Source: Toronto Life, December 1966.
Say “Red Lobster” and, apart from the pricy crustacean, many people will conjure images of garlic cheese biscuits, popcorn shrimp, and a treasure chest of prizes for small scallywags. Long before the American seafood restaurant chain washed up on Toronto’s shoreline in the mid-1980s, several other businesses briefly used that name before drifting back into the lake.
One was a North Toronto gourmet takeout/delivery that operated during the late 1960s. Early ads touted its unique dinners (netting not included), which allowed customers to heat and serve at their own leisure. Any clumsy chef could quickly prep the lobster, uncork a nice bottle of South African vino, and then enjoy a cozy tête-à-tête.
Besides plain lobster, The Red Lobster offered other seafood dishes with fanciful origins. An August 1965 ad pitching Lobster Newburg (or, to make it sound fancier, “Lobster a la Newbourg”) claimed the meal was invented by Irving Newbourg, personal chef to Julius Caesar. The ad claimed that the dish was “rescued from obscurity by the tender reverence of our own chef, a great admirer and personal friend of Irving’s.”
By early 1967, ads touted new ownership, which changed the name to Lobster Gourmet two years later. Under its new name, the business received several mentions in Mary Walpole’s advertorial column in the Globe and Mail, such as this one promoting its holiday offerings during the 1972 Christmas season:
Those spur-of-the moment Yuletide affairs when guests linger longer or relatives arrive unexpectedly can be done with grace and aplomb merely by calling the Lobster Gourmet on Mt. Pleasant Rd…Office blockbusters will of course require a few days notice, but then when you consider Lobster Gourmet deliver the entire feast in disposable containers, piping hot and at the specified hour, everyone from the top echelon to cleaning staff will bless the organizer on the morning after…We call ourselves whenever we feel like being spoiled when staying home…The bread that goes with every order deserves raves too—home baked on the premises, it is so rich and buttery you can cut it with a fork.
A less advertiser-inspired assessment appeared in Epicure’s Toronto Food Book (Toronto: Greey DePencier Books, 1978):
Lobster Gourmet offers shellfish dinners for those who don’t like cooking or eating out. All the store needs is an hour’s notice. A 1-1/2 lb lobster dinner (including home-baked bread, drawn butter, salad, and baked potato) is $12.95; a la carte (lobster alone) only 50 cents less. Still, the store salad and bread aren’t that great and if you feel like putting out some effort, you’d be better to arrange those matters at home. The unadulterated cooked lobster itself is first-rate—always in my experience.
Additional material from the August 20, 1965, and November 30, 1972, editions of the Globe and Mail.