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December 12, 2009

The Lobster Roll-Off - Chapter IV - Fred's Sea Foods

The Counter at Fred's Sea Foods Dominic Armato

Fred's Sea Foods is the kind of place I wish had a better lobster roll.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. As I've been gallivanting around town the past couple of weeks, getting in appointments while I can, making preparations for the move, I've maintained a long list of places I'd like to get into the Roll-Off. It's much longer, sadly, than I'll have time for, but whenever I have an errand in a particular part of town, to the list I go.

So, this past week when a quick run to Ikea was on the agenda (yes, we're buying more furniture two weeks before a cross-country move), I was a little surprised to find that my list had absolutely nothing near Stoughton. The solution? Google Maps and a search for "seafood near Stoughton". What's a good ol' sandwich-off without a couple of random, new selections in the mix? While it's easy just to check out all of the well-publicized favorites, you have to pound the pavement a little bit and Fred's Sea Foods in nearby Randolph seemed to fit the bill.

The place is a trip. It's obviously been around for a while, though I won't hazard a guess, and unlike places that have been around forever but have seen regular renovation, I suspect Fred's doesn't look much different now than it did 30 years ago. There's a small case with fresh seafood for sale, a large menu of mostly fried items to dine in, quite a bit of seating -- I counted 18-20 chairs -- and a soda machine for beverages. The walls are plastered with painted paper signs proclaiming the specials, like those you see in the photo above, as well as assorted sea-related trophies and faded posters depicting numerous species of fish. Between the room and a colorful crowd, it's a fun place to hang out and grab some lunch. Which makes it kind of unfortunate that the roll left a lot to be desired.

Lobster Roll - Fred's Sea FoodsDominic Armato

The most notable quality of Fred's lobster roll is that it's cheap. At $10, it's not only the cheapest I've tasted, but the cheapest I've seen. what's more, that's the large, with the normal size coming in at $7. Of course, it could be argued that you get what you pay for. Don't let its verticality fool you. This was definitely the smallest of the class thus far. Shortly after ordering, one of the staff walked out of the back room, mixing the lobster salad in a small metal bowl -- made to order -- bonus! But the quality wasn't up to snuff. It had kind of a shredded quality with a few larger chunks mixed in, and the meat was disheveled enough that I couldn't really identify most of the bits. While the meat wasn't problematic, I suppose, it didn't exactly sing fresh or sweet. A little bit of roe that found its way into the mix was a nice little touch, intentional or otherwise, but the binding element was... strange. It was very thick and sticky, and it had an almost cheesy quality. Shred the lobster up a little finer and it's not quite lobster dip, but you're headed in that direction. I have no idea what gave it that consistency, and if any lobster roll veterans would like to hazard a guess, I'd love to know. And the bun was a total throwaway. Not a split roll, but the kind of hot dog bun I'm used to (minus the poppyseeds, of course), cold and untoasted.

Really, unless you like thick and sticky with an almost spreadable quality, pretty much the only redeeming factor of Fred's lobster roll is the price. And yet, I found myself debating whether I preferred Fred's or Skipjack's. There's no question that despite how flat it came across, Skipjack's lobster was much better. That Skipjack's baguette was so dry and so bad and so distracting almost kept it in the basement, but while all of the components are important, if I center my attention where it most properly belongs, I have to put Fred's at the bottom. Sorry, Fred. I'd love to try your fried seafood sometime, because you've got a charming little place, there.

Fred's Sea Foods
49 North Main Street
Randolph, MA 02368
  1) The Clam Box
2) Belle Isle Seafood
3) Skipjack's
4) Fred's Sea Foods


It sounds like the lobster roll is like caviar, Palm Springs and Opera. It must be good because it is what rich people eat, where they play and what they do for entertainment.

For $10 - 23, if I was in New England, I could buy a bunch of fresh lobster meat, bring it home and eat it. I would dress it any way I could and love it.

My in-laws had a deli/bakery for 35 years. I loved their sandwiches because I could not make them at home. When I go out, I want to eat something I can not make at home, or if I do, it is not even close to what I order out.

Dom - save your money for Phoenix and the search for the perfect tamale.

For now, go buy a ton of fresh lobster - as much as you can until you leave. Mix your own combo of knuckles, tails, etc. Put your own mayo, salt, pepper, etc. on it and what ever bun you please. It has got to be better than what you are buying or what anyone else is offering. And you can pile it as high as you want.

Just a thought from a lowly, allergic to shellfish redneck.

I'm almost in agreement with gilmore with one caveat: I really like reading what Dom writes. So if he took your suggestion, he'd still have to write about it at length to satisfy me!

Gilmore... what makes you think I can't make a tamale at home? :-)

(Incidentally, I intend for the home version to be the final chapter.)

I'll usually add one ingredient to the usual mayo, salt, pepper, and diced celery in my lobster roll--

a splash of lemon juice.

I think this really brings out all the flavors.

Sorry for the dis Dom!!! How about the best menudo (if such a beast exists)?

Hey, that briny thing you mention: maybe when you whip up your own, you should try whisking the mayo with some lobster broth.

Or just some seawater!

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