Eating lobster is one of the summer’s most enjoyable pleasures. Despite prices that rise like the price of gasoline, lobster remains a staple on the Vineyard, where fast food is otherwise known as the lobster roll. A sample of Island offerings demonstrates almost limitless ways to enjoy lobster, from traditional boiled dinners and clambakes on the beach to chef’s specialties that include lobster dumplings, grilled lobster tails with linguini, and even lobster mashed potatoes.

If there were a lobster capital of the Island, it would be Menemsha, where lobster boats still bring in a Vineyard catch. Many of those are sold, cooked to order, at Larsen’s Fish Market, where Betsy Larsen says they average between 150 and 200 cooked lobsters to go each night of the week during the summer. Many patrons dip lobsters in melted butter, along with clams and oysters, right outside the market. They sit at rustic lobster-pot tables along the wharf or on Menemsha Beach watching the sunset. Larsen’s also sells lobster rolls, as does The Galley takeout down the street.

Across from The Galley is the Home Port Restaurant, a Menemsha Mecca for lobster diners for the past eighty years. It reopened this summer, despite speculation it would be closed after owner Will Holtham announced plans to sell.

At the other end of the Island, you can follow a line that winds out the door each Friday evening at the Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven. On Friday nights for the past sixteen years, a loyal band of church volunteers makes between 400 and 800 lobster rolls to order for a recurring church fundraiser. The rolls are stuffed with a meaty filling of lobster meat, mayonnaise, and white pepper. You can eat inside at one of five large round tables, listening to Wes Nagy play the piano. Or, like many Friday-night regulars, you may take them to go or eat outside at nearby Owen Park, overlooking Vineyard Haven harbor.

The lobster and fried-tomato appetizer at Bittersweet restaurant in West Tisbury has quite a following as well. Fresh lobster meat is mixed with bits of celery, tarragon, and chives, and served on top of a warm, crispy fried tomato and a spoonful of creamy avocado purée. “Everyone calls it the lobster with fried green tomatoes,” sighs chef and owner Job Yacubian, probably because of the movie of the same name, but he says it’s really slices of yellow or red tomato dipped in panko bread crumbs and sizzled in olive oil. This dish first appeared on the summer menu in 2001 under chef Keith Korn, when the restaurant was called the Ice House and Yacubian was sous chef. He keeps it on the menu, he says, as a tribute to his late friend and mentor, and because, well, it always sells.

At Lambert’s Cove Inn and Restaurant, also in West Tisbury, chef Joe DaSilva serves a butter-poached lobster dish. DaSilva found that boiling lobsters for just two minutes, removing the meat, and then poaching it in butter heated between 100 and 120 degrees creates tender lobster meat. “It’s always a quandary if you serve lobster meat out of the shell: how do you finish cooking it?” says DaSilva. After poaching, he removes the lobster and serves it with crème fraîche–infused orzo, a roasted tomato sauce, and braised leeks. With the shells, DaSilva creates a lobster bisque flavored with brandy, Pernod, and tarragon.

Jackson Kenworth, chef and owner of The Sweet Life Café in Oak Bluffs, says his lobster tempura is one of his most popular appetizers. This is a lobster tail dipped in tempura batter and served with a homemade mango sorbet, then garnished with both a sweet, aged soy sauce and a basil sauce. “It flies out,” Kenworth says. His lobster entrée is a lobster and vegetable risotto with fava beans, chanterelle mushrooms, fresh peas, and roasted tomatoes. It’s finished with lobster coral butter (“coral” from the color of the lobster’s roe), extra-virgin olive oil, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

At the Winnetu Resort’s Lure restaurant at Katama, chef Ed Gannon serves a grilled swordfish steak atop a Mediterranean-style lobster minestrone with chunks of lobster, baby flageolet, diced vegetables, roasted tomatoes, and green olives. “It’s one of our best sellers,” says Gannon, who came to the Island three years ago from the Four Seasons restaurant in Boston. There’s also an appetizer of lobster, shrimp, and scallion dumpling in an Asian-inspired garlic and black pepper sauce, with lobster mashed potatoes. Gannon uses South American white potatoes, lobster-infused cream, butter, scallions, and lobster meat from a one-and-a-quarter-pound lobster (it serves four). “It’s awesome,” he says. “It’s about as over the top of a side dish as you can get.”

This season, after twenty years at the Charlotte Inn in Edgartown, L’étoile owner Michael Brisson moved his restaurant to the former Tuscany Inn on North Water Street, but he’s still serving one of his signature lobster dishes, étuvée of native lobster with an ancho chile and Sauvignon Blanc sauce. The lobster is parboiled, removed from the shell so patrons don’t have to pry it out, returned to the shell, and placed in a sauté pan. Brisson adds roasted corn, scallions, tomato, and a white wine–lobster broth to the pan and tops the lobster meat with a beurre monte. The whole dish is then baked in the oven for ten to twelve minutes, plated, and served with a roasted corn fritter.

Down North Water Street, the new chef at the Harbor View Hotel’s Coach House is Joshua Hollinger, who recently cooked at the Beach Bistro in Sarasota and Tribeca Grill in New York City. His lobster is simmered in a court bouillon (a flavored broth), removed from the shell, and held in a beurre blanc infused with yuzu, a Japanese citrus, and served sliced in the shell with a yuzu butter on the side. “The yuzu adds an interesting flavor to the lobster that I discovered by mistake,” says Hollinger. There’s also a lobster-tail salad served with Island watercress and arugula, hearts of palm, and a roasted strawberry vinaigrette.

