Requiem for Red Lobster

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First, it was Toys “R” Us. Then, Bed Bath & Beyond. Now, perhaps the most personally painful demise of a legendary franchise that helped to shape my psyche (and my penchant for complimentary appetizers), our local Red Lobster, along with over 90 other locations nationwide, recently bit the dust, or the biscuit – as it were.

I guess we all saw it coming in the carnage of crippled restaurant chains that COVID-19 left in its wake. Red Lobster was never quite the same haven of succulent, mass-produced seafood after the pandemic. In particular, they inexplicably excised their scrumptious seafood gumbo from the menu – one of the main reasons I loved the place, and the only reason my eldest and most expensive daughter ever wanted to go.

Granted, the carpet was dingy, the nautical decor was corny, and the lobster tanks invoked a sort of morbid fascination that made us all wish they’d take those rubber bands off the lobsters’ claws and let them have a battle royale to entertain us while we waited seemingly forever for our table.

But still we went, if for no other reason than those indescribably delicious Cheddar Bay Biscuits, the presentation of which by our server invoked a kind of joy comparable only to the delivery of one’s firstborn child. Well, maybe not that much joy . . . but almost.

Speaking of joy, in the late summer after my senior year of high school, when I had finally learned to apply the perfect combination of Right Guard deodorant and Calvin Klein Obsession for Men cologne, I took my future wife to Red Lobster one Sunday after church for our first real date. For an eighteen-year-old aspiring stud-muffin on a city-pool-lifeguard salary, Red Lobster was a big deal, and I thought she’d be especially impressed by the big brass lobster claw door handles. I know I was. It was there, gazing at each other across elegant entrees of fries and popcorn shrimp, that we found true love among the crustaceans.

After we had children, we began a tradition of visiting Red Lobster after the evening Christmas Eve service at church since it was usually one of the very few restaurants open and we weren’t in the mood for pancakes – even international ones. I always requested kid’s menus for our daughters – even when they were teenagers – so that we could guess at the silly trivia games, play tic-tac-toe, and take turns embarrassing my wife by inserting crayons in various facial orifices – usually right when the server showed up.

Besides, the food at Red Lobster just tasted good. I know there are seafood snobs out there who scoffed at what were undoubtedly pre-cooked, frozen menu items that required little more than a boiling bag, a deep fryer or an industrial microwave, but in East Texas, it was the next best thing to a mess of fried crappie if you asked me, and I’ll miss it.

So, thanks for the memories, the Key lime pie with raspberry drizzle and those unlimited biscuits of gold, Red Lobster. You’ll always hold a special place in my heart – and my digestive system.

Copyright 2024 Jase Graves distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at [email protected].

Jase Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. He is also a frequent contributor to The Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop, which named him Writer of the Month for June of 2017, and he has served as a judge in the Erma Bombeck/Anna Lefler Humorist in Residence program.

The National Society of Newspaper Columnists says, "Whether he's breaking down the common types of yard sale denizens ('The Lingerer . . .she was here so long, I'll probably be able to claim her on my next tax return') or sharing cautionary tales of mattress shopping, Jason flays suburban life with a sharp wit. Shopping for his daughter's swimsuits, he wonders if he has 'strayed into the first aid section and . . .was looking at a new line of colorful ACE bandages.'"

Other than writing, his hobbies include berating the television when the Texas A&M Aggie football team is playing and sleeping as late as possible.