Saturday, September 5, 2009

Red lobster: not sketchy like i thought

One of our dear friends gave Mike and I a gift card to Red Lobster four our wedding. I thought it was kind of funny at first--who even goes to Red Lobster? But we weren't going to let a perfectly good gift card go to waste! So, yesterday, we went to Red Lobster for dinner.

We arrived and put our name in at the hostess table. Actually, I put it under "Mike" because our last name is 14 letters long and not the easiest to pronounce. The wait should be about 35 to 40 minutes I was told. Luckily, we ran into some family friends while waiting and were able to pass the time chatting and catching up with them. (We got married! I said to Janice, flashing my ring. She just stared and me, not sure that she heard right. It was funny.) While sitting outside (also, luckily, it was not too hot of an evening) I came to a conclusion about the facade of the restaurant. Maybe they're going for that whole seaside, beach, wind-worn kind of look. That must be it. My graphic designer husband says that Red Lobster has a "branding problem."

We asked to be seated in "first available" and the first available was in the smoking section. More like the glass cage of second hand smoke--but I was in smokers' territory and I pretty much asked for it, so who was I to complain? The ambiance of the place was much like you'd expect. A little nicer than your local Applebee's especially with the absence of silly decor on the walls.

To drink, we both just had water and I also had a "sunset passion colada." It's like a regular ol' pina colada topped with a bit of strawberry syrup. It was very yummy.

For appetizers, we ordered the seafood stuffed mushrooms. And for our entrees, Mike had the "create your own feast" and ordered salmon and steak for about $16 while I had garlic grilled jumbo shrimp for about $15. The entrees also came with a side (we both ordered the mashed potatoes) and a salad (garden salad with ranch) and, of course, the mandatory bread basket.

The salads were mediocre at best. Certainly nothing worth remembering. The stuffed mushrooms were pretty good. It was like crab cake mix stuffed in mushroom caps. With lots of cheese. I love cheese. I'm sure it's actually moreThe mashed potatoes were pretty good, though Mike thought they tasted like they came from KFC.

Usually, we have a bit from each other's plate, but that didn't happen yesterday night. I don't know if we were too tired or just too engrossed in our own meals. So, I can't tell you anything about the salmon or the steak except for that after taking one bit of the salmon he made that noise means he really likes it and makes me want to learn how to cook it. (We're always on the hunt for another great salmon recipe).

Mine, however, I can tell you was very tasty. The shrimp was coated in this buttery garlic sauce that was oh-so-yummy and laying on top of a bed of rice pilaf. I don't indulge in shrimp a lot, but mmmmm, Red Lobster did this shrimp right. There were two skewers of shrimp which I thought looked cool but was a actually bit annoying. I'd rather just have the shrimp on my plate instead of having to wrestle a piece of bamboo for them. My little rant about the skewers aside, the shrimp was delicious.

My hands-down favorite part of the meal wasn't the shrimp. It wasn't the mushrooms and it wasn't the pina colada. Have you ever been to Red Lobster? Their mandatory bread basket is so much more. Red Lobster serves up what they call Cheddar Bay biscuits and they are reason in and of themselves to take a trip to Red Lobster for dinner. So yummy. I found a recipe online and I hope to replicate them here at home.

So, all in all, I decided that, unlike my previous notions, Red Lobster isn't that bad. I would describe it as the Olive Garden of seafood. While not a high-class seafood restaurant, it is a nice enough place to eat. The food was good. The service was good. I'm not giving out a rating or stars--those just confuse me--but, I would recommend Red Lobster.

I'm not sure why I had such a negative view of it before. The place is always packed, so clearly there are people in this world who love it. (Note, after running into the aforementioned family friends, Mike said: Now we know who eats at Red Lobster....Catholics! Well...it was on a Friday.) Maybe it's the idea of inexpensive seafood. Maybe its the poorly designed building facade. I don't know what gave me the idea in the first place, but I think I've changed my mind.

I left Red Lobster pleasantly surprised--and with a doggie bag full of Cheddar Bay biscuits.

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