Not long after he started managing Lat14 Asian Eatery, Jonathan Janssen began noticing an odd recurring phenomenon.
A lot of people who entered the lobby of his Golden Valley restaurant seemed... confused. Out of place. They'd think they had a reservation that didn't exist, or they'd marvel over how unusually long the wait was for a Thursday evening.
The manifestations of their confusion differed, but the thing they had in common was the same: All of these poor lost souls thought they'd walked into Golden Valley's Red Lobster.
"It seriously happens at least once a day," Janssen laughs. "At least once a day."
In all likelihood, it's happening even more frequently than that. Janssen only sees the ones who actually make it inside—who can guess how many get as far as the parking lot before realizing this isn't the place they want to be and hightailing it back down Seventh Avenue, their mix-up known only to them?
There is a Red Lobster roughly a tenth of a mile west, and before Lat14 opened in September, it had a pretty long run as a Perkins. Janssen concedes that, from the outside, you can still tell this used to be that brand of boxy chain restaurant. They’re shaped sort of similarly; the color schemes aren't all that different.
Still: "Think of all the things that have to go wrong," he continues. "They have to not follow their GPS; they have to not pay attention to any of the signage; they have to see the place and think it looks like a Red Lobster."
But what's kind of cool is that a number of confused seafood seekers end up giving Lat14 a try. Especially if they’re already in their seats: Yes, Janssen says people often get all the way to their table before looking at the menu and thinking, "Hm, not a lotta lobster on here."
Not everyone sticks around: “If they really, really, really want an Admiral's Feast and Cheddar Bay Biscuits, we can’t do that." But it's become a running gag among Lat14 staff, and Janssen's fully embraced the goofiness of it all.
“I kind of want to do that on Halloween,” he says. It could be an event like Marvel Bar's annual October 31 dive bar rebirth—a one-night-only pop-up experience with a menu that's a combination of Perkins and Red Lobster. “Pancakes and endless shrimp, for 80 bucks a ticket,” Janssen laughs.