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Got Red Lobster gift card...now what?

My In-laws got us RL gift cards for Christmas and I need to know if there is anything good there besides the cheddar biscuits. Are the grilled items any good or should we re-gift or try to trade it?

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  1. It probably depends on the one you go to and who is behind the grill, but I'd probably steer away from the fish - tends to be overcooked - go for the crab legs or shrimp

    1. I wouldn't regift it. Look at is as a dining adventure. It won't kill you. :)

      2 Replies
      1. re: mamamia

        Probably. It probably won't kill you.

      2. Every time someone talks me into giving it another try I end up regretting it. Regift, regift.....

        1. My brother enjoyed the lobster pizza appetizer that they have.

          I would try going to Red Lobster. When in doubt, steamed seafood can't be THAT bad. It's free!

          1. Stick with the shrimp - either the coconut, the fried or the scampi. That with the cheddar biscuits and the Caesar salad and you won't be too sorry you went.

            1 Reply
            1. re: SarahEats

              Im sadly addicted to their baby coconut shrimp with the pina colada dip mmm

            2. Booze, booze, booze. Most locations have a full bar.


              2 Replies
              1. re: stevuchan

                Probably the only thing that isn't too salty.

                1. re: personalcheffie

                  booze and cheddar biscuits? you'll almost want to like it afterwards!

              2. when forced to go in the past, I tend to get some snow crab legs, and eat them @ the bar. Not the best, but not inedible either.

                1. I don't mind their crab legs. They're not the worst I've had. That and a few glasses of wine, and you can have a tolerable good time.

                  1. Don't order anything with sauces or rice or anything that could be packaged and shouldn't be packaged - make sense? In other words, shrimp can be frozen and packaged and be fine, cream sauce can be packaged too but it shouldn't be, and Red Lobster is infamous for using microwave heated, packaged, pre-made crap.

                    And booze is always a good alternative as stevuchan says.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: HaagenDazs

                      I wasn't going to say anything, but I worked at Red Lobster years ago, and never ate there before or since. But I ate there every day I worked there for about three years and also worked in the kitchen, so I will tell you: they did not microwave anything at that time except the pasta, which they had cooked themselves an hour or so before just to have enough on hand during the rush. They didn't even use the word microwave, they called it a "quick oven" and it was a tiny home one that got very little use. The fish on the fresh fish board was all flown in on ice and was as fresh as could be. The prep crew was in every morning before 7 AM getting ready for lunch. I'm trying to think of something that was prepared, all I can think of is the biscuit mix, but it was a dry mix prepared by General Mills especailly for them and they added eggs, cheese etc. The shrimp came in the same as to any restaurant, 6x4 lb frozen, which they thawed and prepped as required. Local produce company delivered daily. Rice came as any restaurant, 25 or 50 lb sacks of parboiled. Just wondering if you spent much time in a Red Lobster kitchen?

                    2. I don't see how anyone couldn't like the shrimp there. Fried shrimp is fried shrimp no matter where you go. Get yourself a big combo plate of regular, coconut, and scampi along with a big baked potato and some salad. As far as fried shrimp goes, it's quite enjoyable.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: ike.

                        I haven't been to RL in a long, long time, so I have no idea how their fried shrimp is. But I find the statement "fried shrimp is fried shrimp no matter where you go" to be ludicrous. Either you have never had really good fried shrimp, or you have never had really bad fried shrimp...I find the spectrum between the two to be immense. For your sake, I'm hoping it's the latter ;-)

                        1. re: danna

                          Thank you. I made this point yesterday and (as you *can't* see right now), it became quite a heated discussion. ike. is wrong by saying that all fried shrimp is the same.

                          1. re: danna

                            Danna, it is the latter. I can't think of a time that I've had truly bad fried shrimp. Sure some has been better than others, but my "Fried shrimp is fried shrimp no matter where you go" is saying that you know what you're getting when you order fried shrimp from any Red Lobster-esque chain place.

                            But thank you, HaagenDazs, for pointing out that there is better fried shrimp out there than Red Lobster serves. I had no idea.

                            1. re: ike.

                              You're welcome - I'm glad I was able to help.

                        2. Drinks and shrimp cocktail and cheese biscuits and more drinks...poof the card is gone!

                          1. I would seriously consider donating it to charity.

                            Do it soon and you can still claim the tax deduction for this year.

                            1. I agree with those who said get the mixed shrimp platter and a few glasses of wine.

                              Red Lobster may not be the epitome of great seafood, but they aren't that bad. And to be perfectly honest, I think they've actually improved over the past couple of years.

                              I know how to appreciate a meal at a fine French restaurant and I know how to appreciate a chain meal. They may be two different animals, but are both food experiences. Go to RL expecting decent chain food, take it for what it's worth and enjoy a nice evening out with your wife.

