Which Chain Lobster Roll Should You Eat This Summer?

We taste-tested sandwiches from Au Bon Pain and Pret a Manger to find the best (and worst).

Chain lobster rolls from Au Bon Pain (left) and Pret a Manger (right). Photograph by Anna Spiegel

Lobster is still considered a luxury ingredient, despite its relative abundance and former identity as prison food. These days the crustacean is also shelled out by chain restaurants offering a mass taste of fine dining—there’s even a McLobster roll.

So where can Washingtonians try the McRib of the Sea? Unfortunately McDonalds only sells the specialty in New England, but two national chains with many Washington locations have created their own versions: Au Bon Pain and Pret a Manger. We taste-tested both to determine the best.

Au Bon Pain’s lobster salad sandwich on a croissant.

Au Bon Pain Lobster Salad Sandwich ($12.99)

The bread: Though the Boston-based chain could have tapped its New England roots, ABP French-ifies the roll with a crusty, semi-decent croissant.

The lobster: North Atlantic claw and knuckle meat mixed into a salad. The look is promising, the flavor less so—the chopped bits are cold, salty, and taste more like the sea than actual lobster.

The seasoning: A “lite” mayo binder speckled with chives, parsley, and black pepper.

Overall: Not horrific, but not great. Kudos to ABP for the effort, but we’d rather put our $13 towards the Red Hook Lobster Pound truck where delicious rolls go for $15.95.

Pret a Manger stacks lobster and crunchy dressing on a brioche bun.

Pret a Manger Maine Lobster Roll ($8.99)

The bread: A slightly larger than slider-size brioche roll, pillowy and sweet.

The lobster: A decent portion of Maine claw and knuckle meat, simply dressed with lemon juice. The flavor is mild and sweet—not top of the line, but definitely tastes like lobstah.

The seasoning: Pret is strategic with the pre-made sandwich’s assembly: the “salad” dressing of mayo and finely diced celery, red onion, and yellow peppers is placed on the bottom of the sandwich between leaves of lettuce, so it doesn’t make the lobster meat or brioche bun soggy. Brits think of everything!

Overall: Winner, winner lobster dinner. Or light lunch—the sandwich is rich, but fairly small. Points for the creamy/crunchy dressing, and fresh brioche that mimics that traditional hot dog bun in texture and sweetness. Pret also offers lobster in mayo and bread-free salad form for calorie counters.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.