How to lobster like a real East Coaster

June 10, 2024

Embarking on a lobster adventure along Canada’s East Coast isn't just about savoring delicious seafood, it's about feeling the cultural heartbeat of the Maritimes. From cozy kitchen table lobster boils to breezy beachside feasts, every crack of the shell is a step closer to understanding the region's culinary heritage. Whether you're in the region for a quick weekend or a longer adventure, there’s no better way to connect with your new community than to crack a few shells together. Here’s how to eat lobster like you’re a real east coaster.

Join a family lobster boil

Maritimers are renowned for their lively ceilidhs, but there’s a more exclusive invitation you’ll want to secure: a kitchen table lobster boil with friends and family. This unique experience, steeped in tradition, is a must-try for any visitor or seafood lover.

The experience is as simple as it is delicious. Your dinner hosts will cover the table with newspaper (or something similar) to make it easy to clean up. Next, they’ll bring out a huge bowl of freshly steamed, bright red lobster and each guest grabs one of those and a nutcracker or two to break through the shells. Plates aren’t necessary! You’ll have a dish of melted butter by your side, maybe a dinner roll or two, and that’s usually it. It is gloriously messy and arguably the best way to enjoy lobster—fresh, simple, plentiful.

Lobster newspaper

Visit a community dinner

Lobster is a popular seasonal addition to many Maritime restaurant menus, but the best way to eat this tasty crustacean isn’t in a fancy dining room. If you’re visiting these eastern provinces, you’re going to want to take in a community dinner.

These meals range from occasional fundraisers to weekly rites of passage, which you’ll find in church halls, recreation centres, Canadian Legions, or community events. You can expect prices to be very reasonable (sometimes downright cheap) and portions are generous. Boiled lobster is served up in either “cold plate style” (sides include potato salad, pasta salad, coleslaw, pickles, dinner rolls, and cold baked ham) or “hot dinner style” (with seafood chowder, salad, mussels, and mashed potatoes). Dessert is always included, and it’s usually pie (which is always a good choice and an East Coast specialty). Some venues, like the famous New Glasgow Lobster Dinners in Prince Edward Island are ‘all you can eat’ (except for the lobster itself!) but this is a rarity.

Staying at a hostel? Many, such as HI Charlottetown, will host communal hostel dinners featuring tasty East Coast dishes - and it's a great way to meet fellow travellers too!

Travelling with friends who don’t love lobster or have a shellfish allergy? Most community dinners include a non-lobster alternative like roast chicken or vegetables.

Mark konig Lb P7l C4s Qcs unsplash

Try a beach boil with all the fixings

If you want your lobster boil to be more atmospheric, do it on the beach. A real East Coaster will cook lobsters, potatoes, corn on the cob, and clams together in a massive pot of salty seawater. The results are similar to a New England clam boil (and just as messy!) Luckily, you can dive in the waves when you’re done to wash off.

Grab a lobster sandwich to go

Want to grab your lobster on the go? Pick up a lobster roll or a lobster sandwich. The cardinal rules for getting an excellent lobster sandwich are a) the more straightforward, the better and b) the humbler the location, the cheaper the sandwich.

An excellent lobster sandwich consists of fresh lobster meat, a light application of either mayonnaise or melted butter (mayo is more common) and some lightly toasted bread. That’s it! Occasionally, you’ll get a little fresh lettuce leaf or some finely chopped celery but even that’s pushing it for some people. The best sandwiches use a combination of claw and tail meat chopped just big enough to know what kind of meat it is.

One thing to note for backpackers on a budget: you’ll pay a premium for trendy city spots on tourist-friendly piers and find better deals in small towns. Don’t be put off by a less-than-fancy take-out spot. These are exactly the kind of spots that locals love (and they usually make the best french fries too!).

Maritimers are fans of lobster club sandwiches, but most real East Coasters agree that the distinct sweet flavour of the meat is lost when you incorporate it into fancier dishes (like lobster grilled cheese and tacos). So feel free to order creative combos if that’s what you’re craving but true East Coasters will urge you to keep things really simple.

Lobster sandwich2

Swing by a fast food restaurant (really!)

Can gigantic corporate entities really serve up a decent lobster roll? Actually, yes. Springtime in many parts of the Maritimes spells the return of the fast-food lobster sandwich. While most wouldn’t consider this their first or second choice for enjoying fresh lobster, the general consensus is that they’re not bad. Do whatever you can to eat at small, independent businesses but don’t beat yourself up too much if you succumb to temptation. Locals grab them all the time!

You may also like to read

6 questions to ask a local that will lead to better travel experiences

What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about your hometown?
June 10, 2024

How to lobster like a real East Coaster

Shell yeah!
June 10, 2024