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Suffering from Red Lobster withdrawal? A trip to Ottawa will do the trick

    By Mike Cohen
    By Mike Cohen

    Profiling restaurants in Montreal and Beyond

    Longtime GM Ian Forrester

    Ask me which restaurant brand I miss most in Montreal and I will always name Red Lobster, which mysteriously disappeared from Quebec back in 1997.

    Red Lobster still operates in four Canadian provinces – Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. There are two locations in Ottawa. The one at 1499 St. Laurent Blvd., just as you enter the city, has always been our “go-to” spot. Twenty years ago, I did a few reviews for my newspapers and connected with General Manager Ian Forrester. When I went there for a curbside pickup back in December, Ian was still on the job. It turns out he has been there for an incredible 36 years.

    More recently, I did a more extensive order. The place was packed, and people were waiting for tables. Meanwhile, the lineup at the bar for pickup and delivery orders was long as well.

    “We get a lot of Montrealers who drive up here on the weekend just to dine with us,” said Forrester. “They clearly miss Red Lobster. I frankly cannot believe how many of them come here. “

    Now that family reasons bring me to the Nation’s Capital more often, we are thrilled to have this option while secretly hoping the brand will return to Quebec one day. Word has it that before the pandemic, Red Lobster officials were scouting Montreal for potential locations. Now that the restaurant industry is getting back to normal, perhaps this will indeed become a reality.,

    Red Lobster is the world’s largest seafood restaurant company, headquartered in Orlando, Florida, with more than 55,000 employees in over 700 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada.

    A Great Menu

    For our most recent visit, the three of us started off with an appetizer of seafood stuffed mushrooms. That was followed by bowls of piping hot clam chowder and lobster bisque to share and, of course, the mouth-watering signature biscuits. You get two per serving and there is an option to order a half dozen more – good to wrap in a plastic baggie and take home to enjoy.   These delicious and soft rolls are not something you will find anywhere else.

    For the main course, I chose the Lobster Lover’s Dream a roasted rock lobster tail, butter-poached Maritime lobster tail and lobster-and-shrimp linguini in a creamy lobster sauce, served with a side of rice. My wife ordered double lobster tails, with a side of mashed potato and crispy Brussel sprouts. As for my daughter, she opted for the Seafarer’s Feast- broiled Maritime lobster tail, seared sea scallops, garlic shrimp and Walt’s Favourite Shrimp.  It was served with melted butter, lemon, cocktail sauce and a choice of side – in this case, mashed.

    There are some nice desserts, as well, such as the chocolate wave cake with a side of vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. You can find many other tempting items on the menu, such as Date Night Feast for Two – two butter-poached Maritime lobster tails, two seven-ounce sirloins, two jumbo grilled shrimp skewers and a shareable Bacon Mac & Cheese, plus a choice of one side for each guest. The Lobster-Topped Stuffed Tilapia features tilapia roasted with their signature seafood stuffing and topped with Maritime lobster in a creamy lobster beurre blanc and a choice of two sides.

    Lunch Specials and Pivoting to Take-Out

    Red Lobster is also introducing a new 10 Under $12 lunch menu, available Monday through Friday until 3 pm and featuring a variety of delicious selections. This includes garlic shrimp, crispy cod sandwiches, popcorn shrimp, and more. The 10 Under $ 12-weekday lunch menu, along with the recently introduced three from the Sea combination option for just $19.99, appears on Red Lobster’s newly designed, easy to navigate menu, providing great value options for guests no matter when the craving hits.

    During the pandemic, Red Lobster mastered the take-out and delivery concept. At the St. Laurent Blvd. location, you place your order online and upon arrival just go to one of the curbside pickup spots and call the restaurant. Someone will bring the order right to your vehicle. The restaurant itself is perfectly handicapped accessible, with a level entrance and no stairs. There are also handicapped parking spots.

    “We had just started to put more effort into takeout and third-party delivery before the pandemic,” said Forrester. “During the pandemic, we managed to double our take-out sales. I was also able to maintain 90 percent of my staff.”

    Make-A-Wish Partnership

    Red Lobster recently announced that it has selected Make-A-Wish as the brand’s first-ever national charity partner. The two organizations have shared values around the power of celebration and families and will work together to support Make-A-Wish’s mission of creating life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. 

    “Red Lobster has always had a history of giving back in our communities, and this new national partnership with Make-A-Wish in the U.S. and Canada takes it to a whole new level. Now, by coming together as one Red Lobster team rallying for one great cause, we can have a bigger, more meaningful impact than ever before,” said Kelli Valade, CEO, Red Lobster.

    Make-A-Wish creates life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses and since the Canadian affiliate’s founding in 1983, they have granted more than 36,000 wishes across the country. A wish is so much more than a nice one to have, it is an integral part of a child’s treatment journey. Through all the changes and uncertainties of COVID-19, the one thing that has remained constant is that despite the pandemic every child’s wish begins with hope. It provides them with a moment of having something to look forward to – and it is with that moment where everything begins to change.

    “As a brand our size, I believe we have to do good with what we have, and at the end of the day, what we do is so much bigger than food,” said Valade. “We are thrilled to join with Make-A-Wish to bring the power and passion of our two brands together to do big, meaningful things that bring joy and hope to these deserving children and their families.”

    From wish-granting and hosting Make-A-Wish events in restaurants, to givebacks and dine-to-donate initiatives, Red Lobster is committed to helping Make-A-Wish grant more wishes that deliver hope to children, families, and communities who need it most.

    “We are excited to welcome Red Lobster as a new national sponsor of Make-A-Wish. Their support allows us to continue to fulfill our mission to grant life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses,” said Lyanne Goulin, Interim CEO, Make-A-Wish® Canada. “A wish experience gives children a piece of their childhood back. It is through the strength and power of partnerships, like this one with Red Lobster, that we will be able to continue to transform lives, one wish at a time.”

    Reserve with Ian

    To view the complete Red Lobster menu or find a restaurant location, visit RedLobster.ca.  You can call 613-744-7560 and ask for Ian or his trusty assistant Matt if you want to beat the other Montrealers for a reservation.

    Mike Cohen

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