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Red Lobster opens in Harlem

Cyril Josh Barker | 11/7/2013, 2:33 p.m.
The long-awaited Red Lobster in Harlem is open.
Red Lobster

The long-awaited Red Lobster in Harlem is now open. The chain’s newest location is on 125th Street, next-door to the Apollo Theater, and features a new, modern image unique to the location.

Customers lined up Monday for the 11 a.m. opening ready to eat lunch. A ribbon cutting ceremony took place earlier in the morning that was attended by officials from Red Lobster's parent company, Darden Foods, City Councilwoman Inez Dickens and City Comptroller John Liu.

The Harlem Red Lobster is over 8,700 square feet and two stories high. The lower level features a vintage Harlem-designed bar and lounge, and the upper level serves as the main dining area, with windows overlooking 125th Street.

Open seven days a week, the new restaurant has 250 employees, with 60 percent being from the community. The décor in the seafood restaurant also features artwork from local artists.

The new location marks Red Lobster’s second location in Manhattan and the city’s fifth location. Known best for its menu, Red Lobster features seafood, including fish, shrimp and lobster, as well as steak and chicken. And of course, there’s the restaurant’s signature Cheddar Bay biscuits. The Harlem location will also have takeout service.

Opening a Red Lobster in Harlem has been in the works for two years, according to general manger Tommy Williams, who previously served as the general manager for the Elmhurst, Queens, location.

Love Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits?

  • Red Lobster serves almost 1.1 million of their famous Cheddar Bay Biscuits every day.
  • 395 million cheese biscuits would stretch a whopping 15,585 miles, or the distance of a trip from Red Lobster's New York restaurant in Times Square all the way to Shanghai, China — and back.
  • The recipe for the biscuit is secret, but that hasn’t stopped home cooks and cookbook authors from trying to re-create them. “Recipes” have even been offered on eBay. Two secrets the restaurant has revealed: do not over knead the dough and make sure you use baking soda as one of the ingredients.

“Being in the great community is what makes this location unique,” he said. “The history of this community is what’s going to make it great. I’ve known this community since I was young man, and I know some of the restaurants that are here and some that are gone. When I think about Red Lobster, I want to make sure that we have the same atmosphere as a lot of those restaurants. We want this to be a place people can come to and enjoy themselves and not have to go very far.”

Red Lobster is owned by Darden Restaurants, which also owns LongHorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden and the Capital Grille. The company is best known for its Black CEO, Clarence Otis Jr. He said that coming to Harlem was a win-win for both the company and the community.

“We’re excited to open the Harlem Red Lobster. One of the things that drew us to Harlem is its rich history and its unique cultural and economic aspects. The opening of this restaurant also means a lot to me personally, as my wife and I lived in Harlem for several years and this community is very special to us,” Otis said.

Before even opening its new Red Lobster in Harlem, Darden Restaurants had already pledged several commitments to the Harlem community. Over the past several years, the company has supported organizations focused on the arts and education, including the Harlem School of the Arts and the Studio Museum. Red Lobster has also been partnering with the Apollo Theater, the Harlem Arts Alliance, the 125th Street Business Improvement District and the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce.

Red Lobster is the world’s largest casual dining seafood restaurant, with more than 700 locations and 60,000 employees across North America.