Keeping it simple at Red Hook Lobster Pound. (Photo by Wally G)

Butter, mayo... or both? Celery? Lemon? Toasted or untoasted bun? Served warm? Served cold? (Trick question, that's a lobster salad roll, technically.) Preparing a lobster roll is a personal thing, but it tends to be a purist's game—you won't often find anything on a roll outside of those ingredients listed above. But that doesn't mean people haven't played fast and loose with ingredients before—some ingredient crimes have included the lettuce leaf (you monsters!), Tabasco, and even cheese. Yes, cheese.

Meanwhile, in the fast food world we've seen the unholiest of unions—there's been McLobster Sauce, "sharp processed cheese flavors," and the worst bread vehicle of all time: the panini.

Speaking of breads, while lobster salads have been around for longer (lobster used to be served in prisons, btw), the first hot dog buns were not commercially manufactured until 1912. Before that, lobster salads were put on toast or crackers. Luckily, we have hot dog buns now, and the hot dog bun is the only correct way to do this, people. It secures your precious lobster meat inside of its bread home, which is hopefully appropriately soaked in melted butter, whereas a hamburger roll will leave you with a lap full of lobster one bite in. Unless you plan on eating it with a fork and knife, in which case please click away and never return to here. Anyway, don't mess with perfection: no hamburger rolls, no wraps, no boring regular toast, no goddamn paninis.

Below, a short history of how we've prepared lobster rolls.

  • NY Times, 1964: Here the Paper of Record recommends you include lettuce leaves and Tabasco sauce for "taste." As if the taste of delicious lobster meat wasn't enough. Confusingly, they don't even list butter or mayonnaise in the ingredients section, which is just crazy. Also: hamburger buns (see above).

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  • NY Times, 1970: Again with the Tabasco! This time they've also added basil, garlic, celery, parsley, and scallions. Kudos for the butter and mayo combo, though.

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  • The '90s were a strange time for lobster rolls—even Bon Appetit tried experimenting with a version that included zucchini.
  • And in 1993 the Paper of Record recommended adding mustard to your lobster roll. MUSTARD. Come on, people, that stuff is for hot dogs.
  • In 2014, we have people adding ingredients that belong nowhere near a lobster roll—just check out this menu, which includes rolls served with kale, cabbage, jalapeno, STEAK, and... bacon bits?! Somewhere along the way someone even tried to make Lobster Roll Pizza happen.

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It's unclear when and where the lobster roll was invented, but the NYPL's menu catalog has them showing up in the 1950s—that earlier menu, from 1957, is from Conti's in Milford, CT. While Conti's doesn't claim to have invented it, some say nearby restaurant Perry's invented the lobster roll in 1929. How did they do it? Served warm and bathed in butter. Connecticut Magazine editor Charles Monagan once dubbed it "Connecticut's greatest contribution to the world of regional cuisine."