Lobster Rolls at the Rotary

What do you call a restaurant on a hardscrabble piece of land just off the main rotary in Nantucket? Well, how about "The Rotary."

This and other no-nonsense details about this "fast food" shack make it seem truly New England. The grill master may bend the rules to serve you a lobster roll a couple minutes after closing, but don't expect him to crack a smile while doing it.

The whole restaurant is a paradox of parsimony and generosity. It's hard to imagine a place with less frills than the Rotary, with its rudimentary picnic tables separated from a highly trafficked intersection by only a slim hodgepodge of a hedge. Prominently posted rules warn diners what to do and what not to do (arrive without shirt or shoes, skate or bike up to the window), and everything about the place is self-serve - forage for your own utensils, napkins, condiments, and stake out your own place outside.

But look down at your sandwich and you may have a thief's giddiness of having gotten away with something. The lobster roll here is generally accepted by Nantucketers to be the best on the island, and no wonder. At least an entire lobster's-worth of meat fills each bun. This may be the only time I found myself wishing for a little more mayonnaise and celery in a lobster salad mix, because it's pretty much all lobster in huge chunks. Shake it the wrong way and a whole claw may fall out.

The New York standard, disseminated far and wide from places like the Lobster Roll (a.k.a. "Lunch") in Amagansett and Pearl Oyster Bar in NYC, is a daintier amount of lobster salad served on a perfectly grilled buttered hot dog roll. While I missed the crunch of that roll, I couldn't complain about the bonanza of lobster that comprised the Rotary's edition of this classic.

New Yorkers, if you find your way up in these pahts, it's definitely worth a detour to the Rotary.

The Rotary Restaurant
Milestone Rotary
Nantucket, Massachusetts