Friday, August 05, 2005

yet another dream realized


i quite enjoy eating with my friends tc and jc. we work together, so the opportunities for lunch, happy hour and early dinner downtown are constant. i try to bring a lunch and i have what i suppose are the materials to make a dinner in my apartment, but i often just go out to eat. and i wonder why i am poor.

what's fantastic about tc and jc is that they are more than willing to indulge my chain-restaurant guilty pleasures. most of my friends wont even give mcdonald's a cent due to their big bad corporate ways, and to suggest that we go grab some food at, say, applebee's, would be met with both laughter and a sneer. my friends eat ethnic food. they frequent mom-and-pop delis and non-corporate coffee houses and neighborhood-based diners. they will slum it at the house of wing (holy fucking shit, you have to try the pizza puff, it's amazing), but chain restaurants, particulary the type that you can find attached to most malls, are a definate NO. and i'm that way, too, it's not like i prefer to go to chi chi's or whatever, but tc and jc embrace chain restaurants the way i never have. i'll get emails at 4:56 pleading to go to tgi friday's for apple martinis and chicken fingers, and i will happily go along: there is always a big booth near the bar, the drinks come trough-sized, and, let's face it, i would rather have some cheap breaded chicken with my cheap sugary drink than some paella or sushi or pad si-iew. not that i like crap food exclusively, but it's about relativity. so the crowd at tgi friday's is mildly retarded and the waiters are flair-adorned and condescendingly friendly - it's not like we're there to do much more than bitch about our jobs with the kind of detail that only we could mutually understand or tolerate, as well as to get tipsy off of rail liquor.

so last night tc and i went and got manis and pedis after work (i hate being a girl but personal hygeine is important) and it took forever - my tiny mid-50s lady must be really proud of her, forgive the pun, handiwork, as i didn't get out of there until like 7:30 (we had to wait a solid hour because we didn't have appts so we paged through a Star from May and laughed at the is-katie-holmes-dating-josh-harnett gossip) and we were still downtown and starving. i had let tc and jc know that my parents had never taken me to red lobster, which i have wanted to go to since i was like seven, and that i was still curious as to whether the shrimp scampi there was as good as it looked on tv. in fact, i sort of viewed red lobster as a dream deferred, and as we all know from the poetry of langston hughes, a dream deferred could possibly lead to all sorts of personal and cultural problems. so it was with a knowing smile that tc suggested we go to the red lobster down the street, near the house of blues, the melting pot, and bland office buildings.

the red lobster did not look like how i had imagined it; i guess maybe 20 years ago it featured red and white checkered tablecloths and fireplaces, but this place looked like it was trying to come across as a hybrid of a cape-cod-white-wood-nautical-themed-but-modern-crab-shack and the kind of place that accepts coupons that you can cut out of sunday's papers' circulars. since i was finally there, i ordered something called "the ultimate feast," which, priced at $21, didn't seem too extravagant - lobster tail, crab legs, breaded shrimp, and shrimp scampi, with a side, a salad and some biscuits. tc's eyes lit up when she told me how kickass their biscuits are. i lived in new hampshire for one ill-advised year, and finding a lobster dinner there for $10 was not unheard of, but this IS the midwest, so it didn't seem too expensive.

it was 8:00 on a thursday evening, and it was empty. despite this, our waitress took forever to approach, poked around, took our order, disappeared, finally showed up with some drinks and biscuits, wandered away. by the time i finally got my dinner i was ready to eat my hand. the music was particulary bad - we determined that they were all love songs, but they had no semblance of sense or order to them. and then i got a bigass plate loaded with seafood and i was so happy that, after years of enviously eyeing that anonymous hand squirting lemon all over a little dish of shrimp scampi, i finally had my own.

shrimp scampi very good. garlic and butter. biscuits very good. garlic and butter. fried shrimp good. big, but maybe just as good as the frozen shrimp you can buy. lobster pretty good. not fishy tasting, which is a plus, and not rubbery, but not exactly fresh. there is a grilled-cheese-and-lobster sandwhich at a place across from our office that is kickass, so while this was a lot of lobster at once, it wasn't particulary good. the crab legs are propbably why i am bothering to discuss this meal at all. they were super long, maybe five or six of them, all still attached to some midsection shell with what appeared to be lung still dangling. i asked the waitress for a cracker for them (i have no idea if that is the right word) and then asked her again later and by the time she decided that she wasn't too busy not waiting on anyone else, she brought me one. by now they were cold and sort of limp, and when i tried to crack them they just sort of bent like they were made out of thin and flexible plastic. i wrestled with all six of those fuckers, and when they finally broke open all that came out was some water and weird strands of cartilage or whatever the fuck grows in crab legs with the meat. i was able to dig out like two forkfuls of nothing-tasting white meat. it became a joke - like, trying to break it open, wrestling with it, and being awarded with a hollow leg. maybe the crab i got was a cripple. or maybe it was really old and busted. or maybe, just maybe, the red lobster doesn't know what the fuck it's doing. but that couldn't be possible, could it?

it physically pained me to tip the waitress 15 percent, and i am almost always a 20-percent-after-tax tipper, because i feel their pain. i did make her bring me more biscuits with the exclusive intent of being boxed up with my uneaten shrimp, though.

red lobster wait staff: D. ambiance: C. food: oh this makes me sad, but C-. dream realized, so now i never have to go back: A+.

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