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Lobster Rolls Are the Main Attraction at Maine-ly Sandwiches

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One of the first known recipes for lobster comes from Apicius, a Roman cookbook dating to around 400 A.D. that's organized quite like a modern cookbook into ten chapters. In "Thalassa," the chapter on the sea, Apicius provides recipes for dishes including boiled lobster with cumin sauce, lobster with wine and another boiled dish that called for pepper, rue, honey vinegar, broth and oil in addition to the lobster and cumin.

The lobster roll, however, is a thoroughly modern recipe. After all, the second most important ingredient outside of the lobster is a hot dog bun-style yeast roll -- and those rolls weren't created until 1912. The first lobster roll was born a decade later, according to the locals in Milford, Connecticut.

Milford is where Perry's first began serving the traditional lobster roll we known today. According to food writer John Mariani in his book Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, "owner Harry Perry concocted it for a regular customer named Ted Hales sometime in the 1920s."

But although Connecticut may have originated the now-famous lobster roll, it's Maine that first comes to mind when many people think of the iconic sandwich.

That's part of the reason Buddy Charity named his north Houston sandwich shop Maine-ly Sandwiches -- the subject of this week's cafe review. The other, of course, is that Charity himself hails from Biddleford, Maine. He ships fresh Maine lobster into the store every week for his signature lobster rolls, which started out as a Friday special when Charity opened the cafe five months ago.

Maine-ly Sandwiches's lobster rolls became so popular so quickly that Charity realized he should probably offer the sandwich daily. It's a good thing, too: The lunch crowds that line up on an average Tuesday afternoon for a foot-long lobster roll are a pretty good indication that riots may have started forming on Fridays otherwise.

After all, there's no other place in Houston to get a lobster roll on the regular except Maine-ly Sandwiches. And boy, are we taking advantage of this newfound possibility.

In an interesting twist, it appears the lobster roll didn't even cross the border from Connecticut into Maine until the middle of the 20th century. Writing for the New York Times in 1985, Maine native Nancy Jenkins reminisced about the sandwiches that were "almost, though not literally, a dime a dozen along the New England shore in the summertime."

"The lobster roll is a tradition, though not a very old one," wrote Jenkins. "My 75-year-old father, who has lived all his life in Maine, says he doesn't remember eating a lobster roll until sometime after World War II."

Read more about Maine-ly Sandwiches and its pitch-perfect lobster rolls in this week's cafe review or take a peek inside the restaurant in our slideshow.

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