BOTH PLACES TAKE ONLY CASH AND THE CLOSEST CASH MACHINE WAS OUT OF SERVICE- don't take any chances! Estimate $16-18 per lobster rolls plus drinks and sides for either and stop on your way up or home depending which direction you are moving!
Neither Red's nor Sprague's is what I would consider a 'restaurant' They are both take away joints with tables outside ONLY. Service consists of taking your order and money and giving you a number.
Driving home on Rt. 1 and got on line at Red's as it is well known, but had time to reconsider since the line was moving slooooowly and I was hungry and by myself so I did not have to consult with anyone!!!!! Decided to ask the couple in front of me to hold my place so Ii could check out what was at the window at Red's and the place across the street and compare. Never got back in the line and had my lobster roll at Sprague's for the following reasons:
They both serve what most people are there for anyway: lobster rolls. To the uninitiated both serve the lobster rolls the same, and expected in Maine at least, way: Toasted standard white bread rolls with heaps of lobster with no discernible mayonnaise or other embellishment (available on request). There are other menu items at both- chowda, fries, slaw, but Spargue's actually serves boiled lobster -just look in the window and watch it cook- and has more shaded seating. I searched the crowd for locals, and obviously if they were there they had a bias, but I was checking to see that locals actually ate there, which they did. They said that Red's just had better PR with cable food networks showcasing the place. Reds did not even post the price, which albeit is 'market price' but look, you can put it on an index card and people can see it rather than attempt to ask the staff serving a long line of people. The day I went it was $1 less at Sprague's. I looked what came out of the take out window to see the portion and the serving size looked slightly larger at Red's- for the $1 more to the naked eye, but each guaranteed 'the meat from a whole lobster plus a little' and delivered- fun idea for a scientific survey!! The one thing I can say for sure is that after eating my lobster roll and chowda at a casual pace (after I went around doing a 10 minute survey) I passed that couple holding my space over at Red's and they were just getting up to the window!
A local said they both purchased the shucked lobster meat for the rolls from the same supplier. My take is that they are both very good, but fairly generic lobster rolls and on any measure other than size probably could not be told apart. However, if you've been cooped up in a car for 3 or 4 hours and want to spend the time waiting in line at Red's , and you're there with a crowd, bring a food scale and as you approach the window, after about a 1/2 hour, send someone across the street to Sprague's and do a blind taste test!!!! I'd be interested in the results!
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