Monday, May 08, 2006

Why I hate chain seafood restaurants, or "Tiny Oysters, Once Frozen, Make me Sad..."

Despite the fact that we grew up in a coastal southern city and access to some of the best fresh seafood restaurants in the world, my younger sister loves to eat at the chains. She lives in Hilton Head, which also has some wonderful seafood, but will elect to drive to Savannah and eat at Red Lobster. In Charleston, she swears the crab legs at the Noisy Oyster or Crab Shack are better than the ones we can get at dining establishments on the water. I used to resist, but now - with the 18-month-old nephew who requires a high chair and as many packages of Saltines as it takes to leave a cracker dust pile you have to step over - I no longer voice my disapproval when she picks a restaurant.

And that is how I ended up at one of the chains on Rivers Avenue this weekend, gazing at a platter of "fresh" oysters, none bigger than a nickel. But did I complain? No. I piled them six at a time on a cracker with hot sauce and ate two cracker's worth for a mere $8.99. My mother didn't fare quite as well, after ordering "shrimp & grits" and getting a lumpy mass in a bowl that looked like it was topped off with brown gravy from a jar. I tasted it because she made me and the best thing I could say was "gelatinous." I think it was payback for mom teaching the nephew to drink out of a straw, resulting in him going into freakout mode anytime anyone has a drink with a straw in it and won't share. Freakout mode comes complete with whining so high-pitched I thought he was communicating with the tank lobsters, followed by sobbing into his arms folded on the table (which made everyone in the restaurant immediately freeze and offer him a sip from THEIR straws). I think grandma deserves a bad lunch for that one.

Katie gets the same thing every time: snow crab legs. With butter. She cracks them first, depositing the crab meat INTO THE BUTTER BOWL, then eating the whole mess when she's done. I've learned not to comment, first because she's my sister and it makes her happy, and second, because she's vindictive and I would be likely have an empty crab claw or leg secreted in the lining of my shoulder bag, only to be found when the smell got so bad I had to locate the source by tearing the bag apart. Not that it's happened, I'm just sayin'.

In case you're planning on venturing forth, a few words of advice:
Fish isn't supposed to smell like fish. If it does, don't eat it.
Friday night is "Redneck Date Night" at Red Lobster. Unless you're a redneck on a date, it's best to avoid the Land of The Lobsterita in the Take Home Glass.
Don't get into it with the waitress about whether or not the restaurant uses local seafood. They don't and she doesn't care. If you care, you shouldn't be eating there.
Never enter the bathroom. Trust me, you don't want to go in there. Ask for a moist towelette for your hands and hold it until you get home.
And ordering raw oysters in a month without an "R"? Shuck at your own risk.


  1. Have I mentioned that I adore you?

  2. Consider it training for your trailer queen role. You did wear your cut-offs and tube top to the Loster, did you not?

  3. You said "moist." Ewwww.

    Red Lobster ain't so bad. The cheese biscuits are good, especially after a few cold beers.

  4. First: did you make a side trip to the Green Dragon since you were practically right night door? You've got to start that nephew off right with dungeons and dragons and swords and love incense and graphic novels. Hook him now while he's still such a tender age.

    Second: on a mind-numbingly long drive back from visiting the grandparents in Palm Beach, we stopped in Jacksonville for lunch. Stepdad had lobster and I stole the claw along with various "bits" to torment my sister with for the rest of the trip. It all came crashing down upon my head when my sister realized I'd deposited one of the lobster's eyeballs in her ponytail. She started screeching like that Harry Potter egg and then my mother roared, "That's it! I'm pulling over."

    Wow. To be 23 or 24 yet still able to make the car pull off the road for disciplinary reasons... I should get a merit badge.

  5. JZ - yes, many times, but it never gets old.
    Janet - you might have an idea there. My sister is not embarrassed about not having a discerning palate, but she WOULD hate me dressing like that.
    Ida - first, my brother-in-law already has that part of the kid's brain reserved for WWF Smackdown and books by former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura. Second, I thought you were telling me a childhood story before you dropped the age. YES, you should get a merit badge!

  6. Why you don't ever call the other anonymous by name?

    Well, I was drunk the day my Mom got out of prison, And I went to pick her up in the rain, But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck, She got runned over by a damned old train.

  7. Because I don't know who any of the anonymous comments are unless there's a clue - like "green dragon" or "fashion police" - then I know it's you. I actually don't know who the first anon is. Thought it was Michael because of "moist" but then realized he would never say "ain't" unless mocking someone else.

  8. I have to admit, I like Red Lobster. So does my brother-in-law apparently because one night he wanted to go there but it turns out there "ain't" no Red Lobster in LA!
    Ida, I laughed so hard because I too thought you were recounting a childhood story. Hee Hee.

  9. "Moist" is just gross and wrong.

    And shamefully, if I ever eat at Red Lobster, I might get what your sister ordered. Butter...purrrr.

  10. There is a faux pas worse than going to RL for seafood. It's ordering the steak.


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