Endless Shrimp At Red Lobster: A Good or Bad Idea?
Recently, during a particularly rowdy Sunday Funday, a three-second flash across the screen of Red Lobster's famous Cheddar Bay Biscuits caught the attention of a few friends of mine. The Red Lobster commercial was promoting the restaurant's limited-time-only Endless Shrimp deal, but it was the cheddar biscuits that really caught the eye.
Drunk and vowing to wreak havoc on the helpless little endless shrimp and free baskets of fluffy, cheesy biscuits, my friend Mike put together a Facebook invite for a bunch of our friends. He named the event Cheddar biscuits! and somehow, more than 10 of us responded as "attending." The group consisted of a couple veterans, a few who hadn't dined at the chain in at least 10 years, and one Red Lobster virgin.
Anxious and giddy with the "endless" possibilities, we made our way over to the restaurant's Highway 290 location last Tuesday night. I have to say, upon arrival, I was shocked. The atmosphere of Red Lobster has come a long way in the years since I've last visited. The restaurant was dimly lit, with the slow rhythms of jazz softly wafting through the dining room. "Where the eff am I?", I thought.
Our hostess, dressed to the nines in a crisp white suit shirt and sharp black pants (whatever happened to those fancy-looking, neon, short-sleeved, fish-covered button-downs?), kindly greeted us, brought us over to a long table in the back, and began introducing us to our server. Or so I thought. Suddenly, three more Red Lobster suits had joined us at the table. The manager stepped out in front and introduced us to our server and our wine-pairing expert, before telling us that our fish specialist would be coming over shortly. No, really - where the eff was I???
We thanked them for their wonderful hospitality and were all set to look at our menus when the server began to reintroduce himself and his assistant for the night. Seriously, how many introductions were we doing here? I just wish I had known; I would have come prepared with a few ice-breaker games so we could get to know each other better. After the server took our drink order (I, of course, got a Shirley Temple - 10-year-old Brooke would be so proud) and our fish specialist described the...fish specials, we eagerly dove into the Endless Shrimp menu.
So how does this thing work, exactly? Was it really endless? Well, for $15.99, we had the choice of six different shrimp dishes, a salad, choice of side, and the beloved endless Cheddar Bay Biscuits. You start with two shrimp choices before moving on and...
At this point, I really wasn't listening, as I had barely eaten all day in preparation and could smell the buttery goodness emanating from the baskets of biscuits that his "assistant" was placing on the table. I blacked out a bit, but I'm pretty sure we all grabbed for the baskets at once, nodding as we shoved biscuits into our mouths during the server's
droning explanation. The biscuits were soft, fluffy, buttery and cheesy - just as good, if not better, than I remembered, but that may have been the starvation talking.
With our stomachs beginning to settle, we pored over our choices of shrimp. Do we start with the newly added Sweet and Spicy, Parmesan or Garlic Skewered? Or do we go with the classic Garlic Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp Linguini Alfredo, or traditional Hand-Breaded? After careful deliberation, I decided to start with the Hand-Breaded and Garlic Shrimp Scampi, while others decided just to order using numbers. "I'll take 1 and 2, you take the 3 and 4, and you'll get 5 and 6 - that way we can start plowing right through them all to see which we like best." This really happened. It's all about strategy at Endless Shrimp, baby.
After a few baskets of biscuits and our salads, the shrimp had finally arrived. I've never seen so many shrimp on one table in my life. Like the biscuits, the hand-breaded and scampi were also just as I had remembered. But this time, I'm not sure if that was a good thing or a bad one. The scampi came literally swimming in a bowl of fluorescent-yellow butter. I tried to ignore the sight and gave one a try, but somehow, I still couldn't tell if I liked it or not. After a few more, I'd given up, not completely off-put, but not in love enough to actually continue eating something that came swimming in a bowl of butter. I fared much better with the hand-breaded, because really, how can anyone screw that up?
The servers cleared our plates and took orders for the next batch. At this point, I couldn't fathom eating anymore, but the Endless Shrimper in me took over and ordered the Garlic Skewered. These came over a bed of wild rice that I didn't want any part of. I think I had about one bite before throwing in the towel and calling it a night. Jeans tight and stomach ready to spontaneously combust, I cursed myself for having three biscuits before embarking on a journey that included "endless" in the name.
We paid our very reasonable bill and left the restaurant entirely too full, but in high spirits. In the end, I think I've had enough Red Lobster to last me for another 10 years or so. But I know that one day, in the far, far future, I shall return. Mostly for the cheddar biscuits...but probably for the Endless Shrimp, too. I mean, c'mon it's endless.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.