Time and again, I find myself pleading with you to go out and eat at your local family owned, “mom-and-pop” type restaurants. You know, the kind of places that are striving to use fresh locally sourced ingredients. I love these places because you aren’t going to find this food anywhere else. A delicacy that you’d find in Orlando, you might not be able to find in the fine dining establishments of North Dakota.
I thought I was running out of these types of restaurants in my tiny hamlet of Lakeland, but then, like Poseidon rising from the sea with his mighty trident, I discovered an eatery that has shaken the very foundation of what I consider to be haute cuisine. Nestled conveniently off of the most trafficked road in town, lies this lovely little joint. You would drive right past if you didn’t spot their gigantic brightly lit sign which screams “homemade authenticity”. When I saw it, I couldn’t help but pull in for a meal.
As I walked into the main waiting area I was warmly greeted by 3 sharply dressed hostesses that put me down on the waiting list. It was about 4:45 on a Sunday afternoon, so naturally there would be a 1-1/2 hour wait for two . I got hint for the reason behind the wait from a patron who was just about to be seated. She said “We drove all the way from Delaware just to eat here!” The wait made even more sense now. With age comes experience and wisdom, so if you find yourself surrounded by octogenarians, you’d better be prepared for a gastronomic odyssey.
On to the Meal!
Have you ever faced the horrible conundrum of wanting everything on the menu? Ugh tell me about it! This place caused a beautiful twisted fantasy in my mind of painful decisions, ultimately leading to a full-blown physical and mental breakdown. It’s like trying to decide which child you are going to save when your car is sinking to the bottom of a lake after falling asleep at the wheel again.
Starters were picked using the tried and true “eenie-meenie-miney-moe” technique. The famed Shrimp Nachos, thankfully, came out victorious. I mean, listen to the description: crispy, multi colored tortilla chips topped with tender shrimp, creamy cheddar and monterey jack cheese, fresh pico de gallo, jalapeño peppers and sour cream. I really love that they distinguish between the texture of the cheeses. Nice touch. You can never have too creamy cheese. The flavors were good. My wife was left with the silver medal of appetizers. Crispy deep-fried and might I say eerily perfect calamari rings. A generous portion alongside even more fried bits of broccoli and red bell peppers. This heavenly combination sounded so tasty I ordered two more plates post-haste. Not to mention the yin and yang of flavors that married together in a beautiful metamorphosis, that being tangy marinara and creamy ranch. I just had to ask the waitress to mix the ranch with the marinara for the next go round.Overall, it was pretty good.
Next we were presented our entrées after a home run of an appetizer course.
I’m always looking for the freshest and most local of ingredients. So when I saw the Catches of the day, I asked the waitress for the two-way combo platter. Mind you, I’m from Florida, and I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to have the most amazing Atlantic Salmon, and Rainbow Trout swimming freely and abundantly in my lakes and oceans. Since this was something of a special night, I went all out and had my fresh catch “oven broiled.” I know, I know, ultra gourmet, but what’s wrong with treating yourself now and then? The fish had a real flavor to it. If I could only use one word to describe it, I’d say it was good.
My partner decided to embarrass me with her lobster ordering abilities and got cracking on ordering the largest variety of Lobster centric dish known to either human or crustacean. It’s known as the “Lobster Lovers Dream”, I call it my wallets worst nightmare. Hey, it’s for my sweetie so it’s worth it right?
What do you get when you add rock lobster, regular lobster and Shrimp Linguine Alfredo, alongside a scampied lobster tail? Other than a higher cholesterol level? You get endless amounts of decadence. To take the “Dreams of Lobster” to the next level, she added creamy Langostino Lobster Mashed Potatoes as a side. Such a smart move because when a restaurant has to inform you that you’re getting “Langostino Lobster” folded into your creamy potatoes, you don’t even need to question the quality. Our waitress asked how she enjoyed her Lobsterfest, her reply? ” It was good.” To throw things overboard, we used the last bit of room left in our gullets on a lovely boxed New York Cheesecake, topped with freshly flown in California Strawberries, how much more authentic can you get? I just wish we had Strawberries in Florida this time of year. To try and describe the meal would not do it justice, but if I had to be concise, I’d say it was good. This is the kind of place that could never be turned into one of those cookie cutter chain restaurants you see popping up in Anytown, U.S.A.
Here, it’s all seafood on a level rarely, if ever, seen elsewhere. It’s about an unrelenting respect for the customer. It’s someones deep seeded love for what they do and setting the standard so high, that no one will ever be able to achieve that mark without serious dedication to their cause. Nobody is dedicated like Red Lobster.