                              Or if you don't want your gift cards, send them to me. We'll take a free meal anyday.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: QueenB

                                Amen...I also agree with "shoot me the day I become too good for the occasional chain." Mixed shrimp platter and some vino sound great to me. In fact, I got a $10 gc in a secret santa for RL. I think I know what I'll be getting. So 1/2 of a mixed shrimp platter anyway....

                              2. Atleast it isn't Taco Bell..............

                                1. We're not big seafood fans, but enjoy shrimp and crab legs. Red Lobster fits the bill without spending $35 for crab legs or $30 for a few shrimp at a high end place. In Az on Mondays, you can get a pound of snow crab for $14.00 and that comes with salad, potato and the bisciuts. Not a bad deal.

                                  The coconut shrimp with pina colada sauce is very good and since you have a gift card, enjoy a free meal out!

                                  1. I'm not anti-chain the way many Chowhounds are, but I abhor RL. Last year someone gave me a gift card there for Christmas and one night I was in the neighborhood and there was the usual "out the door" wait and I approached a family, handed them the card and wished them a Happy Holiday.

                                    1. I've recently heard that based on the location some of the non seafood items (even the meat) on the menu are actually decent. I'd use it for a lunch getaway from the office. Take a coworker to lunch. Better yet, use it to buy that intern lunch- they're probably underpaid and underappreciated and it will go a long way to win some favor and to get rid of a card :) (and no I'm not an intern, but I remember what that was like)

                                      1. The last time I was at a Red Lobster was a few years back, and it was the last time because I got the feeling they were trying to scam us. After my table had ordered, our server returned to inform us that one order's cream based sauce (forgot what it was, maybe alfredo) would cost extra compared to all other sauces. There was no mention of a price difference anywhere on the menu. We refused to budge, and finally the manager came to explain all cream based sauces would now cost an extra dollar or two. One of my fellow diners happened to frequent several RL locations and claimed no other locations had this policy.

                                        In the end we were forced to pay the extra charge for cream based... and a few weeks later when a friend went there to see what would happen if she ordered cream based, there was no extra charge.

                                        If you do go to RL, be wary of these "charges".

                                        1. The biscuits are good . . .

                                          1. Try the Lobster Chops. These are mini-lobster tails and you get, I believe 6 of them and 6 large scallops to go with. Not a bad deal, and quite good.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. I think it's so nice you're not asking for options for revenge ;)

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. I frequently get Red Lobster gift cards through a bonus program, we enjoy using them for a nice lunch out. SO likes the crab stuffed flounder but sometimes will have one of the seafood pastas, I usually order from the pick two menu. I think RL is a decent value, even if it is "free", where else anymore do you get biscuits, a decent salad, entree and potato for under $10 pp?

                                                1. I am not familiar with their menu as I have not eaten there for 15 years. But if you decide not to use the card, check out a website called cardavenue.com for ways to exchange your gift card for another in a number of categories.

                                                  1. Sell on Craigslist for 80% value. Life's too short to sit through another mediocre/bad meal.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: kayonyc

                                                      Not to pick just one of many of this type of response, but, man, the elitism of some people on Chowhound never ceases to amaze me. As many others on here, I've had great meals at RL, good ones, mediocre ones, and not-so-great ones. But believe it or not, most of them have been good or great. Same percentages go for high-end and mom-and-pop places. The key is going in with the right expectations, not turning your nose up to places that "you're too good for". Life's too short for that attitude.

                                                    2. Go for the Lobster of course! I mean who goes to red lobster and does not get the lobster?

                                                      : )

                                                      1. If you're in a bigger metro area with more than one RL, I'd ask around and see if there's a "good one" among the mix. For us, we've had everything from horrible to surprisingly good food at RL depending on management of the individual restaurant.

                                                        1. i have always wanted to try RL. you must give feedback.

                                                          1. coconut shrimp with pina colada all the way. we went to the all you can eat thing and just loaded up on those (I admit there was a bit of regret since we felt so full and sick, but it was a once in three year trip).

                                                            the frozen drinks aren't bad either, nor is the pizza appetizer or cheddar bay biscuits. I would go for those alone.

                                                            1. I think red lobster might me in same low rent corporate family as notable places like the Olive Garden ..and even some place else? I am not sure which is worse. Too bad chow hound does not have a polling option. In any event, I think the cards are innerchangeable at the different places. Check the website. And dont ask me how I know this. You should go and think of it as an anthropological expedition.

                                                              1. when I went to Red Lobster about a year ago for the first time, I had an entree-size salad of some kind, the kind that you find on at least 75% of chain restaurant menus, with dried cranberries, crumbled blue cheese, and candied walnuts. with a salad as generic (nowadays, at least) and almost foolproof like that, I don't see how you can go wrong, as long as you ask for the dressing to be on the side. it's not very filling, though, so ask for extra biscuits!

                                                                1. Red Lobster is Darden Restaurants. You can use any Darden gift card at any other Darden chain. That means RL, Olive Garden (heh, just when you thought it couldn't get worse than RL), Smokey Bones and Bahama Breeze.

