Pros: Easy to find; Good seafood menu selection; Large interior; Great service
Cons: Inconsistent; Pricey
Where do people go out for lunch or dinner when they have a craving for seafood? For those who live near the ocean in an area with a large fishing industry, there are often many specialty restaurants that cater to the needs of those who love seafood. For everyone else, seafood restaurants are often not as plentiful as the seafood lover would like. But there is one chain restaurant that exists all over the country in hundreds of cities large and small. That restaurant is Red Lobster, the largest full- service seafood restaurant chain in the USA.
Red Lobster offers a good selection of menu options that focus on seafood but are not exclusive to seafood. Here are the choices:
Appetizers- Some warm- ups to the main course include Lobster Pizza, Golden Calamari and vegetables, Fiesta Lobster Rolls, Coconut Shrimp, Jumbo Shrimp, Buffalo Chicken Wings, Mozzarella sticks, Chicken Fingers, and more.
Soups/Salads- New England Clam Chowder, Bayou Seafood Gumbo, Shrimp & Lobster Caesar Salad, Grilled Shrimp Caesar Salad, and Apple Walnut Chicken Salad are among the choices on this part of the menu.
Seafood Entrees- The mainstay of the menu, these include choices like Salmon New Orleans, Grilled Rainbow Trout, Flounder, Farm Raised Catfish, Shrimp Scampi, Fried Shrimp, Grilled Jumbo Shrimp, Shrimp Pasta, Broiled Seafood Platter, Salmon, Cod, Ultimate Feast (lobster tail, crab legs, shrimp scampi, and fried shrimp), Crab Alfredo, King Crab Legs, and more.
Steak & Chicken- For those who arent in the mood for seafood, Red Lobster offers Grilled chicken, New York Strip Steak, Aztec Chicken, Cajun Chicken Pasta, and other choices. Or, if you would like to combine seafood with either steak or chicken, Red Lobster offers entrees like Steak & Lobster, Steak & Fried Shrimp, and Dockside Shrimp & Chicken.
Desserts- After dinner treats include Chocolate Wave (chocolate cake with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream), Fudge Overboard (chocolate/pecan brownie with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream), Key Lime Pie, Apple Overboard, Banana Cheesecake, and Vanilla Cheesecake.
For those with children, Red Lobster has a Kids Menu complete with choices like popcorn shrimp & fries, chicken fingers & fries, macaroni & cheese with steamed vegetables, broiled fish & steamed vegetables, and snow crab legs & steamed vegetables. There is also a good wine list and specialty drink menu.
Red Lobster offers a relaxed atmosphere. The inside of each restaurant is usually very large with multiple seating areas. Tables and booths are both available and red and blue restaurant colors can be seen on some of the fixtures. Only a handful of nautical- themed pictures exist on the walls, along with a tank of live lobsters near the entrance. Otherwise, the emphasis with the atmosphere seems to be on seating. And its a good thing, because Red Lobster is often very crowded.
Meal costs at Red Lobster are more expensive than the average full service chain restaurant. Most dinners sell for between $13 and $20 with a few dinner options costing more than $20. The only inexpensive items on the menu are the appetizers, priced between $6 and $10. Specialty drinks and desserts are also more expensive than those at other chain restaurants.
One thing about Red Lobster: The prices might be high but they treat you right. Waitresses come back to your table like clockwork and they are always ready to refill your beverage (complimentary refills on most all soft drinks, lemonade, tea, and coffee) without you having to ask for it. If there is a huge crowd present, it can take time to get your food served. But other than that, my experience with customer service has been positive.
Red Lobster is a popular restaurant chain that has roots going all the way back to Lakeland, Florida. It was here, in 1968, that a young man named Bill Darden began what led to the worlds first Red Lobster restaurant. Today, the restaurant has grown to become the largest sit- down seafood restaurant chain in the United States.
I must confess, I dont normally get a taste for seafood. Aside from my box of Mrs. Pauls, I dont usually purchase or eat any type of product from the sea. It is only on rare occasions that I get the urge for some seafood and, when the mood strikes, Red Lobster is the place I usually turn. I have lived in many places in my life but they have all been landlocked; far away from the oceans where most of the worlds seafood is caught each day. For this reason, I do not have many options when it comes to seafood. Red Lobster is one of the few available places for seafood restaurant dining.
