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October 24, 2005 - by Richard Jay Scholem
You don’t just eat at the new Bubba Gump Shrimp Company Restaurant & Market, you experience it. This theme spot, the 16th in a chain with outlets in Japan, the Philippines and Hawaii as well as eight other states, envelopes, seduces, even overwhelms its patrons.
A Mediterranean taverna in the Theater District...
Diners sit amid old radios, beer signs, southern license plates, nautical flags, stop signs and bric-a-brac of all sorts, much of which has a connection to Forrest Gump. They eat off of plastic plates and out of shrimp buckets (some draped with fish nets) at bare, laminated tables. When they want service, they flip a license plate shaped sign that says “stop Forrest stop” and when they don’t, there’s one that says “run Forrest run.” Desserts and drinks are printed on a set of ping pong paddles. There’s a bucket in the middle of each table with bottles of malt vinegar, catsup, Bubba Gump hot sauce and Tabasco sauce.
Servers wearing Bubba Gump baseball caps are more entertainers and cheerleaders than just waiters and waitresses. They make the New York Bubba Gump's a place of uninhibited, freewheeling gaiety for most diners and a Mecca for Forrest Gump groupies. That’s because the gung ho wait staff does Forrest Gump imitations, plays Forrest Gump trivia with nearly all who enter and the sprawling restaurant’s downstairs store has Gump-esque memorabilia for sale and a manikin wearing Forrest’s resplendent white suit.
There’s a southern seafood house honky-tonk feeling to Bubba Gump’s woody interior. The music is loud, and the menu is just what you’d expect from a place called Bubba Gump’s. A lot of down-home seafood, barbecued ribs, southern fried chicken, and of course, shrimp a zillion ways.
Portions are monstrous and prices are moderate. If it is breaded, fried, or Cajun style vittles you want, Bubba Gump’s probably has it on the menu. That menu promotes its shrimp specials: “shrimp is the fruit of the sea—you can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, steam it, stuff it.” Among the shrimp dishes are dumb luck coconut shrimp, shrimp shack pasta, “I’m stuffed” shrimp and Bubba’s after-the-storm “bucket of boat trash.”
Typical dishes sampled on a recent visit to Bubba’s were incendiary Greenbow chicken tenders, a colossal serving of addictive cheese fries crowned with sour cream, bacon bits, green onions and cheddar cheese sauce, an oniony New England clam chowder, moist southern fried chicken wrapped in a thick breading, a bucket of steamed shrimp, potatoes and vegetables in a garlic spice brew and a tart, tangy key lime pie.
1501 Broadway btw. 43rd & 44th Sts., 212-391-7100.
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