I grew up in Dallas, where restaurants are a huge source of entertainment. Every time I visit, there are dozens of new restaurants in new neighborhoods that seem to exist only to house restaurants. In high school, going out with friends usually meant going to Bennigan’s, Chili’s, Applebees, Friday’s, etc. Not exactly haute cuisine, but familiar. These days I find myself turning to these suburban chain gems for comfort food; how can you go wrong in a place where the menu has 8 pages? You can’t.
Several weeks ago, we were talking backstage and it was disclosed that Brian and I had never been to Red Lobster. I’m not sure how I had avoided it. We decided we should all go eat there before a show one night. We had planned to do it a few weeks ago, but it was the night before Maribeth and Antoine were flying to New York for their SNL auditions, so we rescheduled for this past Wednesday, which was also Antoine’s birthday.
Now, if you’re going to Red Lobster for the first time, you’re a jerk not to get the Ultimate Feast. It’s a lobster tail, snow crab legs, fried shrimp, and shrimp scampi. Not to mention a side (baked potato, in my case) and a salad. And we ordered an appetizer sampler (calamari, stuffed mushrooms, scallops wrapped in bacon). And they have great cheese and garlic rolls. And it was Antoine’s birthday so we had cake. Needless to say, we were all in a bit of a food coma during the show that night, but it was worth it.
One of the odd things that’s happened to me in the past year is that I’m actually able to tell good lobster from bad or sub-par lobster, thanks to 6 weeks in Maine and 4 months at sea. I would give the Red Lobster Lobster Tail ™ a 6.5 on the Erdman Lobster Scale ™. To put that in perspective, most of the lobster tails on the cruise would get about a 5. My main criteria are tenderness (i.e. non-chewy), and whether it’s good even without butter (not that I would eat the whole thing without butter. I mean, I can think of about 6 foods that aren’t better with melted butter, and 4 of them are the different varieties of m&m’s.). So for a chain restaurant, that’s some respectable lobster.
And now I no longer have to hide in shame for never having been to Red Lobster. It’s for the seafood lover in me now too