Consider the $34 Lobster Roll

WISCASSET, Maine – First weekend of June, view reds eats A lot seemed like last summer. Lines of tourists waiting to order at this picturesque seafood shack ran down the block. Your restaurant makes “best of” lists when the sun goes down and the staff pass out umbrellas and water and the kind of beauty you offer. causes traffic jams In attracting people from all over the country.

Red’s menu offered the usual fare of sea scallops, full belly deep-fried clams and its most famous dish, a fresh lobster roll, “pile high”.

The only change was the price: This year, the lobster roll is $30.

“are you kidding with me?” Said Bindu Gajaria, who was vacationing from Philadelphia and hadn’t checked the menu before getting in line. “I was going to order one, but now I’m having second thoughts.”

And $30 was a relative bargain. as two weeks ago Reported in Bangor Daily News, was selling Red’s sandwiches for $34 – just $136 to support a family of four.

Up and down the coast of the northeastern United States, the price of lobsters—and thus, lobster rolls—is at historic highs, say restaurants serving them.

Owner Steve Kingston said, “It’s the most I’ve ever seen.” clam shack in Kennebunkport, Maine, which is charging $24.95 for their lobster rolls this summer.

Last year, the lobster roll was $18.95, but the price of lobster meat was “so high that we had no choice but to go significantly higher,” he said.

At Lobster Landing in Clinton, Conn., there’s an eatery Earned praise in Yankee magazine For its roll, the cost has risen 75 cents from the previous year to $19.75.

“For us, a family of four it’s 80 rupees and then sales tax, which has nothing to do with me,” said Anna Becky, an owner. “Everywhere around us it’s $21, $22, $24. For me, I didn’t want to go to $22 and shock people.

Like old cars and homes, the rise in lobster meat prices is, in part, a matter of supply and demand that has increased because of the pandemic. Home cooks trapped inside during lockdown turned to all kinds of seafood Over the past year to expand your tastes and learn new kitchen skills.

“The processing sector is demanding too much meat,” said Dick Doughty, an owner of Doughty BrosLobster wholesaler and processor in Portland, Maine. “There are more players, no more lobsters.”

Lobster roll is inflation, dare we say, moment partner? It is true that the catch decreases in May and June and increases by July and August, as lobsters move ashore with rising water temperatures.

But the lobster industry is also “incompetent by design,” said Annie Tselikis, executive director of Maine Lobster Dealers Association.

There are approximately 4,500 licensed lobsters in the state of Maine, and each fishing vessel is an independent operator. “Fishing and the supply chain are completely disconnected,” Ms Tselikis said. “I can’t tell those boats to go fishing,” if a captain decides to take the day off.

And when it comes to processing, he said, “We don’t have a lot of automation in this industry because we’re dealing with an animal that has two big claws, eight legs, a tail, and an exoskeleton. That’s it. It’s an incredible process for a lobster to get out of the ocean and into a consumer. It’s not a hot dog. It’s not a hamburger.”

Which has resulted in an epic mismatch between supply and demand so far this year. So Epic, In Fact, That Red Opened In April There is no lobster on its menu. It’s like Peter Luger is opening without a steak.

But the lobsters and females from which Red buys do not have good harvests, even offshore. So it either went without it until live lobster was available or served frozen meat—an option that Red’s owner Debbie Gagnon likened to a “stake in the heart.”

Clad in a red T-shirt and ball cap, Ms Gagnon spoke to a reporter through the order window, where she was simultaneously writing on the pad and making announcements over loudspeakers (“Welcome to the Reds. Get ready for the best lunch ever. Maine! … Last weekend we had Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon waiting in line…”)

“Frozen lobster is like wet cardboard,” she said. “And that’s not who we are. I never will be, sometimes Serve frozen lobster. “

Just down the hill from the Reds, another lobster shack, sprague lobster, was selling your roll for $25.95, and you didn’t need to stand in line. further ashore, at Macaloon’s Lobster Shack At Sprucehead Island, the roll was $19.95. Then Mr. Becky was down in Connecticut with his 20-cent-off roll.

Were the tourists searched by some of the eateries? Or are the different prices a sign of different restaurants’ approach to the roll?

Macaloon’s owners, including Mr. Doughty, also have a pier, where they feed and fuel the lobstermen and buy the lobster directly, running short of supplies. They stuff their $20 lobster roll with four ounces of meat.

Red’s serves a buttery, heaping roll that holds so much meat—about eight ounces—the bun is invisible. Decreasing portion size would be another stake in the heart.

Ms Gagnon expects the price to go down as supply increases. But many restaurants set the price of the lobster roll early in the season and keep it. Mr Kingston, who worked this way, said it was “painful” to set a price for his 5½ ounce rolls this year.

“I worry about this stuff,” he said. “We are on people’s bucket list. They would say to me, ‘We went out to come here. We understand that you serve the bushes.’ But there comes one thing.”

How much is too much for a summer food tradition?

“I didn’t think we were there at $24.95, but I’m worried,” said Mr. Kingston. “I’m pretty sure we’re not selling until 2019.”

places like clam shack, who has won lobster roll rumble Many times, and reds can have pricing power, at least during the tourist season – especially after the heat of last year, as Americans are traveling and re-embracing life outside their homes. are.

Steve Pulliam and his wife, Allison, had traveled from Fayetteville, Ark. to stay there as they waited in the scorching sun at the Reds. Visiting Maine was “on the bucket list”, Ms Pulliam said.

Did the $30 price tag (plus tax) for a lobster roll put them off?

“No, because this is probably the only time I’ll have a lobster roll this summer,” said Mr. Pulliam. This was also his first time.

After standing for 40 minutes in a slow moving line, the couple reached near the window. He ordered two lobster rolls, scallops, french fries, and two sodas. Total cost: “Ninety dollars too, dear,” said Ms. Gagnon.

Mr Pulliam already justified it: “I’m glad I didn’t bring up children.”

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