Thanks to Priority Pass I Had the Worst Lobster Roll of My Life

Last week I ate the worst lobster roll I’ve ever had in my life. This shouldn’t surprise anyone – least of which me – because I ate it in an airport.

Let’s back up a bit. I flew to Boston, and it took around 14 hours because American Airlines. I was scheduled onto the first flight of the day for the aircraft, so naturally it went mechanical. American’s mechanics decided it needed a part that they didn’t have in stock in Austin. When I got on my way it was on board an Oasis 737 with the most poorly thought out of seats. Here’s the underseat storage area bisected by a bar attaching the seats to the fuselage.

I was up in Boston for Nomadic Matt‘s Travelcon, an outstanding event I was happy to help support last year in Austin for the inaugural effort and come back to in Boston for 2019. (They’ve just announced 2020 in New Orleans.)

While the program looked amazing I was only in town briefly. I met my co-panelists Ricky Zhang, Tiffany Funk, and moderator Stefan Krasowski before the event and then headed straight to the airport afterward.

I ate breakfast super early, didn’t have a chance for lunch, and would be having a late dinner — so I used the 25 minutes prior to boarding to pop into a Priority Pass restaurant: the nearby one was Stephanie’s by gate B24. (Effective August 1 American Express-issued Priority Pass cards will no longer provide restaurant credits.)

Here’s the menu:

All the tables were full. The entire terminal was a ghost town around two o’clock in the afternoon, but everyone with a Priority Pass was here for free food. (Un)Fortunately there were a couple of seat yourself spots at the bar.

I’m not quite sure whatever possessed me but I ordered a lobster roll. There are several reasons why airport food is almost always bad. Restaurants have to bring everything in through security at off hours; there are limits on what gets brought in; space is limited and there’s often no room for specialized equipment; knives are tethered to a wall or equipment; an airport may not permit gas ovens, so everything has to get re-created using electric — to name just a few things.

I suppose I thought I’m in Boston (and didn’t have a chance to stop at Neptune Oyster) and I have $28 from Priority Pass to blow.

In general there were two things wrong with it:

  1. It was on a toasted hot dog bun, like you buy in a package at a grocery store
  2. The lobster meat tasted like it had been frozen and defrosted but still retained water from the freezing. It was chewy and generally tasteless.

I’m sure the turkey club would have been just fine.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] There are some great places to eat at airports, like One Flew South in Atlanta. There are also a bunch of amazingly mediocre to downright terrible places to eat as well, such as the now-closed Zatarain’s Kitchen in New Orleans. Gary from View from the Wing took one for the team and had what he’s calling the “Worst lobster roll of his life”.  […]

Comments

  1. I was in LAX yesterday and happily gave up my free PF Changs meal when I noticed the new Pret a Manger downstairs.

    Sometimes it’s worth paying for things.

  2. Stefanies sucks in general and I wouldn’t order a water from a this place. Add to that the fact that “Stefanie’s” backer is her husband, notorious ambulance chaser James Sokolov. That’s said all decent lobster rolls are served on hotdog rolls, I don’t trust a lobster roll served on a fancy brioche roll.

  3. Well hot dog style rolls are somewhat common on lobster rolls
    But I echo the other poster when they proclaimed Legal Seafoods
    They do a truly marvelous iconic Lobster Roll will few peers
    Large mounds of exceptional fresh Maine lobster
    Let’s hope heaven has something so good to eat

  4. I’m not surprised that your Lobster was awful. Any fish that has been frozen will be tough and tasteless. And the weird thing is most people will eat this garbage and find it acceptable. My doctor urges me to eat more fish but unless one has a boatload of money, fresh fish where I live is not affordable and even “fresh” is open to interpretation. I’ve purchased “fresh” before (and paid the premium) and been burned so now I just forego fish unless I’m somewhere I know it will be genuinely fresh.

  5. I had the WORST lobster roll of my life 2 weeks ago at Legal Seafoods Terminal A at Boston Logan. It was tough and rubbery. Legal Seafoods used to be good, but this one experience was either a bad day in the kitchen for them or they have gone downhill. (They did have the New England bun, but they forgot to butter when they toasted it.) Total FAIL.

  6. I had the fish and chips at the same restaurant a month ago. If it’s any consolation, that was equally bad.

  7. All the lobster rolls that I have had, almost all in Maine, were served on hot dog buns. But, I will mark Stephanie’s off my list.

  8. It’s a shame, because I’ve eaten at Stephanie’s before and really enjoyed it. Note to self, don’t order fish in an airport…

  9. Legal is where it’s at. I don’t get people willing to eat crap just ’cause it’s free.

  10. My thoughts exactly Jimmy. If you have to complain about something you got for free maybe just tear up or turn back in your Priority Pass. Would you like any cheese with that whine?!?

  11. Gary, On a related note, what about lobster thermidor on Singapore with Book the Cook? I am concerned about whether it can be done fresh 2-3 hours into a flight, but many say it is the best thing on Singapore’s menu? Have you had it?

  12. FWIW, some of the best lobster rolls come served on a toasted hot dog bun. Next time get one on MV.

  13. Go to Maine for lobster. Or maybe Legal Seafoods. At least you got to try out the newly re-done Terminal B.

  14. Should have had the lobster roll at the Harpoon Brewpub in the Southwest Terminal. Had it a week ago & was hesitant to order it in a “beer” restaurant. It was loaded with fresh lobster & was delicious & only $18.

