I do not remember the first time I went to Red Lobster. Which is fine. I also do not remember the first time I saw Halle Berry. But I know that my reaction was the same: How does something so perfect exist and are there more of these in Cleveland?
As a Black kid from Pittsburgh, whose family bounced between broke as fuck and broke as fuck-adjacent, seafood was a luxury item. Which is weird thing to say, because my mom would fry whiting, mix tuna salad, and croquette the shit out of some salmon, but I didn’t consider that real seafood. Well, not real the way shrimp was, and when we’d get one of those pre-cooked shrimp cocktail trays for a holiday dinner or whatever, I felt like MC Hammer. And so when I discovered there was a whole entire restaurant with shrimps and crabs and lobsters and shit, I spazzed out. Red Lobster became an aspiration, a destination, and an inspiration, cause I wanted the form on my j to be as smooth as the Cheddar Bay biscuits felt in my mouth. I even fantasized about taking dates there. I’d pick her up in my cocaine white Chevy Tahoe, like I was Carl Thomas, and when we’d get there I’d tell her she could even order from the back of the menu where all the steak and shit is too, cause I was an ambitious 16-year-old.
As I got older, I began to appreciate the thoughtfulness of the Red Lobster dining experience, which starts with the biscuits. They are the best biscuits on Earth, the best food on Earth, the best thing on Earth, and these motherfuckers frisbee them at you as soon as you sit down. You haven’t even taken off your coat, and the server is slapping them on your lips and shoving them down your throat while screaming “PUT THE FUCKING LOTION IN THE BASKET!” Red Lobster doesn’t believe in delayed gratification. Red Lobster is a considerate lover.
The menu itself is an amusement park. You want Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp with bacon-wrapped cheesecake? Fine. Do you even know where or what the fuck a Parrot Isle is? No. An entire isle full of parrots sounds creepy, actually. But it doesn’t matter, because Red Lobster wants you to cum first.
But then I got on the internet, and the rest of y’all got on the internet, too, and some of y’all tried to pretend that Red Lobster was “trash” and “not real seafood” and “got their lobsters from a puddle” and “were the Kardashians of crab legs” and “will literally kill you if you eat there twice in one year.” It was a casualty of the chain restaurant internet wars of the early 2010s, and it was lumped in with places that are legitimately trash, like the Olive Garden and Atlanta.
The narrative was so convincing that it got me, too. I started to pretend like Red Lobster wasn’t delicious, like my taste buds were too refined, too respectable, too post-racial, to even touch a Red’s scallop without it burning a hole through my hand. “Who still eats this garbage food at this garbage place?” y’all would say, and I’d raise my hand like “Not me. I never ate three concurrent orders of Walt’s Favorite Shrimp. Shit, I even shot a nigga named Walt in 2007.”
But no more. I will no longer be Red’s shamed. Especially since I know that the shamers are full of shit. They know, as well as I do, that Red Lobster is the greatest place on Earth. It’s not ironically delicious, because Beyoncé name-dropped it. It’s delicious delicious. They know, as well as I do, that it’s diametrically impossible to have a bad experience there. Those impossible wooden doors are a wormhole; the lobster aquarium an event horizon. I mean where else, on Earth, can you get a 4,000 calorie appetizer? Or broccoli dipped in so much butter it tastes like popcorn? I went to a Red’s in Manhattan a couple years ago, with the homies Shamira and Jasmine, and Kimora Lee Simmons was there with her own room, and I heard one of the frustrated servers say “Eight biscuit baskets ain’t enough?” Where else, on Earth, would the combination of words in that sentence be possible?
Red’s, that’s where, because everything’s possible there.