                                                                  I used to go to RL occasionally. The problem was never really the freshness of the fish. I know they take care of that. It's that the preparations are mostly no fun, even for places in their price range. Service is uneven from location to location, which, despite all their uniform training practices seems to be true of most chains. Even server to server it can be different. You never know when you get one who at least will put in an effort at the job or when you'll get one who just phones it in.

                                                                  Olive Garden is strangely popular around here (Pittsburgh), but that certainly wouldn't be worth choosing over RL. Never been to Smokey Bones.

                                                                  Maybe you save the card for the time you're in podunk and these are the best choices. ;-) (That was what happened the last time I ate at RL.)

                                                                  Bahama Breeze has few locations in the chain, but it is, or at least was, a cut above the others in both service and food quality and may be worth trying if you're near one. Unfortunately, our local location (just one in the whole metro area, and not to close to us) has gone downhill a bit in both areas. Used to be it seemed like they cared more about the service in there, but now it's in general on par with the rest of their chains. Sometimes you get a good server, sometimes you don't. The food is a little less consistent now, although at least what they're *trying* to do is more interesting than the other chains. Used to look forward to being near it or needing to pick up someone at the airport, but it's just not as good anymore.

                                                                  1. Go for lunch, have a burger!!

                                                                    1. It's a true dilemma, isn't it?

                                                                      One one hand, if you go, you will have a dining mis-adventure, rather than adventure.

                                                                      If you re-gift to the wrong person, any foodie credibility goes up in smoke.

                                                                      I recommend giving the card to someone you know who likes RL or similar restaurants. Based on my experience of eating there last year, after someone gave me a gift card, I do not recommend dining there. After I left, I felt cheap, dirty and needed a shower.

                                                                      Best of luck.

                                                                      Patrick C=:-)

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: basicfoodgroupie

                                                                        I put a post a few hours ago on Not About Food called "I Hate Gift Certificates" It has sentiments similar to yours.


                                                                      2. It always surprised me that RL doesn't have an "unlimited Soup/Salad/Biscuits" meal like Olive Garden has :-)

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: jzerocsk

                                                                          LOL! Seriously, that one got me laughing, and they should do it too! Maybe I'll pop over to the web site and suggest it. ;-)

                                                                          EDIT: You know, I popped over to the web site (yeah, nothing better to do) and they sorta do have this at lunch. Endless soup (chowder or gumbo) with a shrimp garden salad. Presumably you do get biscuits, which are endless anyway.

                                                                          1. re: CrazyOne

                                                                            yes RL does have "Endless soup and shrimp garden salad" for lunch and for dinner also, just ask for it. I have been employed at RL for 6 years and eat there every day. Yes the fish is fresh.... never frozen. The shrimp is the best I have ever had, they have spoiled me for eating shrimp in other places that over cooks it. The steaks are wonderful along with all of the chicken dishes. The only think I dislike at RL is the Gumbo soup, only because it looks nasty. lol.If you are dissatified with anything at RL just let your server know and they will normally get you something else. If not ask to speak to a manager.

                                                                        2. We ate at RL last night because someone gave us a gift card. Went at 5:00 to avoid the rush and still had to wait over 30 minutes. The service was pretty good, the caesar salad decent, the cheese biscuits very tasty but my wife and I did not like our main courses at all. I had the broiler combo: stuffed sole, garlic shrimp and scallops and they all tasted no better than a frozen dinner. The pilaf was decent. My wife had the stuffed sole and said it tasted very fishy and asked for tartar sauce. We both could not understand why it was so crowded in there when there are better alternatives. Our gift card could also be used for Oilve Garden but I don't like that place and had never been to a RL so we went there. Next time if we are forced to use a gift card we'll go to Olive Garden. Maybe we just ordered the wrong stuff, but when you order a combo and all three items are mediocre, that should say something right there.

                                                                          1. I WISH Red Lobster were better. Recently, after a movie, my companion and I were famished and there was RL right there - we looked at each other, smiled and said "what the heck." We went in hungry and ready for anything - except the salt! Our entrees were so sodium ladden that our that margaritas seemed unflavored. We WANTED it to be good - we couldn't get enough water to flush our system for days. We liked the cheddar bread fine.

                                                                            1. Just get a fresh lobster. It's hard to screw that up. The last one I had there was delicious.

                                                                              1. My wife and I often go at "All you can eat crab leg" time. We've been quite happy. Especially the time they put us right outside the kitchen and the server knew we were seafood fans. So they were nice and fresh and just incredible.


                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: Davwud

                                                                                  cant go wrong with steamed crab legs, especially all-you-can eat. One of my guilty pleasures is a pound or two of crab legs(snow,king, or kona), and a few cold Bud's

                                                                                2. Try to sell the gift card on Ebay

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: steakman55

                                                                                    Amen! Wd got a gift card for Christmas as well and, regretably used it up today. Definitely the last time ever. I wish we'd just sold it. I wouldn't want to regift and subject some other unwilling person to it :) Ick. Even the biscuits were SO salty. And they were by far the best thing!