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Eating with Emma

Get crackin' on the best lobster rolls in Sarasota and Manatee counties

In honor of my lobster-loving sister, here are some local dishes that remind me of home sweet home.

The Giant Connecticut roll ($34.99) from Lobster Pound tastes like home.
The Giant Connecticut roll ($34.99) from Lobster Pound tastes like home.
Photo by Emma Burke Jolly
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As a native New Englander, during this time of year, I really start missing the place I will forever call home. I yearn for the northern summer weather (sans humidity and afternoon tsunamis), chasing fireflies even in my 30s and eating the nation's best lobster rolls with my sister.

My younger sister, Maddie, is a lobster enthusiast — to put it mildly. She rates the buns, lobster meat and overall experience on her Instagram page, called Ladies Who Lobster.

In honor of Maddie's upcoming birthday celebration, I put on my thinking cap and eating bib and turned into a lady who lunches on lobster, and I found the best luxurious summer seafood sandwiches in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

Let’s get crackin’.

Lakewood Ranch Lobster Pound Seafood Bistro and Fish Market

8740 State Road 70 E., Lakewood Ranch; 941-755-3474;

Owned by Jim and Kelly, this market and bistro serves up seafood with staff hailing from Long Island, New England and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I was immediately transported back to Connecticut in a way that, no lie, brought a tear to my eye. Order up to 30 minutes before closing time (6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Friday through Saturday).

The Giant Connecticut roll ($34.99) tastes like home.
Photo by Emma Jolly

How We Roll: New England or Connecticut style? If we’re offered chunks of lobster poached in butter, drizzled with lemon on a New England roll — the Burke girls are sold on Connecticut-style ($23.99). Jim and his chef pack on nearly a pound of fresh lobster!

You Butter Believe It: The Toss Up roll ($33.99) allows foodies to feast on both styles so you don’t have to choose. Want to see what a real storm looks like? Let’s try our best to nosh on the Nor’easter with sultry stacks of lobster on double buns — then we can roll into a nap time. Also, the clam chowder ($6.99) had my tastebuds doing cartwheels so we can’t leave without that.

The Maine Line 

Food truck locations updated weekly on website; 941-246-9090;

Owner Kurt was heavily disappointed in the lack of home-cooking vibes when he and his wife, Brenda, moved to town — so they brought the Pine Tree State to the Sunshine State in a scrumptious way. This gourmet food truck serves up some of Maine’s finest offerings. We’re lining up for the lobstah extravaganza.

The Maine Line Food Truck offers lovely lobster in all sorts of ways.
Courtesy photo

How We Roll: The classic lobster roll with warm butter, lemon, coleslaw and chips ($22.95) brings me right back to New England. With each bite of lobster, the air gets less humid and I feel like I’m home sweet home.

The Maine Line Food Truck goes big or goes home.
Courtesy photo

You Butter Believe It: Lobster tacos with cilantro lime sauce, lobster quesadillas, lobster grilled cheese, lobster mac and cheese, and a crabster roll (crab meat and lobster) are offered to those who skip the classic. The next time you're in town Maddie, I can’t wait to munch on the Maine maniac mega lobster roll with 1 lb. of lobster on a 12-inch roll, coleslaw, chowdah, chips and a bib ($64.95) with you.

Detwiler's Farm Market

2881 Clark Road, Sarasota; 6100 N. Lockwood Ridge Road., Sarasota; 6000 Palmer Blvd., Sarasota; 1800 US-301, Palmetto; 1250 US-41 BYP, Venice; 941-378-2727,

I noticed my mentor's Boston accent within moments of meeting her. I noticed myself becoming distracted in my training session. I just wanted to ask her where to get a more than decent lobster roll. Where she sent me to “pahk the cah” surprised me in the best ways.

Detwiler's is a fan favorite of a local Bostonian.
Courtesy photo

How We Roll: The colossal chunks of lovely lobster salad nestle within a traditional New England roll for an unbeatable, unbelievable price of $15.99. The surplus of shellfish in this cold-rendition roll is just as generous as it is delicious.

You Butter Believe It: While you’re at the sub shop, be sure to order a lobster bisque (12 oz.for $4.99 and 16 oz. for $5.99) or clam chowder for the same price. We can also head to the seriously splendid seafood counter and continue our lobster explorations in three more delicious ways -- lobster-stuffed flounder, lobster-stuffed mushrooms and lobster cakes are available for purchase too.

Kelly's Roast Beef

5407 University Parkway, Bradenton; 941-263-1911;

Did you know that this chain has been in business since 1951? Kelly’s has come a long way from Revere Beach in Boston to the Gulf Shores of Bradenton but still holds true to its New England roots by serving up seafood that will have you salivating.

How We Roll: We’re rolling with the succulent North Atlantic lobster mixed with the correct volume of celery and accurate amount of mayonnaise. This lobster roll ($24.95 and up) is served with an overwhelming selection of fantastic sides including French fries, onion rings and a side of Kelly’s own tangy tartar sauce. 

Kelly's brings the Northeastern way of doing things to Sarasota.
Courtesy photo

You Butter Believe It: Let's take a short break from the lobster lifestyle and snack on the clam or scallop roll ($25.95 each) and treat ourselves to some cheese fries ($5.95) because we can. The seasoned fries are topped with melted cheddar cheese sauce with real bacon.

Riverhouse Waterfront Restaurant

995 Riverside Drive, Palmetto; 941-729-0616;

Riverhouse in Palmetto knows how to roll.
Photo by Emma Jolly

Yes, there are three options for waterfront dining with a mouthwatering lobster roll moments away from my front door. I’m ab-shell-lutely ready for this last stop on the lobster tour.

How We Roll: Order up a New England style lobster roll (market price). It's offered at both the Reef & Grill, the ground level with indoor and outdoor dining, as well as on the Second Floor. Chopped cold-water lobster, mayo, celery and onion are all positioned perfectly on a New England style roll.

You Butter Believe It: Maddie, I have three words to end here — lobster pot pie ($18). OK, how about three more? I love it. Three more? I love you. But seriously, I can’t wait to bite into the blend of lobster, whitefish, shallots and more tucked under a baked puff pastry with you. Or we could get a big lump of lobster and a big lump of knobs. The lobster corn chowder ($18) is defined as a house favorite.



Emma Burke Jolly

Emma B. Jolly has worked at Observer Media Group for five years as the digital fulfillment specialist with previous experience at Sarasota Magazine, Harper's Bazaar and even "The Jerry Springer Show" (yes, that's right). In her spare time, she enjoys doing anything near or on the water, being a cat mama and, of course, being a foodie with her new hubby.

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