Our recent post on 167 Raw’s lobster roll, or “lawbstah roll,” yielded many a comment, but the ones that got us thinking related to price — namely, “Why do they cost so much?” Yes, yes, we know in Maine you can get a roll for under $10. But that’s the thing, arguably the best lobsters come from the New England coast and that means if we want them in Charleston, we’ve got to fly those crustaceans in.

“Most cold-water lobsters come in from Maine and Canada,” explains William Crisel of Crosby’s Seafood. “The cost all has to do with shipping. If you order live lobster, it’s more expensive.” Add to that the time to clean them — for the gents at 167 Raw it takes two to five minutes max — and you’ve got a labor-intensive sandwich. At Crosby’s a live lobster under 1 3/4 lbs. is $12.99. Anything larger is $14.99. For a restaurant not going the live lobster route, there’s the option to buy lobster meat, but that’s pricey too. Crosby’s sells a 2 lb. box of lobster meat for $49.95. The average lobster roll contains roughly 3.5 ounces of meat, according to TheWire.com’s “Your Lobster Roll Is a Rip-Off.” So by that math, each roll’s meat (if you’re using a pre-packaged variety) comes to $5.47.

$50 / 32 ounces (32 ounces in a 2 lbs.) = $1.56 an ounce
$1.56 x 3.5 ounces = $5.47 worth of lobster meat per roll.

If you’re using live lobsters, like 167 Raw does, one of the aquatic critters doesn’t yield enough meat for one roll. “Ours rolls are 1/3 lb.,” owner Jesse Sandole explains. “The average lobster yields 25 percent meat. That means for a 2 lb. lobster you only get 1/2 lb. of meat.” But if your lobster isn’t two pounds, you have to crack open another lobster to get the rest. 

$15 (2 lb. lobster) / 8oz = $1.875 per ounce
$1.875 x 5.3 ounces = $9.94 per roll

So how do lobster roll prices break down in Charleston? We called 22 restaurants to find out. Here are the places currently selling rolls and their prices (in no particular order):

Pearlz — $16.95
Persimmon Cafe — rotating special $18.25 after tax 
The Ordinary — $23 a la carte; $35 with salad and dessert as on Tuesday
167 Raw — $18 
Fish — $19 for an Asian infusion roll with ginger aioli
Red’s Ice House — $9.95 
Water’s Edge — $12.95 as a special once a week

By those numbers, local lobster rolls appear to be two to seven times the amount the meat is going for. But when you consider a flight from Charleston to Bar Harbor, Maine this weekend to get one — which comes to a cool $868.69, according to Travelocity — well that $18 splurge isn’t sounding too bad now.

If we missed any restaurants currently offering lobster rolls, please let us know.

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