Top 5 Lobster Rolls around Portland, Maine

While a Maine lobster dinner commands a high price at fine restaurants worldwide, the Maine lobster roll is something else altogether: The Maine lobster roll is a hearty sandwich for the common man and woman.

Packed into a humble hotdog bun-sized roll, the best-tasting lobster rolls in Maine are ocean-fresh and simply prepared -- often with just a dash of mayonnaise and celery salt. They also are more affordable than a boiled lobster dinner, at about half the price.

Summer is high season for the crustacean. Most every Maine sandwich shop, restaurant and fast-food place gets in on the action; they're even sold at Maine McDonald's (for $8.99 -- the cheapest price around). Whether it's the just-caught freshness or the ocean views, there are some select dining spots for Maine lobster rolls that are not-to-miss when you're visiting Portland, Maine.

Locals know about these spots. They're not always the marquee restaurants. They include a lobster shack perched on an ocean cliff, a food truck serving a gourmet version of lobster rolls, and a restaurant where a real Maine celebrity sells lobster rolls for the summer tourists.

The following are the Top 5 lobster rolls in and around Portland, Maine.

Bite Into Maine

Fort Williams, an ocean-side park, is the backdrop at Bite Into Maine, a walk-up food truck where creative takes on the traditional Maine lobster roll are the order of the day. Each lobster roll is made to order, with the food truck closing daily when there are no more lobsters left to boil, crack, chop and serve. Most popular are the lobster sandwiches dressed with traditional mayo and chives, nicknamed the "Maine." The "Connecticut" lobster rolls are brushed with hot butter. There also is wasabi-, curry- or chipotle-flavored mayonnaise topping other versions. The flavorful "Picnic" lobster roll is served hot on a bed of lettuce, with melted butter and a sprinkling of celery salt. Menu items at Bite Into Maine are typically Maine-sourced, and include Maine Root Co. natural sodas, Poland Spring Water and the traditional bitter Moxie soda, a Maine tradition.

The Lobster Shack

The lobster rolls taste fresh and are piled high with chunks of meat at The Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth, south of Portland. Just watch out for the diving sea gulls. You're in their territory when sitting down at the wood picnic tables at The Lobster Shack, perched on a cliff with dramatic views of the North Atlantic. If you're lucky, you might see seals on the rocky shoreline or a whale cresting the waves, while you're dining on lobster rolls, boiled lobster or fish and chips. Blueberry pie is a dessert favorite. Bring a windbreaker. You'll need it!

Linda Bean's Perfect Maine

If you're dreaming of dining on a Maine lobster roll but also want to get some shopping in, head to L.L. Bean in Freeport, north of Portland. You can get both done at Bean's flagship store. Linda Bean, granddaughter of L.L. Bean's founder, makes sure of that. She is on a singular mission to grow the Maine lobster industry and support the tradition of Maine people working the sea as a living. Linda Bean works directly with Maine lobstermen to get fresh lobster to her retail and catering operations. In Freeport, walk up to the lunch window outside the L.L. Bean bike, boat and ski store (look for the giant Bean boot). There you will find lobster rolls, shrimp rolls and Maine Whoopie pies.

DiMillo's on the Water

Locals sometimes dismiss DiMillo's as a tourist attraction only. But that's a big mistake. Located in a refurbished ship anchored in Portland Habor, the family-owned restaurant is very popular with people from away. DiMillo's not only has a commanding view of Portland Harbor, it also serves amazing lobster creations -- lobster bisque, boiled lobster dinner and the lobster roll, of course. What makes the lobster roll at DiMillo's so delicious is its freshness. DiMillo's owns the seafood supplier next door, guaranteeing lobster right off the boat daily.

Gasp! Ordering a lobster roll at the McDonald's drive-thru may seem like heresy, especially in Portland, Maine, a foodie destination in the Northeast. But there are many reasons to buy a lobster roll under the golden arches, including supporting the fast food giant when it locally sources food and provides a healthy alternative to its burgers. At $8.99, lobster rolls at McDonald's are an option for consumers who otherwise might not afford them on a budget. They're tasty, too.

Linda Fullerton Hersey is a former editor for AOL and for the Portland Press Herald in Maine. She has her own blog about the people and places of Maine.