Red Lobster, Wolf Road

We went over to Colonie Center for me to look for an outfit to wear for a presentation I am giving at a conference in Washington, D.C. next week. I don't know what to wear. It is going to be 81 degrees, and I always remember D.C. being humid in the spring when I was younger. But, to complicate things they may have air conditioning on inside the conference. Part of me just thinks I should wear my usual "job interview outfit", like this:

But then I think, I definitely don't want to be wear heels while running around a city and a conference, and I don't want to be hot. Perhaps just black pants and a loose fitting top? Perhaps a comfortable dress and a blazer? I just don't know. I tried on half of New York and Co. and they just seemed to have a lot of what I already have. Any advice? I have pretty much always struggled with the "how to be professional and stay cool in the summer?" question.

Anyways, so our friend was talking about the cheddar biscuits at Red Lobster last week, and we had kind of joked how kitschy it would be to go there all week. One problem is there always seems to be a long wait, and it is hard to justify waiting for something you expect to be mediocre when plenty of good independent restaurants have no waiting time at all on a weeknight. But, when they told us 20 minutes we figured it would take a good amount of that time to decide on another place and travel to that other place, so we just waited. There were lots of people waiting, apparently this is a thing people wait long periods of time for. So to start with the highlight: obviously the cheddar biscuits. Those were as good as I remember from the last time I was there which was homecoming dance of 9th grade. We looked through the drink menu - mudslides have 560 calories, while martinis have about 150. Also, they have a little glossary of martini terms for people who may not know too much about them. I have seen worse drink menus at chain restaurants, like ones that say something like "The exotic and new Gin-tini!" - what is a Gin-tini you ask? A martini made with gin. Yeah, they didn't say that, so good for them.

Moving on to the food menu. It was nice the entrees came with salads, but iceberg lettuce has little nutritional value. We would have had the broccoli as our sides if we knew that it wasn't going to be real greens in the salad. The fresh fish options were not very exciting - tilapia and Atlantic salmon. Scott went with a "Create your own feast": garlic-grilled shrimp, steamed snow crab legs, and fried shrimp. He said he thought the garlic grilled shrimp was alright and low calorie. He thought that the fried shrimp was not very good for the level of unhealthiness of the item. He thought the breading was doughy. The crab legs were tasty. I had some and liked them. I had the "Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp". From the menu: "Hand-dipped in our signature batter, then tossed in coconut and fried golden brown. Served with piña colada sauce." I did not like the piña colada sauce. After two bites, I thought you should not have a sweet item dipped in an even sweeter sauce. Also, there is already coconut on the shrimp and with how rich coconut tastes, you don't also need coconut in the sauce. It would have been better just with cocktail sauce or a thin, tangy sauce like maybe a peach or pineapple salsa. Pina colada sauce was awful. However, the shrimps were pretty tasty. I just finished up the rest of my coconut dipped shrimps and Scott's fried shrimp cold for lunch, and they held up well. I wonder at Red Lobster if the things they don't mess with too much are the better items? Who knows. The verdict: Reel Seafood Company is definitely better (and on the same road!), but Red Lobster is cheaper. Driving home, we passed Hooters and thought that might be funny to try next. 

Would I go again? Well, the cheddar biscuits are definitely a selling point, and remembering the awkwardness of high school dances was fun, but not especially - though it was fine. I think it is funny that to millions of people (including me as a teenager), Red Lobster and The Olive Garden are actually considered special occasion places, when you can actually do better with 20 minutes, a few ingredients from Hannaford, and not much effort.


  1. City tip: heels on the feet inside, flats/flip flops tucked discreetly in your bag for running around outside. Works every time!

  2. PS: College highlight was my mom e-mailing me the Red Lobster cheddar biscuit recipe. Biscuits for all the morning after our parties for the next four years...

  3. Great thinking on the shoes, thanks for the tip!! mmmmmmm biscuits! We are excited for our DC trip.

  4. I think this is really useful. Red Lobster is one of those chains that people get on for being mediocre, yet, the parking lot is almost always full and there's almost always a wait.

    I've had many meals at Red Lobster. It was a regular spot for my family, because you could get a consistent "seafood" meal, and please the family. The cheddar biscuits are certainly the main draw, and are still something I enjoy there. I even used to enjoy those coconut shrimp, but now, like you, find them way to sweet and uninteresting. If you're going to go the salad route there, the house salad is much worse than what they call Caesar salad. The "fresh fish" and other plated dishes are prepackaged and reheated portions.

    And here's what people miss about the national chains: these meals go through thorough research and development and focus groups with statistical analysis. They're optimizing multiple variables including shelf life, general appeal, and revenue. For something to be on the menu there, you better believe it's going to be something that most people like that they can keep in bulk and generate lots of cash from. That's why you can't knock the consistency. If something comes out bad, you know something really off has to be going on in the back.

    The contrast of that is the non-chains, where they're dealing with multiple purveyors to get the best product they could at the lowest cost and relying on the quality of the ingredients to make a great dish. Of course, they will try the dish before sending it out to the public, but that level of research is way less extensive than what goes into the chains.

    My point is that yes, there are lots of places making much fresher and more interesting dishes, and you could certainly do better than Red Lobster with some good ingredients, as you indicated. However, it's good to know there are some places like this around, because it's almost impossible for the average person to have a completely horrendous experience.

  5. Right. Like who ever has an actually horrible experience at Starbucks? Heavily regulated is the thing - so it is consistent and there are certain types of people who love being able to get the same thing every time they go to a restaurant even if it is in an area of the country they have never been before and wouldn't have the local knowledge as to what is actually good.


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