadine Kam at the numerous foodie events I get invited to. We often sit together and have really great conversations. Next time I see her I’ll ask her about the Lobster Roll review.

    Speaking of fancy restaurants jazzing up the Lobster Roll, I really wanted to try the battered ‘n fried Tempura Lobster Roll from the Surf Lanai at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, however looks like they took it off the menu. I’d like to try those Pupu Lobster Tails with the Toasted Points you told me about at Da’ Crawfish and Crab Shack out in Kapolei.

    I’ll have to keep an eye out for canned Lobster Meat. If you see some, let me know where! I so gotta’ try making a roll with the stuff!

    You’re right about the frozen Nova Scotia Lobster I had, being it tasted superior because it flash-frozen still in its shell, so it retained all its natural flavor. Unlike the one McD’s is using, being it’s shipped pre-shucked and portioned for each sandwich, so even if it’s vacuum sealed, it still suffers some flavor loss from the freezer.

    That package of frozen, in-the-shell knuckles and claws from Costco sounds like another good way to go. Still, I’ll stick the live lobster next time, where hopefully Tamashiro Market will have the Kona Cold Lobster. You’re lucky to have Seafood City out there on the West side. Their prices seem very reasonable, and all LIVE. Can’t wait to hear your report on them Langostino Prawns after you cook them.

    I actually wouldn’t want an oversized Lobster Roll. Even the ones I made were actually too big. I had a hard time finishing each one, actually having to save some for leftovers later. The 3 oz. McD’s has in theirs is perfect amount for me at least. Well OK, perhaps one more claw would be nice, so make that about 4 oz. would be perfect. So doing the math based on your figures at $44 for 2 pounds of whole shucked lobster meat, that comes out to just $1.88 per Lobster Roll with 3 oz. of meat in each, not including the cost of the bun, leaf of lettuce and condiment, whether it be Butter or  Best Foods Mayo’. Add that in, plus the gas to go  get all that, and labor (yourself), I’m estimating you can make your own more superior Lobster Roll with 3 oz. of meat for no more than $4 or $5 bucks. Still, again, not many people will do that vs. the convenience and novelty of what McD’s is offering for $10.

    Now I’m off to cover that amazing looking New England Lobster Bake you did for the 4th!

     

     

     

     

     

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