Why so popular? Is it, as the Times wrote, the comfort of the known quantity in the city of too many choices?
Have only been to Houston's once, at lunch on a weekday. No discernable tourists, hidden away under scaffoding on southwest corner of Park and 27th. 15 minute wait for small party. Unexpectedly dark and clubby, wood-grained. Waitstaff smartly decked out in snug black tops. Felt like I was on a business trip in the Midwest. Fish of the day, chicken, salads. Sampled the ribs (very similar to what I get in the cafeteria at work, which I like: tender, off-the-bone). Juicy burgers. Soggy fries, dull slaw. 2 bucks for soda/iced tea. Only one toilet in the men's room! Blue Smoke is just across the street!
Been to Red Lobster Times Square twice now, weekend nights, with promotions (Endless Crab, now defunct, and a coupon offer). Jam-packed, 45 minute waits. The first time we did "priority seating"; no clear difference in wait time. Again, no discernable tourists (no Guide Routards, no maps, cameras). Only beer on tap, Bud Light; tap was broken on second visit.
"Keep it simple" is the rule. Steamed offerings (crab legs, lobster) are fine. Sauced offerings are likely one of the direct causes of America's obesity problem. Very heavy on the cream and butter. Cajun Chicken Linguini had two notes: "heat" and "fat". Doggie bagged it for two later meals. "Cheddar Bay" breadbasket biscuits very addictive. HoJo-style side salads.
Next stop: Bubba Gump's. Thomas Keller, wherefore art thou??