You'll be hard pressed to find anyone who will disagree-lobster should be a part of your Cape Cod vacation. It doesn't matter how you taste it--boiled in a clambake, on your Eggs Benedict or in a buttery, toasted roll, at least one meal during your vacation must consist of this succulent treat for the sea.
Restaurants and fish markets are, of course, a perfect place to start, but consider a lobster roll luncheon. Several are held weekly during the summer, all are affordable and most are run by local churches across the Cape--making that first bite all the more divine.
In West Yarmouth, at the West Yarmouth Congregational Church (WYCC), the lobster rolls are served up fresh on Thursday. According to Susan Holmes, who has been chairing the operation for the past six years, the church has been dishing up fresh lobster rolls for more than three decades. Back when Susan's mother was involved, it was run by the Weyar Matrons Club and held once a summer. About twelve years ago they went to two luncheons a summer and in the most recent years, the WYCC puts on one Memorial Day Weekend, then weekly throughout the summer.
According to Susan, its still run by a women's fellowship, but the whole church answers when called to roll up their sleeves and help out. Even Pastor Chuck Soule has been known to make deliveries. About nine ladies work on the day of the luncheon--some in the kitchen, some at the register and Jan Pulit can be seen waving folks in from busy Route 28 (she's the one in the lobster hat).
As with most weekly lobster roll luncheons, you have the option or eating in or taking it to go. Susan said about 60 to 70% of the patrons are visitors to Cape Cod. A good percentage take their lobster roll to go--to the beach, to a park or back to their hotel room or rental home for dinner that night. The luncheon opens at 11 a.m. and by 11:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., about half of the day's rolls--between 50 and 60--have been sold. The luncheons are popular and there are a lot of patrons who return year after year. Susan enjoys the community atmosphere and the chance to chat with people she wouldn't typically meet.
"We're kind of like a little Chamber of Commerce right there," Susan said. Visitors ask all kinds of questions and Susan and the other ladies are happy to offer sightseeing advice. "I always tell people to take a ride down Route 6A--it's beautiful--and to make sure they visit Main Street in Hyannis."
Susan also suggests taking in a show at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis or making reservations on the Cape Cod Central Railroad's dinner train. If it's raining, Susan lets people know it is best to avoid Route 28 heading into Hyannis.
Each boxed lunch includes a fresh lobster roll, chips, Cole slaw a beverage and dessert (always baked fresh by members of the church) for $16.
Hot dog plates are available for $4 for the little ones who haven't yet discovered the divinity of lobster.
When asked if there is a secret ingredient aside from the lobster, Susan said there is. There's a little mayo and lemon (that's not the secret) and a little something else, but only Anita Daggett knows what that is. Susan chuckled when she divulged, "Anita's daughter doesn't even know!"
Over in Hyannis at the Federated Church of Hyannis, they serve up their lobster rolls on Fridays between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. This year the church is celebrating its 59th year of lobster roll luncheons. Geri Brown, who has been chairing the operation with Betsy Hendricks for several years, said their mix is about 60-40, locals to visitors. The tilt towards locals is likely do to the church's location on Main Street in Hyannis's bustling downtown.
On Friday at lunch time, the church offers respite from the summer sun and a break from strolling the shops along Main Street. "We are air-conditioned and people enjoy the live piano music and the no rush atmosphere," Geri said.
The women's fellowship used to run the luncheons, but now members of the entire congregation pitch in. "It's a good mix of people, from young folks to nonagenarians," Geri said.
According to Geri, there is no secret ingredient, just delicious, fresh lobster from the Lobster Trap in Bourne. The Federated Church's lobster rolls are $14 and include chips, pickles, a beverage and a homemade dessert. For those who don't like lobster rolls, their menu also includes a chicken salad roll, a chicken Caesar salad, an egg salad roll and hot dogs. All meals are also available to go.
The lobster rolls at the Federated Church have been recognized from Cape Cod Life (Best of Cape Cod) and the Boston Globe in the past.
At the West Yarmouth Congregational Church, Charlotte Bridgham, Joan Shallow, Karen Wren, Helen Allbecker and Anita Daggett all lined up and ready for hungry patrons. Photo courtesy of the West Yarmouth Congregational Church.
If you are driving down Route 28 and see this lady waving at you, don't panic. It's Jan Pulit and she's letting you know where to get a delicious lunch. Photo courtesy of West Yarmouth Congregational Church.
Over at the Federated Church of Hyannis, they take their lobster very seriously. But don't worry, lobster attire is not required for diners. Photo courtesy Federated Church of Hyannis.