  15. I hate it that PP is cutting out the food also, but that is not the restaurants fault,

    Enjoy the beer, it is. Cold..

  16. Having lived in New England for 22 years, I feel like I can weigh in on the bun used for a lobster roll. Regular hot dog buns are not the bun of choice. New England style (Pepperidge Farm, preferably) buns are top-split with uncrusty sides. The uncrusty sides are buttered and grilled. The inside is soft and pillowy.

  17. Just an observation, but don’t you have electric ovens in the US?
    I have a wonderful Bosch double electric oven in my home here in the UK.

  18. Stop at james hook on the way to the airport, have them make you up one with knuckle meat which is the best
    Or better skip the role and just get 1/2 pound of knuckle meat straight up, sometimes ill get the clam chowder and dump the meat in

  19. Used to eat there all the time when commuting twice a week to Boston on AA shuttle (pre-PP and post-PP). Their Cesar salad was always fine and their burgers and sandwiches were serviceable. 7 months of that time was when the AA club was closed so I’d typically get to BOS an hour before flight, kill food quick there (SDC it available, or) head to the UC for a drink and spotting before walking to the (now relocated) shuttle gates (17-21 previously). I miss that routine.

  20. @Ari – not even close to best thing on the menu IMHO, I’ve had it where it’s been ok and where it’s been disappointing. In general the best thing on any plane is going to be soup, which reheats well, and Singapore does a phenomenal job with Malay and Singaporean dishes. I can’t say enough good things about the laksa for instance.

  21. Kelly’s roast beef @ revere beach original location

    Surf n turf combo lobster roll & roast beef sandwich, eat on a bench overlooking the water, (grimy area) but worth it for a taste of boston on the way to Logan (10 min away)

  22. Neptune Oyster has gone downhill big time. Both chefs recently quit and the owner is a moron, so it hasn’t been up to par in a while.

  23. You didn’t mention getting sick from your roll, so I think you should count that as a plus.

  24. For those dismissing it as a first world problem, you must not live in the first world.
    For those of us living in the first world will have the so called first world problems.
    When you order an expensive steak medium and get a cheaper cut well done, do you say to yourself “first world problem” and eat it?

    Whether the food is free or not is not the issue. You paid for it somehow may be by paying a $500 credit card fee?

  25. as others have said, any New England native worth his/her salt expects a lobster roll to be on a toasted hot dog bun. Specifically the ones split from top to bottom rather than side to side.

  26. I recall our parting words when I asked if you were getting lunch at one of the PP restaurants. “I don’t think I’ll have the time.” Too bad you did!

    Thank you, Tiffany, and Ricky for an excellent session that went war over time as questions kept flying.

  27. You devoted a lot of keystrokes to the bad lobster roll but few to the ongoing disaster that is travel on American during the mechanics’ industrial action. Your 14 hour fiasco is unfortunately typical of them these days. No one suggests that Doug Parker should cave in to any unreasonable contract demands, but he really, really needs to step up and fix this NOW. I’m on the cusp of walking away from my EXP benefits and switching to Star Alliance, never looking back. C’mon Doug , get your act together.

  28. #FirstWorldProblems
    My grandma always said: You get what you paid for. Don’t bitch about free if you’re too cheap to pay for it.

  29. @Gary – Why do you feel that this Travelcon was outstanding? I’ve been pestering Matt with a simple question for a long time that he continually dodges, so I have pretty little faith in his integrity.

  30. Jimmy and John – yes I proudly admit I live in the first world. I do my bit for charity for the third world but don’t feel the need to sanctimoniously obsess and consider the great unwashed every minute of the day. John, nothing is free in life. Somehow that Priority Partnership is paid for. Why shouldn’t I get decent value from it? By the way there are few things in life worse that a lousy lobster roll.

  31. @Christian – it brought together a ton of great people I enjoyed seeing, and the agenda had people on it I really wanted to see (which is rare, I’m usually quite bored with conference programs)

  32. I’m a bit confused. Rarely have I seen it served any other way in New England and I grew up there. In terms of the lobster meat tasting like it has been frozen that is because it HAS been frozen. Most of these places where you get lobster rolls have the lobster coming in frozen in giant cans. The reason you noticed it here is because the restaurant didn’t properly thaw out the lobster portions before preparation. Its not like they have a bunch of lobsters in the back that they are slaughtering every time someone orders a lobster roll. Most of these places get lobster meat out of a can for the lobster rolls. The only people not getting frozen lobsters are usually the ones who are ordering a whole lobster fresh.

  33. @Ari I had it on an SQ flight from SIN-FRA. It was not anything to get excited about and some of their other meals were better. Was ok but rarely have I seen people claiming its the best thing on SQ. More often I see people telling others to avoid it.

  34. Like you said in your last sentence, you just ordered the wrong thing. Get one of the salads and add grilled salmon. I get that every couple months when I connect through BOS and it’s fine. Usually add one of the huge buckets of fries too.

  35. The watery, frozen lobster is unforgivable. But the split-top hot dog bun is absolutely how we do it in Beantown.

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