Red Lobster arrives in BR

Maybe the endless commercials enticed Baton Rouge area appetites or maybe the adventure of trying something new urged them on, but whatever the reason the lot was packed early at Red Lobster on the weeknight evening we chose to give it a try.

After waiting 25 minutes outside because the small inside waiting area was full, we were escorted to our booth. The restaurant had a very family-friendly atmosphere and there were lots of kids soaking it up.

We started with a combination appetizer, the New England sampler ($10.50), which offered breaded and fried clam strips, lobster-, crab- and seafood-stuffed mushrooms; and a skewer of wood-grilled bacon-wrapped sea scallops. The clam strips were small, chopped strips of clam heavily breaded, deep fried and served with a tartar dipping sauce. The four scallops were cooked just right with the bacon-flavor permeating the bivalve. The four small mushrooms did not have a lot of seasoning but were generously stuffed and our table enjoyed them.

For our entrees we tried the seaport lobster and shrimp ($21.99), a large platter featuring a wood-grilled split Maine lobster tail, garlic shrimp scampi and a skewer of garlic grilled jumbo shrimp. The lobster tail was smaller than we thought it would be but had a good texture and smoky flavor. The grilled shrimp, while not what we would call jumbo, were also good and had that same smoky flavor. The shrimp scampi were long skinny shrimp served in an individual casserole dish and swimming in garlic flavored butter. These shrimp were mushy, whether from the butter treatment or from being frozen, and our least favorite part of this platter. The meal came with a salad, wild rice (which didn’t have much taste) and a choice of sides, which in this case was the perfect-sized baked potato served loaded (our choice) with butter and sour cream.

We also chose the salmon New Orleans ($22.99) from the fresh fish menu and were pleased with the large serving of blackened fish topped with shrimp and a creamy Tabasco-flavored sauce. This dish came with spicy broccoli spears, a salad and a side dish choice and we chose the mashed potatoes which were on the plain-tasting side.

We gave the “create your own feast” ($15.99) a try. This allows for mixing two entree selections, and we tried the garlic-grilled shrimp and the fried oysters. While the oysters were small and the breading was unseasoned we thought they were fried perfectly. The grilled shrimp were also small but firm and smoky-flavored. This entree also came with a salad and choice of side dish.

The crowded circumstances may have led to the restaurant running out of our first dessert choice , the key lime pie, so we chose to split the apple crumble ($5.50) and the cheesecake with strawberries ($5.99).

Neither dessert was a shining star, but both were adequate. The crumble had nuts mixed in the topping, which was a nice touch, and they didn’t skimp on the strawberry slices topping the cheesecake either.

What did shine for us, though, were the cheddar bay biscuits served hot with the salads. They were warm and flaky and cheesy and absolutely delicious.

Several birthdays were being celebrated, music was playing and there were lots of people having fun but we couldn’t help but look at the longtime Baton Rouge seafood restaurant across the street and make a note to go back there really soon.