On a recent week off from work, since I wasn’t flying off anywhere interesting, I decided I would allow myself one indulgence: eating a lot of lobster. It’s not the cheapest indulgence, but it’s less than the price of a plane ticket.
I had breakfast one morning at The Sinful Kitchen in Portland, where one of the specials was a lobster Benedict with crumbled bacon and asparagus puree, and where the cook noted that I always seem to come in when they have lobster on the menu. (What can I say, I have finely honed lobster radar.)
On another day, I sampled a more modern creation, the Lobster Cheese Crisp Taco at High Roller Lobster Co. in Portland, which immediately became one of my new favorite things. The crispy-yet-chewy taco shell tastes like those bits of cheese that melt out of your grilled cheese into the pan. And you can get bacon cooked right into the shell. Heaven.
A co-worker had also suggested that, should I find myself in Biddeford, I should stop by that old standby, Pool Street Market, for one of its locally famous lobster rolls, which come in five sizes and are widely considered to be a great bargain. It’s been years since I visited the market, so I readily agreed.
It was a beautiful, sunny late spring day when I pulled up to the market, where there was plenty of street parking right out front. The market is easy to find: There’s a large sign out front (two, actually), and next to the front door is a big mural of a lobsterman on the water, hauling in his catch. A polite little boy held the door for me as I walked in, and in front of me was a market like any other, stocked with all the basics from cereal and doughnuts to milk and beer.
Customers order their lobster rolls at the front counter, where a sign informs them that the store goes through, on average, more than 4,500 pounds of lobster meat per year. The sign also includes some trivia: Did you know a cup of lobster meat contains 28 grams of protein? And that it takes four to five live lobsters to produce a pound of lobster meat?
At first glance, prices here appear to be awfully low. The “original” lobster roll costs just $6.95. The “jumbo” is $8.85, and the “deluxe” is $11.95. I ordered the “supreme,” which at $15.85 was just over the Eat & Run budget. The largest roll is called the “Winn” and costs $22.85. The employee who made my lobster roll told me the Winn is named after a local doctor who always ordered the largest size.
All the lobster rolls are basically made the same way and come in the same long (footlong, at least) roll; the difference, the woman who made my roll explained, is the more expensive the roll, the more lobster they put in it. My supreme roll, she said, contained about a half pound of meat. Indeed, it was large enough to either share with someone or save half to eat later. I was tempted to order the $6.95 roll as well, just to see how they could possibly spread what must be a much smaller amount of meat into such a large roll. (If you’re afraid of carbs, this is not the lobster roll for you.)
You can order your roll with butter or mayo, lightly mixed in or on the side. I got mine with mayo mixed in, and I appreciated the fact that she was not too heavy-handed with it. A small bed of lettuce provided the crunch that otherwise might have come from the roll itself, had it been toasted. But the split rolls here, while extraordinarly fresh, are served as is, which was my biggest disappointment. How hard could it be to quickly toast the bun on a little griddle? It would immediately elevate the roll onto a higher plane.
Some people have argued online that the lobster meat must be frozen to offer it at such a bargain, but I don’t agree. My lobster meat tasted fresh and had the appropriate texture for fresh meat. Perhaps there’s a lobsterman in the owner’s family who sells it to the market at a deep discount.
Bottom line: These lobster rolls are what you want when you have a lobster craving but are short on cash. Or when the price of lobster soars, as it did last spring and then again earlier this year, and the price of lobster rolls head north of $20. The Pool Street Market roll is a perfectly good lobster roll, although I probably would not often drive the 20 minutes from Portland to order one.
WHEN: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: 77 Pool St., Biddeford; (207) 282-9824; facebook.com/Poolstreetmarket1
WAIT: 5-10 minutes
PARKING: On-street parking
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: There’s a small curb at the front door.