Albert Lattanzi’s hardwood grilled lobster tails at Lattanzi’s in Edgartown’s Post Office Square are paired with linguini, garlic olive oil, and fresh tomatoes and has hit a nerve with customers. “It’s to the point we can’t keep up with it sometimes,” says Lattanzi. You can also try chef and owner Antonio Saccoccia’s house specialty at The Grill on Main Street, a lobster turnover accompanied by a shrimp and lemon-cream sauce.

And, of course, you can serve lobster in the comfort of your own home, either steamed or grilled, or by following one of the recipes below. These include Bittersweet’s golden fried tomato with lobster salad; a baked stuffed lobster recipe from Fella Caters, which won this magazine’s Best Caterer award this year; and a lobster and corn chowder that’s the perfect starter course for summer guests.    

Golden fried tomato with lobster salad and avocado purée

Serves 4

fried tomato

• 1 large ripe tomato, preferably yellow because it is a little less acidic
• Flour
• 1 egg, beaten
• Panko bread crumbs (available at Cronig’s Market)
• Vegetable or corn oil for pan-frying

1. Slice tomato into 4 half-inch slices. Dust in flour and shake off excess. Dip into beaten egg and coat in the panko bread crumbs. Heat up to 1/2 inch of oil in a skillet and pan-fry tomatoes until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

lobster salad

• 2 cups cooked, shelled lobster meat, diced
• 3 tablespoons celery and celery leaves, finely diced
• 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons Hellmann’s mayonnaise
• 1 teaspoon each fresh chives and fresh tarragon, chopped
• Dash of Heinz ketchup
• Salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix all ingredients well in a bowl and chill.

avocado purée

• 1 large very ripe avocado
• Dash of extra virgin olive oil
• 1 teaspoon cilantro, chopped
• Salt to taste

1. Purée all ingredients in a food processor until very smooth. Add a tiny bit of water to help purée, if necessary. Cover and chill.

To assemble

1. Place a heaping tablespoon of avocado purée on a plate. Place one fried tomato on top of purée. Place a big spoonful of lobster salad on top of tomato. Use a one-half cup measuring cup to mold and shape lobster salad, if desired.

2. Garnish with lemon zest, tender celery leaves, chives, or thinly sliced radish. A drizzle of basil oil around the plate is also nice.

Recipe from Bittersweet, West Tisbury.

Lobster and corn chowder

Serves 6 to 8

Chunks of fresh lobster, corn, potatoes, and fresh herbs make this a delicious meal in itself, or a great starter course for summer guests. Rather than make
a lobster stock myself from the shells, I usually purchase lobster stock and clam broth made fresh (and then frozen) at The Net Result fish market in
Vineyard Haven.

• 3 live lobsters, 1 to 1 1/2 pounds each
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 onion, diced
• 1 leek, washed and sliced
• 1 red pepper, diced
• 1 celery stalk, diced
• 2 cups lobster stock
• 2 cups clam broth
• 1 cup water
• 2 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
• 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
• 4 ears fresh corn, kernels removed, 2 cobs saved
• 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
• 12 fresh basil leaves
• 2 tablespoons fresh chives or fresh parsley, chopped
• Salt and ground pepper

1. To cook the lobsters, bring 2 to 3 inches of water to boil in a large pot. Add lobsters, cover, and cook for about 6 to 7 minutes. Remove to a large bowl. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from the tail and claws. Dice meat and refrigerate. Discard shells.

2. In a soup pot, melt butter and sauté onions until soft, about 5 minutes. Add leeks, red pepper, and celery and sauté another 5 minutes. Add lobster stock,
clam broth, water, potatoes, and thyme and simmer, covered, until potatoes are almost soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add corn and cook about 5 minutes longer.

3. While soup is cooking, place cream in a medium saucepan with corn cobs (cut in half) and basil leaves. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes to infuse; strain cream
into the chowder. Add lobster meat, chives or parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe by Catherine Walthers.

Baked stuffed lobster

Serves 2

The winner of this magazine’s 2006 Best of the Vineyard caterer award is Fella Caters. Owner Fella Cecilio shares his recipe for baked lobster stuffed with crabmeat, a classic New England dish.

• 2 live lobsters, 2 1/2 to 3 pounds each
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 3 tablespoons, melted, for brushing
• 1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
• 3 tablespoons chives, chopped
• 2 tablespoons red bell pepper, chopped
• 2 cups cornbread stuffing mix (unseasoned)
• 2 cups Ritz crackers, crushed
• 1 pound lump crabmeat
• Juice from 1 lemon
• 1 to 2 drops hot pepper sauce, or more to taste
• Salt

1. With a cleaver or chef’s knife, split both lobsters down the middle from head to tail. Do not cut all the way through. Remove the stomach sac and
intestinal vein, tomalley (liver), and coral roe, if any. Remove both claws and the legs, by twisting off.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add garlic, chives, and red bell pepper and sauté a few minutes.

3. Add stuffing mix and crushed crackers to the skillet and toss with the vegetables. Add crabmeat, lemon juice, hot sauce, and salt to taste. Mix well.

4. Melt 3 tablespoons butter and brush over lobster-tail meat. Season with salt.

5. Fill the body with the stuffing. Dot with additional butter and place legs, crosswise, on top of stuffing.

6. Place lobsters on a baking sheet and bake on the middle rack for about 30 minutes, or until stuffing is golden brown. Finish under the broiler, if necessary. While lobsters are baking, cook the claws in boiling water for about 15 minutes.

7. Remove to a large platter. Add claws. Place garnishes of lemon and parsley around lobster and serve with melted lemon butter.

Recipe from Fella Cecilio, Fella Caters.