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Where to Find a Great Local Lobster Roll

The price of lobster has risen this year, but it's still easy to find a tasty, affordable roll in Sarasota.

By Allison Forsyth

A lobster roll from the Sarasota food truck The Maine Line.

Due to high demand and limited supply, the price of lobster has risen in recent months. In May, the wholesale price for a live lobster in the New England market was $9.01 per pound and $8.50 per pound in Florida—about $2 more than the year prior. But if you're willing to spend the dough, there are still plenty of places to find excellent lobster roll in Sarasota, whether you prefer the thick, heavy-clawed lobster from Maine or the spiny, long-tailed lobster from the Florida Keys.

Kurt and Brenda Turner moved to Sarasota from Maine in 2018. Shortly after arriving, they began to miss the flavors of home and started a lobster roll food truck called The Maine Line. The truck visits locations in Venice and Sarasota each week, and they offer a variety of classic and new lobster creations with lobster caught in Maine and flown down to Florida.

Lobster fisherman in Maine, where Kurt Turner gets his supply.

The most popular dish on the menu is the warm lobster roll: four ounces of warm lobster meat on top of a buttered brioche bun, served with a side of cole slaw and Cape Cod chips. Then you have "Mom's Lobster Roll," a cold roll topped with shredded meat mixed with mayo.

The Maine Line also makes lobster grilled cheese, lobster tacos or quesadillas and clam "chowdah." Sandwiches are another love of Kurt's, so the menu's "Mainely" sandwiches include an Italian sandwich with salami, provolone, onions, sour pickles and more, and the "Snappy Dog," a hot dog on toasted bun.

Maine Line owner Kurt Turner in front of his food truck.

What makes Maine lobster different from Florida lobster? Florida lobsters lack large claws and have long, spiny antennae. Maine lobsters also tend to have a sweeter taste and a deeper red color because of the cold water in which they live, whereas Florida lobster is lighter in color and soaks up the flavors in which it is cooked.

If you wish to get a Florida lobster roll, check out The Lobster Pound in Lakewood Ranch. The fresh food market and seafood bistro offers New England- or Connecticut-style rolls, the first with mayo and the second without. The restaurant also sells a variety of other seafood products at its market. The concession stand at the Lido Key public beach, known as the Lido Island Grill, also makes a killer lobster roll.

The rise and fall in lobster prices has caught the attention of lobster fisherman and restauranteurs. The increase was partially due to disrputions in trade with China (one of U.S.'s main lobster sources) caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Another reason is that people began experimenting with cooking while quarantined at home, and in-home demand for lobster rose. Kurt says a scarcity of fishermen has also caused price increases.

Despite the fluctuations, Kurt keeps his prices at around $18.50 per roll, where others might charge anywhere from $27 to $37. He's even had New England customers tell him that his rolls are better than ones they've tried up north.

"The people of Sarasota are really responding to us and it's mostly been through word of mouth and social media," says Kurt. "All in all, locals and New Englanders have rallied around us, and the latter miss the flavors back where they lived."

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