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December 09, 2009

The Lobster Roll-Off - Chapter II - Belle Isle Seafood

Lobster Roll - Belle Isle Seafood Dominic Armato

Our next stop on the Roll-Off takes us to Belle Isle Seafood, a highly regarded little seafood place that's purported to have an exceptional lobster roll. Located in East Boston, right on the edge of Winthrop, nestled against the base of a bridge that overlooks the ends of runways 4L/22R and 4R/22L of Logan International, and it absolutely looks the part.

Belle Isle ExteriorDominic Armato

The fact that we arrived on a grey New England winter day only drove it home, but this is a seafood shack in the true sense of the term, a decrepit-looking little waterside store that sells a range of seafood, both fresh and prepared. The kitchen, actually, is a little more versatile than you might expect, offering baked, stuffed, grilled, Cajun and teriyaki variations on top of the usual breaded and fried. Customers at lunchtime seemed evenly split between those seeking fresh seafood and those seeking prepared. Belle Isle most certainly isn't a restaurant, but there's a high counter running along two walls and six or seven stools for those wishing to dine in. So I ordered up my lobster roll, plus a cup of clam chowder for the little fella (it's his obsession, as of late), and couldn't have been more pleased that it took a good ten minutes for the fellow at the counter to hand over our food, indicating that it was being freshly prepared to order.

Lobster Roll - Belle Isle SeafoodDominic Armato

The roll's a good one, its strength clearly being a big pile of meat -- claws, knuckles, tail and all -- the high point of which is that it's disassembled with such a light touch, it's almost as though a lobster is lying on the roll. The meat is fresh, tender and sweet, and when you come across a chunk like the one shown at the top of the post, it's hard not to get excited. Unfortunately, I otherwise had some issues with Belle Isle's offering. The few token leaves of lettuce are a non-issue, neither adding nor detracting. But the amount of mayo was a problem for me. The lobster is absolutely slathered in it, obscuring what should be the focus. This, from somebody who absolutely adores mayonnaise. And though the standard split hot dog bun was charred in a manner that suggested it had actually been grilled -- a nice touch -- I still found it kind of doughy and distracting. What's more, at $19, it's getting up there pricewise. Still, a good sandwich, and I'd get it again. But measured against the only other competition out there so far, I enjoyed it less and paid more for it. A clear victory for The Clam Box.

Belle Isle Seafood
1267 Saratoga Street
East Boston, MA 02128
Sat - Thu11:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Fri11:00 AM - 8:00 PM
  1) The Clam Box
2) Belle Isle Seafood



I always stop at this place when I go spotting. Along with Royal Roast Beef it's one of my favorite spotting break areas! I haven't had the lobster rolls but I've been a big fan of their fried clams and their haddock & fries.

Here's an example of the view of the planes you can get from that area:


See, I didn't think you were actually here in Boston proper for a long time, otherwise I could have pointed you at a few of my favorites. Ah well. Enjoy Phoenix! Definitely a lot warmer this time of year. ;)


I'm only posting this here because it's the most recent Boston-centric post, but I heard Ana Sortun of Oleana might be in the next season of Top Chef (Masters, maybe?). So if you haven't been to Oleana yet and you get a break between stuffing your face with lobster rolls, you might want to check it out.

Been reading your blog for a while, but this is my first comment--

Some friends and I did a lobster roll crawl (yep, one day, many lobster rolls from a carefully honed list of finalists), and Belle Isle was our winner. However, our rolls has hardly any mayo. Otherwise it sounds the same-tons of very flavorful lobster, negligible lettuce and a barely visible bun. It was our favorite mostly because the pile of lobster meat was the stand-out and didn't really need a whole lot more, although the one mayo enthusiast in the crowd lamented that there could have been more. So maybe they are inconsistent with their mayo? Yelp reviews suggest that you can request the amount when you order, so if I go back and get the lobster roll again, I will specify light mayo to be sure, although I've learned from subsequent trips that fried scallops (best I've ever had, no hyperbole) and lobster pie are even better than the lobster roll.

James Hook was another destination that was well liked by our group, but their roll was our most mayo-ed one, so if you're not a fan of tons of that, I wouldn't recommend it. We didn't get around to Neptune Oyster (which is one of my favorite seafood restaurants in general), so I still haven't had their much raved about if very expensive one.

Looking forward to rest of your reviews!

"So maybe they are inconsistent with their mayo?"

Inconsistency is, indeed, the Achilles' heel of the Roll-Off... which is why it purports to be nothing more than a very personal take on a very limited sample :-)

But that said, it sounds like my experience was the norm. Yesterday, I was talking to a friend who lives just up the road from Belle Isle and makes it a regular stop. She said she had to laugh when she read the post, because she tells them all the time that she loves their lobster rolls, except that they use way too much mayo.

James Hook is certainly on the short list. If it's over-mayoed, it's over-mayoed. I'd rather have a variety of ones I like and dislike and a range of preparations than a dozen examples of the same sandwich. I'd also like to get to Neptune. Actually, I went there a few months ago, but I got the hot. So I'm hoping to get back for the cold. That one might be tougher to squeeze in, though. Somehow, I don't think dragging a toddler and a baby carrier into that place would be terribly appropriate :-)

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