Update August 2016: reader beargrumpy informed me that St Ann’s has permanently closed after 50 years of lobster suppers. Sad to see it go.
Lobster suppers are quintessential Prince Edward Island (PEI).
Seafood restaurants of all stripes offer versions of the lobster supper, but there are four primary dedicated restaurants: New Glasgow Lobster Suppers,
St Ann’s Church Lobster Suppers (permanently closed), Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers, and Cardigan Lobster Suppers.
The first three are all clustered in the central tourist heartland while Cardigan is in the east.
New Glasgow dates to 1958 and is family-run. The majority of locals we queried picked this as their favorite.
St. Ann’s dates to 1964 and is church-run.
Fisherman’s Wharf is a relative newcomer and boasts a large salad bar.
These are all seasonal, opening May or June, closing September or October. Some are dinner only and St. Ann’s is closed on Sundays.
Lobster supper menus follow a 5-course pattern of soup/chowder, salad, mussels, main course (lobster or numerous alternatives) and dessert. The price is determined by the main course and there are reduced price meals for skipping the main course, which only makes sense if planning to gorge on mussels or sharing an entree with another diner. Some courses are all-you-can eat but the main is always excluded from that largesse. Lobsters are available in several sizes and can be served hot or cold.
We had two dinners in PEI and chose tradition with New Glasgow and St. Ann’s. My secret weapon, known in seafood circles as the ‘Shanghai Shredder,’ was the final arbiter. She scoffed at the proffered bibs, gracefully dissembling the lobsters without a splatter on her trim outfits.
St. Ann’s first. Our night a group of 60 senior citizen RV owners was in and the restaurant was overwhelmed. It took over an hour to receive the first courses, and a further three quarters of an hour for the mains to arrive. To tide us over we were offered an extra bowl of mussels since they are not unlimited at St. Ann’s. Service was very uneven. Chowder, soup, and salad all basic. Mussels top notch. Mains of lobster and scallops-shrimp combo good. Lemon meringue pie is the traditional dessert but was out by the time our turn came. The basic strawberry shortcake and brownie with ice cream were ok. Live music helped with the wait. The dining hall is under the church and a bit stuffy. Overall, the purpose is to experience a traditional community lobster supper and to have good lobster. St. Ann’s did well in these key areas, the rest was nothing special.
New Glasgow has virtually the same menu. The biggest difference was they ran out of chocolate cake instead of lemon meringue. The setting is riverside with some window-side tables but no outdoor dining. The chowder/soup, salad and desserts were virtually indistinguishable from St. Ann’s. Mussels are unlimited but St. Ann’s won on taste. Lobster a virtual tie. For scallops, St Ann’s wins. Professionalism and service, New Glasgow is far ahead.
Can’t go wrong with either but with only one to choose, Rapid Travel Chai (and Shanghai Shredder) give the nod to New Glasgow. Hard to beat that stunning view and food promptly served. Oh, and do get the lemon meringue pie, but make sure to order desserts before any other course at either if you have your heart set on one.
Readers, what are your PEI lobster supper experiences?