Ray’s Seafood Market & Restaurant – Essex Junction, VT
If you’re a regular reader here at Eat a Duck, you can probably rattle off the foods we enjoying writing about most. Pork, duck, foie gras, cheese, wine, steak, sushi, dim sum, the list goes on. Well now isn’t the time to stray from our faithful list of guilty pleasures. I only want to talk about one thing today, lobster, specifically lobster cozily stuffed in a buttered bun. I’m talking lobster rolls.
For many, Maine is the Mecca of the lobster world, others might say it’s Boston. When it comes to lobster rolls though, there’s only one place you need to know about. Ray’s Seafood Market and Restaurant in the humble town of Essex Junction, VT. I know, I know, this is almost as sacrilegious as when I said I found the best pizza ever in Atlanta, GA. I’m sorry but it’s true. I’ll give you a second to wrap your mind around it. Alright…
This little seafood shack is located just one exit north of Burlington on Interstate 89. If you manage to find it tucked away behind a Tae-Kwon-Do studio and the Go-Go Gas station, you won’t see any flashy signs touting “World’s Greatest Lobster!”, or any goofy quotes from this years Zagat guide plastered on all the windows “So good it should be against the CLAW!”. No, all you’ll see is a comfy looking sky blue eatery with a little lobster cut out above the door, subtly foreshadowing great things to come.
When you come through the doors you’re welcomed by the briny aroma of the sea. Large vats of crustaceans are front and center, proudly displaying the recent catch. A couple of bays devoted to lobster, maybe one for crab, all filled with potential delicacies. The large freezers to the right contain even more amazing seafood from scallops and octopus, to whole belly clams and shrimp, perfect for your fryer at home when you’re hankering for a po’ boy. Now I wouldn’t fault you for raising an eyebrow after taking a first glance around the place, it is a bit kitschy, what with all the fake crabs, fishing nets and glass buoys strung about like nautical Christmas decorations, but after dining here countless times, I wouldn’t change a single thing. In the end, all that matters is the food and Ray’s delivers.
So let’s get to it! I take it most of you have tried a lobster roll at least once in your life. No? Well let me lay out the basics for you. The classic lobster roll consists of a buttered bun, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, possibly a dash of Old Bay, and lobster meat, preferably from the tail but a little claw is fine as long as it’s fresh. That’s it, nothing fancy, nothing complicated. Those two things that the Ray’s roll lacks, are the exact two things that have ruined every other lobster roll I’ve tried elsewhere. Everyone seems to think “my god it’s lobster, we must dress it to the nines!”. So they add onions and celery and lettuce and all kinds of other ingredients and seasonings until the lobster gets completely overshadowed. Now if I’m going to spend $12-$20 on a lobster roll, by golly I want to taste my lobster! The folks at Ray’s get this, they dress it as simply as possible, using just enough mayo and spices to bring out the amazing flavors that lobster is capable of.
Understandably, many of you live nowhere near Ray’s, but we here at Eat a Duck are looking out for every eventuality. Say you find yourself on your way to Montreal to check out some of our wonderful Canadian recommendations like Maison Kam Fung or L’Express, but oh no, your plane gets caught in a terrible blizzard and has to divert to Burlington for the night. Well Ray’s is no more than 10 minutes from the airport, ready to supply you with soul warming lobster rolls to cure your air travel woes. Ah, now who’s thinking ahead? You’re welcome.
So if you or a friend or family member or even a sworn enemy (hey everyone deserves a tasty lobster roll) are ever heading to Burlington, and you even slightly enjoy a lobster here and there, make sure you check out Ray’s Seafood Market & Restaurant.