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December 17, 2009

The Lobster Roll-Off - Chapter X - James Hook & Co.

A Very Big Lobster Dominic Armato

He may not look it in the closeup, but trust me, this fella was a monster.

It's been a lobstery week here at Skillet Doux, and this may or may not be the final installment of the Roll-Off. We'll see what I can get to next week before I skip town. But one thing's for certain. I'm definitely getting a pretty firm grasp on the genre.

James Hook & Co.Dominic Armato

For our tenth entry, we hit another Boston stalwart, James Hook & Co. Much like Yankee Lobster, they've been around forever. And they'd have to be. Otherwise there's no way you'd devote so much prime real estate smack dab in the middle of downtown Boston to a lobster shop sitting on a mostly vacant lot. It's a funny little place, looking almost like a doublewide trailer that's split between offices and a retail outlet that devotes almost as much space to tee shirts as it does to seafood. I exaggerate, but let's just say there are a lot of little plush lobsters lying around. Of course, there are also huge tanks of the genuine article, including some that look beefy enough to fill a score of rolls all on their own. It's a seafood market, and it has no seating other than a couple of random chairs that don't really seem to be intended for eating. But James Hook does have the requisite cold seafood case which, sadly, contains the lobster rolls.

Lobster Roll - James Hook & Co.Dominic Armato

James Hook's roll is premade, and it shows. For a large-scale lobster purveyor, they make a lobster roll that doesn't have much in the way of fresh lobster flavor. The salad's a mix of medium dice and the occasional large chunk, studded with chunks of celery here and there. It's a very mayo-heavy salad and, like Fred's a few entries back, has a thick, almost cheesy quality the genesis of which I can't divine. It's not as thick and strong as in Fred's case, but it's heading in that direction. Of course, a huge problem is that the bun, having sat in a very cold refrigerator case whilst piled with very wet lobster salad, is cold and gummy. Its best feature is the cheap $12 price tag, but it's not worth saving a few bucks, especially when Alive and Kicking's sandwich -- similarly slathered in stuff but puzzlingly oodles more enjoyable -- is only a dollar more and comes with a bag of chips.

James Hook's, along with Skipjack's and Fred's, is one of only three entrants in the Roll-Off about which I harbor negative feelings. It's better than Fred's, no doubt, but I think I actually have to put it below Skipjack's. They both had lousy bread, but at least Skipjack's lobster was okay, if a little flat. And it's hard to look at a pile of premade sandwiches sitting in a refrigerator case without kind of feeling like Hook's deserves to be on the precipice of the basement. They may be a great seafood market, I don't know. But as a purveyor of lobster rolls, there's not much to like.

James Hook & Co.
15 Northern Avenue
Boston, MA 02210
Mon - Thu8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Fri8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Sat9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Fri9:00 AM - 1:00 PM
  1) Kelly's Roast Beef
2) B&G Oysters
3) Alive And Kicking
4) The Clam Box
5) Neptune Oyster
6) Belle Isle Seafood
7) Yankee Lobster
8) Skipjack's
9) James Hook & Co.
10) Fred's Sea Foods


Yikes. That looks...terrible.

I know you're focused on the lobster stuff right now, but have you tried other restaurants in Boston? Are you going to review those? And did you ever make it to Boston's North End? (Or Mike's Pastry, for that matter?)

Is it possible for me to ask more questions in this entry? Will Dom get aggravated by all the question marks? Will I get flamed? Dear God will this comment ever end?

The picture of Fred's roll is much more appealing than this one. Dom, with your fine food pictures, I am sure you tried your best, but JH&C's roll looks truly disgusting.

That sandwich looks like a bunch of coleslaw slapped on a bun. Yuck.

I know you almost disqualified A&K for having a lobster "sandwich" and not a true roll, I would think that this place's sin - having it pre-made would also warrant a DQ. Maybe more so.

here's a question I haven't seen an answer to yet...aren't you completely sick of eating lobster rolls by now? ;) safe travels to you and the fam next week!

I have to agree with some previous posters... that looks like one seriously nasty lobster roll.

This is such a public service! As a visitor to the Boston area, I could see myself accidentally getting rooked into one of these touristy places to taste a "Boston classic" and getting something like that depressing looking pile of ...stuff.. up there.

I know I've commented before (and posted on LTH) in favor of J. Hook, but that does not look good at all, certainly not what I'm used to getting from there--perhaps an off day. However, seeing the rest of your options, I doubt that on a on-day Hook would have ranked a whole ton higher.

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