Seafood, of course, makes up most of the menu at Red Lobster and as far as the quality goes, it isnt always consistent from place to place and from day to day. I have never had any problems with certain foods, like the coconut shrimp, calamari, and grilled jumbo shrimp. These foods and others like them have usually been fresh and good. But other foods have not always been so tasty. The salmon, for example, sometimes tastes like it came out of a box in the frozen food section of a grocery store. And the lobster- the restaurants specialty- isnt consistent enough to recommend, especially for the price you pay. This inconsistency is one of my greatest beefs with Red Lobster. I have been to some locations that offered excellent food while others seem to be too rushed to get the seafood from the kitchen to your plate, ruining the flavor in the process.
One thing I like about Red Lobster as of late is the expanded menu options. I can remember a time when Red Lobster was almost exclusively a seafood restaurant with little or no menu options available for those who dont like this type of food. Many would say that this should be expected because Red Lobster is, after all, a seafood restaurant. This is a valid point, but the lack of other options on the menu made a trip to Red Lobster less likely for families that contained one or more anti- seafood children or adults. When people dont like seafood, they often really dont like seafood and they dont want to dine someplace where an appetizer is the only non- seafood menu option. Fortunately, Red Lobster now offers much more than just seafood, with a few chicken and steak platters added to make the menu better rounded and more likely to please. From my experience, the steaks and chicken are actually pretty good. They are not as good as the steaks and chicken from restaurants that specialize in these two foods but for a restaurant that exists primarily to satisfy seafood lovers, they offer a tasty alternative.
Beverages are an important part of the dining experience at Red Lobster and each restaurant can be counted on to offer a full service bar and plenty of specialty drinks to whet your whistle. Alotta Colada, Sunset Passion Colada, and Lobsterita are among the very good specialty drinks offered and they are each delicious, even though they often cost between $7 and $10. The beer selection isnt too bad, but it could stand to be improved. There are usually about twelve draft and/or bottled beer choices at each restaurant. A selection of about thirty different wines rounds out the alcoholic beverage offerings.
The customer service at Red Lobster is usually very good and it ranks among the chains strongest selling points. But the one frustrating thing about Red Lobster is the common occurrence of having to wait for a table. If you dine during prime dinner hours on Thursday through Saturday, I can almost guarantee there will be a wait. Red Lobster has tried to accommodate this problem by providing plenty of seats where customers can at least sit down and wait for their name to be called. But often, the level of business is so great that all the waiting area seats are taken, too. This compounds the problem tremendously and I can recall several times where I have gone to Red Lobster, walked inside the large front doors, looked at all the people waiting for a table, and turned around and left. Red Lobster restaurants are often very large on the inside, with seating for a few hundred guests. But even with all those tables, they still overfill frequently, forcing guests to sit patiently, make a trip to the bar for a before dinner drink, or give up completely and look for another place to dine.
Red Lobster offers a few good desserts, like its Chocolate Wave and Fudge Overboard. But like most chain restaurants, the desert section of the menu is lacking when compared to the rest of the menu. Chains dont place much emphasis on desserts because most people are too stuffed when they finish the main meal to want a dessert. I wish this trend would change because, with a good list of after dinner choices, I would be inclined to limit my intake of ordinary food and make more room for dessert. At Red Lobster, the Chocolate Wave and Fudge Overboard are the best bets and they make for a nice contrast to the seafood dishes and a good way to close out the dining experience. The other dessert items are not as interesting or as delicious as these two but they are good choices for those who dont want chocolate after a heavy meal.
So, is Red Lobster a satisfying seafood restaurant? I know many people who swear by Red Lobster and consider it the greatest restaurant on the planet and I agree that Red Lobster is better than the average restaurant chain. However, I dont feel its the out- of- this world experience that many make it out to be and I have questioned some of the quality of the food dishes on more than one occasion. Its one of those chain restaurants where the quality seems to change from one location to the next and this lack of consistency prevents me from rating Red Lobster any better than three stars overall. A little more attention to consistency and more dessert and beer options would improve my rating, but this is still a good restaurant that, for many, is about the only full service seafood restaurant available within a short driving distance.
Red Lobster is, in a nutshell, a good restaurant with very good service. With a little more effort, it could be even better. But for now, I will give it a modest recommendation. It satisfies the seafood lover in me- a part of me that doesnt come out of hiding very frequently. I think its good overall, but those with discriminating seafood tastes will find it unimpressive.
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