Here’s how much lobster rolls cost in Massachusetts right now

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There are still lobster rolls for around $20, but there are reasons why New England’s favorite sandwich seems more expensive than usual.

A lobster roll from Neptune Oyster. Wiqan Ang/Boston Globe

It isn’t an idyllic New England summer without a day at the beach, the sound of crashing waves in front of you, and possibly a lobster roll in hand.

But depending where you go and what you get, that sandwich full of lobster meat may cost you. And looking at some menus, you may not know how much it’ll cost you until you ask the restaurant staff.

Why does the lobster roll price vary so much — often at the more expensive end? It’s even somewhat of a mystery to the people who work in the industry, like Steven Holler, a fisherman for more than 40 years. There is no regulated math to decide the price, and Holler said there are often several people involved in the middle between the fisherman and the consumer. 

“Every time that lobster changes hands, the price goes up,” said Holler, who added that he’s getting paid $5.50 to $6 a pound for the lobster he catches by “lobster dealers” who then sell that lobster to retail or restaurants. 

Several factors play a role in deciding the price tag on New England’s favorite sandwich. 

Was it caught in Canada, where lobsters are more abundant right now? Was it a colder month, when lobsters are sometimes harder to catch? Are they using premium cuts of lobster meat, like the tail, and is the meat fresh or frozen? Global events, like inflation, regulations, overfishing, and climate change, have also impacted lobster prices in the last several years. 

If a restaurant is able to get their lobster directly from the boat, as is the case at Joe’s on a Roll in Beverly, that could bring the price down. Owner Nicki Birarelli said they use their own fleet to supply the lobster at their North Shore restaurant, and the $22 lobster roll accounts for their ability to catch it, shuck it, clean it, and serve it themselves.

“In Boston and any tourist place, a lobster roll is $35 to $40 because they’re not doing what I’m capable of doing,” Birarelli said. “They’re usually buying it through the middleman, and that’s why most restaurants have to charge what they charge.”

Most restaurants have to buy lobster meat by the pound to make your lobster roll, which currently costs upwards of $65 a pound. A few years ago, that price fell around $40 a pound. 

J.C. Cuchetti, owner of Sesuit Harbor Cafe, said this year was the second-most expensive year he’s seen in the 25 years he’s run a seafood shack in Dennis. 

“Thus the lobster roll will be a little bit more expensive this year than last year,” said Cuchetti. “I’m holding my price at the moment for my customer base, but if it continues to go up, I’d be forced to go up.”

But Roy Marden, manager of the fish market at the family-owned Captain Marden’s Seafood in Wellesley, believes consumers could see a drop in price this summer because of how many lobster fisheries caught in Canada this season. For example, Captain Marden’s Seafood restaurant sells lobster rolls and a side of fries right now for $29, but at the peak price of lobster, the sandwich’s price crawled up to $35. 

But that doesn’t mean every restaurant that gets cheaper priced lobster will lower their lobster roll price. The cost, whether it’s labeled outright or as “market price,” factors in other things besides the lobster, like labor, rent, and getting the lobster to the restaurant.

That’s why lobster rolls tend to be more expensive — as costly as $50 even — when they’re in more expensive areas of New England, like Boston’s Back Bay and Seaport neighborhoods or the Cape. 

And then there’s one last factor: the demand is there, even as the cost goes up. 

“You’re going to get people who will always pay no matter what the price is for a lobster roll,” Marden said.

While the days of easily finding a $20 lobster roll meal may be behind us, there are still lobster rolls to be found at varying price points no matter where you are in Massachusetts this summer. Some come with sides, some come with two, or some simply come with a high-quality lobster roll.

An editor’s note: These prices were the menu or market prices for the restaurants below in May and June 2024. These prices can and likely will change. Explore each price point below from highest to lowest.

How much lobster rolls cost in Mass. right now

Lobster rolls more than $35

A lobster roll at Belle Isle Seafood in Winthrop Massachusetts July 6 2015 Jessica RinaldiGlobe Staff

Hook + Line, $48 for two rolls with slaw and chips; 10 Fan Pier Blvd., Seaport

The Banks Fish House, $48 with chips; 406 Stuart St., Back Bay

Row 34, $45 with slaw and chips; Multiple locations

OAK Long Bar + Kitchen, $44 with fries; 138 St. James Ave., Back Bay

Saltie Girl, $42 with chips; 279 Dartmouth St., Back Bay

Wood Hills Pier 4, $41 with mixed greens and chips; 300 Pier 4 Blvd., Seaport

Atlantic Fish Co., $40 with fries; 761 Boylston St., Back Bay

Neptune Oyster, $39 with fries; 63 Salem St., North End

Belle Isle Seafood, $37.99 with choice of side; 1 Main St., Winthrop

Spanky’s Clam Shack and Seaside Saloon, $36.99 with fries and coleslaw; 138 Ocean St., Hyannis

Lookout Tavern, $36 with butter (see mayo below) and chips on the side; 8 Seaview Ave., Oak Bluffs

Red’s Best, $36; 100 Hanover St., Downtown Boston

Lobster rolls $30 to $35

James Hook Co lobster rolls which are a big lunch time favorite George RizerBoston Globe

Cusser’s, $35 with fries; Multiple locations

James Hook & Co., $34.99 with butter (see mayo below); 440 Atlantic Ave., Downtown Boston

Alive & Kicking Lobsters, $34.95; 269 Putnam Ave., Cambridge

Lookout Tavern, $34 with mayo (see butter above) and chips on the side; 8 Seaview Ave., Oak Bluffs

Sesuit Harbor Cafe, $33.67 with fries and coleslaw; 357 Sesuit Neck Road, Dennis

Le Madeline, $31 fried with chips; 409 Hancock St., Quincy

Roy Moore Lobster Company, $30; 39 Bearskin Neck, Rockport

The Red House Restaurant, $30 with fries; 98 Winthrop St., Cambridge

Lobster rolls $20 to $29

The 14oz Lobsta Sub is seen next to the regular size 7oz Lobsta Roll at Paulis North End sub shop in Boston Massachusetts on April 24 2013 Kayana Szymczak for the Boston Globe

Captain Marden’s Seafood, $29 with fries and coleslaw; 279 Linden St., Wellesley

Bob Lobster, $28.99 with chips; 49 Plum Island Turnpike, Newbury

The Canteen, $28 with coleslaw and a pickle; 225 Commercial St., Provincetown

PJ’s Family Restaurant, $28; 2616 US-6, Wellfleet

James Hook & Co., $27.99 with mayo (see butter above); 440 Atlantic Ave., Downtown Boston

Pauli’s, $26.99; 65 Salem St., North End

Lobstah on a Roll, $24; Multiple locations

Luke’s Lobster, $24; Multiple locations

The Knack, $23.75; 5 MA-6A, Orleans

Joe’s on a Roll, $22; 61 Federal St., Beverly

Sullivan’s Castle Island, $21.95; Multiple locations

Lobster rolls under $20

Brown butter lobster roll at Eventide Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Eventide Fenway, $19; 1321 Boylston St., Fenway-Kenmore

Charlie’s Kitchen, $14; 10 Eliot St., Cambridge

The Lobster Stop, $13.99; 723 Washington St., Quincy

Market Basket, $6.99 for two finger rolls; Multiple locations

Map: Where to find lobster rolls near you 📍

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