In the word association game, when someone says “comfort food,” my first response is “Red Lobster Restaurants.” Not that I grew up eating there — it was considered an expensive restaurant when I was a kid in the ’70s, the kind my uncle, the business owner, would choose when he was in town. My mother would stuff us kids full of peanut butter sandwiches beforehand so that we could honestly say we weren’t hungry and just nibble French fries from her plate.
The other barrier in my childhood: I hated fish. My experience amounted to Mrs. Paul’s frozen fish sticks, so the idea of asking to go to a seafood restaurant seemed like a waste of a meal. My sole entertainment was watching my younger cousins actually eat lobster. Blech.
But if I couldn’t avoid meals there as a kid, you know it was impossible as an adult. Thankfully, my tastebuds matured, and I learned to appreciate menu items like salmon, tilipia, grouper, and trout, so I actually ordered something besides a baked potato with lots of butter. RL also introduced the world’s greatest before-dinner munchies: cheddar biscuits. (They serve 1.1 million a day.) So I was officially classified as a willing patron, even in a land-locked place like Indiana.
I became a fan in 2000, during our trip to Los Angeles with friends. We stopped at a shopping mall to buy their kids some books to read, and somehow started a conversation with an elderly lady who felt it was her duty to lecture us about being there in the first place. “You can go to a mall anywhere in the country. Why aren’t you spending your time at unique places in town?” was her point. To get her off her rant, my husband asked for her recommendation of a seafood restaurant for dinner. After all, we were on the coast, the Mecca of Fresh Fish.
She lit up. Oh, there was a perfect place a few blocks off Rodeo Drive, affordable and they welcomed children. It was the Captain’s Pot or something like that … oh wait! I remember now! It’s called Red Lobster.
Somewhere in Southern California wanders an old lady probably still honked off at my rude snorting.
When we dropped in with our friend’s son last Sunday for an early dinner, we relived that story and laughed almost as hard as we did that day at Borders. I ordered wood-fired salmon, my husband asked for fried flounder, and our guest had snow crab legs. Nearly 35 years later, and I still spent an hour watching someone eat icky things.
690 East Thompson Rd.
Indianapolis, IN 46227
Photography courtesy of Red Lobster