Marshall Clark has been angling to bring Red Lobster to Spokane for eight years.
That’s even longer than I’ve been trying to land a Red Lobster.
But my fishing excursions are a labor of love, whereas Clark gets paid, as the world’s largest dinner house chain’s real estate broker hereabouts.
“Red Lobster definitely is coming to Spokane,” declares the owner of Clark Commercial Real Estate. “They just have not settled on a definite site yet.
The hard-to-catch lobster house quite naturally wanted to be on the downtown riverfront, the broker says. And they hoped to build where the old Pier One building is on the north bank off Division.
But instead of being leveled for new construction, that building was redeveloped.
“After waiting two years for the site, then losing it, that confused them,” says Clark.
Even more confusing, he had a Red Lobster all lined up to go into Old City Hall Building six years ago. But halfway through the restoration, one of the chain’s bigshots pulled back, and Olive Garden took the space instead.
That worked out OK for Clark, because the Olive Garden is a sister of Red Lobster in the General Mills stable of dinner houses. But it practically rules out downtown as a location, Clark says.
With no room left on the riverfront, downtown is otherwise unattractive.
“Some of their people don’t care for downtown,” says Clark, “and they want North Division.”
Unfortunately, North Division, too, is experiencing a paucity of expansion space, and real estate prices along the crowded thoroughfare are skyrocketing. Nevertheless, Clark says, “‘We’re going to see eventually a Red Lobster on North Division and a Red Lobster in the Spokane Valley.
“But I don’t think you’ll ever see a Red Lobster downtown with the current thinking.”
Last month, this column reported the acquisition of a site in North Coeur d’Alene, at Highway 95 and Neider, for the Inland Northwest’s first Red Lobster.
“I think it will be too small,” Clark says of the facility as planned. “With only about 4,350 feet, including a little bar, the place is going to be just jammed with Spokane people.
“I just couldn’t convince Red Lobster to make it bigger.” Too bad.
The good news is, Red Lobster is coming.
The bad news is, they fry some of their seafood in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
Or so senior nutritionist Jayne Hurley of the Center for Science in the Public Interest reported in a recent press dispatch carried by The SpokesmanReview.
Besides being high in fat, the report says, fried seafood is also apt to be especially high in artery-clogging partially hydrogenated oil used by many seafood restaurants, including Red Lobster, to fry fish.
Except for that, said the food watchdog group, seafood restaurants generally offer a greater variety of healthy, less-fatty foods than Italian, Mexican and Chinese establishments.
The best ways to eat seafood, said the nutritionist, are baked, broiled, blackened, grilled or steamed.
The closest Red Lobster west of Spokane is in Kennewick. General manager Bill McKibbin is most helpful.
A Red Lobster will open in Lewiston in about six months, he told me. Boise has had one six or seven years, he said.
On the east, the nearest Red Lobster is in Billings.
And there the lobster house is a favorite of prison officials who got into trouble taking convicts out to dinner on the taxpayers’ dollar.
The practice came to light when a high school teacher spied a former student, who was supposed to be serving a life sentence for murdering her husband, out scarfing down lobster as punishment. The dinner party included a throat slasher and other such fun-loving types enjoying a night on the town for being “good.”
The state corrections chief admitted to “a serious mistake in judgment.” He’s gone now.
Even murderers and convicts are treated better in Montana than Red Lobster lovers in Spokane. For shame.