What were you expecting?
Camille Campbell: I was expecting the holy grail of chain restaurants. As someone said on Yelp, “The Red Lobster is The Olive Garden of seafood restaurants.” My whole life I’ve wanted to go to Red Lobster–again, the power of advertising. From talking to the already inducted, the biscuits are like a drug. Yelp reviewers agreed.
Tamar Stevens: I had no expectations. Clean slate.
C: Really, the ads never got to you?
T: I mean all I really got from the ads is that they serve lobster, so much lobster that it’s a festival, and I always imagined there being a deck looking out over the cape.
C: So you were expecting a lot!
T: Well I am aware that there is no “cape” in Canoga Park. So they went right back down.
What were your first impressions?
C: As soon as you see it, you feel like you’ve arrived. Like maybe this could be your Hyannis Port. But when you come back to earth, you’re in Canoga Park, and it was a 40 minute drive. This makes it high stakes dining. It has to be good.
T: Gotta be! They had sailing flags. FLAGS. Blowing in the wind, like they really stood for something, you know?
C: They really go all out with the boat house theme. We made sure to take a lot of pictures. Pretty sure we were annoying, but I wasn’t sure when, if ever, I’d see a boat house again.
T: I just wanted to lounge in some LL Bean clothing on the white wooden patio furniture out front.
C: You look really good in chinos. Why didn’t we make that happen? Maybe we were distracted by the huge tank of live lobsters right by the entrance. No other restaurant in America, to my knowledge, has your living meal on display.
How was your waitperson?
C: THE WAITER!
T: The waiter.
C: Tamar had trouble deciding, and it really came down to the last minute, and she was about to order but then under her breathe went, “Oh. Shit. Fuck.”
And the waiter goes, “We all do.” It was heavy, man.
T: Camille was laughing about that line all day. He was kind of trying to become our friend, which I don’t like in my male waiters, unless they’re super attractive. And even then it’s like, stop putting me in the friend zone!
C: Well, in his defense, he did overhear that I’m from Santa Cruz, and he’s from ten minutes away from Santa Cruz.
This made it more awkward when he caught us. He spotted that Tamar’s phone was recording the whole meal. “Are you recording me?”
C: Tamar blurted out, “This isn’t going online!” We were not super fly, so per his lawyers’ requests, we will not reveal his name or physical description…just his catchphrase (“We all do”) and hometown.
T: The recording isn’t online!
What did you order?
T: We both had such a tough time with this.
C: Like the Olive Garden, they put the calories on the menu. After you see a couple 1,500 calorie meals, you give up and decide this will be your one meal of the day. This gives you permission to order deep fried cheese or in my case, a whole festival of lobster: salad, two skewers of shrimp over a bed of rice, two lobster tails, broccoli and seafood laden mac ‘n cheese.
T: And I was debating lobster at first, but I’ve never had it, and $30 bucks is a lot of money to take a chance on. So for me, it got down to the teriyaki glazed salmon or a duo of apps and clam chowder in a bread bowl.
So what did you choose?
T: If you know me at all, you KNOW I went for the duo of apps. I had to ask special for a Bread Bowl. AND I DID. Also, I ordered what I thought was a very Red Lobster specific drink: a Classic Cranberry Boston Iced Tea.
C: I would just like to say that they would have given me french fries with my meal, which probably should be illegal, but I practically screamed “Broccoli!” I wanted everyone around us to hear my healthy choice, and then I mostly ate the mac ‘n’ cheese.
How was it?
C: You couldn’t taste the seafood. It’s all butter and salt, really expensive butter and salt. Now I know why people rave about the biscuits. There’s no pretense with the biscuits. A $36 dollar meal has the expectation of quality. I always thought people went Red because it’s affordable, but it’s not, so what’s the draw?
T: Maybe it’s because there’s really nothing quite like when you get to the end of the soup, and you just have a soup-soaked bread bowl.
C: This is true. Maybe I shouldn’t undervalue what Red offers. Do you mind if I call it Red?
T: No, but I want to call it The Lobby.
C: That’s a better nickname. It has a lobby feel. I should see Lobby for what it is, and not fault it for failing to be the classy summer seaside retreat it aspires to be.
T: I don’t think seafood that tastes like butter is such a bad thing. And you did get $30 worth of food. You just didn’t need it. The calamari was fine, but it also included fried vegetables, which was weird. And the crab stuffed mushrooms were good, but I probably would have liked them more without the crab. Turns out, shellfish isn’t my favorite. Or maybe that’s just God’s way of reminding me to stay Kosher.
C: This meal was very religious for you because you also pointed out that creating your own appetizer made you “feel like God.” The drink brought you down to earth. You made a patented Tamar face.
T: I did. I made a yuck face. The drink was very….water-y.
C: But you kept drinking it.
C: I need to order an alcoholic beverage at the next restaurant.
T: This wasn’t alcoholic.
C: I just assumed a Classic Cranberry Boston Iced Tea would be mostly booze.
T: In The Outback, we both will drink.
C: I predict a full Australian accent from at least half of us.
Will you go back?
C: I did love the decor. It was vacation-like.
T: But remember the bathroom? There was no decor in the bathroom.
C: What a wasted opportunity.
T: There should’ve been sea shells. Not just in the bathroom, I think more sea shells in general.
Where to next?
T: Outback Steakhouse. We’ve got a scientific list that we’re following.
C: With some real gems.
T: You’re thinking of Hooters, specifically?
T: Future restaurants have got to follow the guidelines–
C: National chain restaurant.
C: Displays the calories on the menu.
T: Has advertising.
C: Basically we’re looking for all the stuff that falls between Sizzler and CPK. If that means anything.
T: Any requests?