I saw my first live whale and ate my first lobster roll on a trip to Camden, Maine, years ago. I haven't seen a live whale since, but I recently ate another lobster roll. It was at The Slider Inn in Memphis.
I remember seeing "lobster roll" on signs all over Maine, but I didn't know or ask what they were. They were as prevalent as "barbecue" signs in Memphis. I finally ordered one at the airport on my way home. It was like a lobster po' boy. The one at The Slider Inn was much more memorable: lots of juicy Maine lobster served on a traditional New England bun.
I ran into a friend, Chris Liberto, at the bar and asked if he ever tried the lobster roll. "I've had it," he said. "Let me tell you, it rocks."
I asked The Slider Inn owner Aldo Dean why he put lobster rolls on the menu. "There's not a lobster roll in town," he replied. "So, I knew that was where the value was. Just in its uniqueness.
"I've had a great one in New York City when I lived there at the the Chelsea Seafood Market. I've had them in New England and here and there. I just thought that would be the trickiest (meaning "catchy, attention getting") thing we could put on the menu."
Dean likes "the purity" of the sandwich. "There's not much to the recipe. Just lobster, butter, lemon juice and celery and very little else."
They also use a "secret blend of spices," he said.
And, Dean added, "We use Hellman's mayonnaise, which I think is the best, and we use very little of it. When you taste that on the New England hotdog bun, you get the hot, toasty butteriness of the New England bun along with the rich, savory flavors of that lobster salad."
They use real lobster, not a substitute, Dean said. "We ship in lobster fresh from Maine three times a week. We keep them in the walk-in cooler, where they kind of go into hibernation mode."
When people doubt they use real lobsters, Slider Inn chef Jesse Keenan said he wants to "grab a lobster and bring it out."
The lobster roll, which sells for $15.95, comes with creamy mashed potatoes or French fries.
The Slider Inn is at 2117 Peabody; (901) 725-1155
Michael Donahue: (901) 529-2797; firstname.lastname@example.org