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Red Lobster continues to be a loser

Our 1st time at RL was about 10 years ago and we came away disappointed. The food was mediocre and looked nothing like what they show in their commercials.
We went again the other day because we had a gift card and it was our son's b'day. This time we weren't disappointed because we knew what to expect. Not only was the food just as bad, they had the temerity to ask us if we wanted to 'buy' a b'day dessert for him. We declined but the waitstaff gathered around and sang 'happy b'day' to him. I checked the tab to make sure they didn't add an entertainment surcharge.

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  1. Having only been to RL once in my life, I don't really have an opinion on this chain. However, I am confused as to why you would find it absurd that they asked you if you wanted to buy a birthday dessert. Most restaurants, from chains to fine-dining establishments ask you if you would like to order dessert. I have also been present for (or the purchaser or recipient of) many a "birthday dessert" and rare is the place that gives it away free. Actually, I think it is kind of sweet that they would still sing Happy Birthday to him, even though they weren't making that extra couple of bucks off of you. Am I missing something???

    2 Replies
    1. re: Justpaula

      At least they didn't offer you the birthday dessert and then charge you for it. Obviously they don't comp birthday desserts as some other chains (like Red Robin) do. I guess they could have come right out and said "we do not provide complimentary desserts for birthdays", would that have been better?

      1. re: Justpaula

        I have never been to a restaurant that charged for a birthday desert. This includes national chains and locally owned joints. I would've been put off too.

      2. My husband and I ate lunch at RL a few weeks ago. It was okay for what it was: fried seafood. We also got the stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer--clearly pre-made and shipped in frozen. We weren't expecting amazing food so we were happy enough with it. It certainly isn't a place I'd recommend for truly delicious seafood.

        1. "I checked the tab to make sure they didn't add an entertainment surcharge." BAHAHAHAHAHA!!! That comment tickled me so.

          My secret shame is that I LOVE Dead Lobsta (as we referred to it in Queens, NY), where there are plenty of really good seafood restaurants to go to.

          I have no explanation or excuse for my fondness of it. Perhaps I was riding the fat-and-carb high from eating a dozen of those butter-soaked biscuits they make and not thinking clearly.

          5 Replies
            1. re: givemecarbs

              If those biscuits are wrong, I don't want to be right.

              1. re: givemecarbs

                I knew someone who used to be a server at Red Lobster and said that the staff where she worked basically tried to just find new and better ways to eat the biscuits. Her favorite was to have them with raspberry jam.

                1. re: cresyd

                  Am I the only person in the world who thinks they're awful? To me, they taste like overly salted chemicals.

                  1. re: thymeoz

                    I will eat them because I'm a sucker for bread but I agree they are terrible and chemical tasting..

            2. I go there with some friends when we eat out cause for some reason their kids love the place, I stick to the fried food and it's not bad, hard to mess up fried seafood.

              6 Replies
              1. re: redfish62

                Interesting comment as I find it hard to get decent fried seafood (anywhere - not just RL). Most seems to be simply out of a freezer and it tastes as such. Fortunately in New England, there are still a few places that batter-to-order fresh whole belly clams, sea scallops, flounder, etc - not typically found across the country (some exceptions being in coastal N/S Carolina, GA and FL).

                  1. re: Clams047

                    When I worked there, they peeled, deveined and breaded the shrimp themselves. The crew came in at 7AM to start prep, pretty much everything was from scratch, for what it's worth.

                    1. re: coll

                      Are you suggesting RL use fresh shrimp (vs. the frozen farm shrimp from Asia)?

                      1. re: Clams047

                        Nope, frozen thawed with shell on. No suggestions otherwise, you don't come by fresh shrimp in NY very easily. A few weeks in the winter from Maine, that's it as far as I know, and the fish markets seem to hold them for their best customers only. Not sure if ours were from the Gulf, can't remember when Asian black tiger started getting popular; I worked there a long time ago. But Mrs Fridays they're not.

                        They did Fedex fresh fish from Boston every other day, for their board specials. I don't know why I'm talking up Red Lobster all the time, haven't dined there since I stopped working for them in the 1990s, but while I did I had free meals every day and it wasn't as bad as all that. But we did have an excellent kitchen crew.

                        1. re: coll

                          Agree, it's rare to find fresh shrimp (outside of the deep southern coastal states). Have had some in Maine (seasonal, as you mentioned), but not easy to find in the northeast.

                1. First of all RL is all about location. I find they are better in land locked states without access to seafood. As I child I thought it was vile. As an adult they were ok but recently the quality of most chains seem to have diminished greatly. They took some our favorite things off the menu. Now we get either wood fire lobster shrimp and scallops or the steamed lobster.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: melpy

                    For what it's worth, my elderly parents have always liked dining there, and have been lovers of their cheese bisquits (I think that's what they're called). For me, if I'm going to eat at a chain, it might as well be one that serves fish. The last time we ate there together, about a year ago, they said the quality of the cheese bisquits wasn't what it used to be.

                    1. re: legsdiamond12

                      "cheddar bay biscuits." plenty of really easy clone recipes on the net. love those and eat way too many.

                        1. re: MisterBill2

                          fantasyland…or next to muenster cay. pick one.

                    2. re: melpy

                      Location is definitely key on RL. They aren't all the same across the board the way McDonald's is. The quality (and cleanliness) definitely seemed to fall off the further east I went. The best ones were in Southern California, worst ones in NYC. It's seems kind of strange to me since chains are all about standardization and they get their food from the same sources.

                      Having said that...Mmmmm, biscuit...nomom nom nom.

                      1. re: CuervoLinda

                        Agree on location.

                        Here in anaheim ca the RL quality is very good for fried fish.
                        Although we go to Maine every Oct just to get calibrated!
                        Leaving next Thursday for Booth Bay - load up them lobsta rolls!

                        1. re: subal

                          "we go to Maine every Oct just to get calibrated!"

                          BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Well put! And you definitely have the best Red Lobsters down there!

                          1. re: CuervoLinda

                            Gee. I wonder why there are NO Red Lobsters in ME, MA, NH nor RI?

                            Do they not like seafood in those states?

                            1. re: Clams047

                              A Red Lobster in the state of Maine? Why on earth....?

                        2. re: CuervoLinda

                          If ya go to Red Lobster in NYC, you deserve what you get.

                      2. i think the trick at red lobster is to get their fresh fish that is listed on the chalkboards. the other stuff is always mediocre at best.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: alkapal

                          Haven't been in a long time. But I agree, order their fresh stuff on the chalkboards.

                        2. I also admit to liking the biscuits. They are like crack.

                          1. That's kind of funny, I went on the chains board today to post about the really quite tasty dinner I ate at RL last Sunday night. We used to think that RL in Northern California was distinctly better than those in Southern California. But the past two times I've visited my parents in Thousand Oaks (Ventura County, southern Cal) we ate at RL, and both times I found it perfectly acceptable to good. I always order "wood grilled" rather than fried. Although I love fried food, I do find that it's generally the most risky thing to order anywhere. And, the grilled seafood at RL is, in my experience, quite tasty. It's true that the serving looks larger in the photos on the menu, but I can never finish my main there anyway, so I don't mind that. My seafood was tender, moist and very flavorful. Bonus points for the broccoli on the side, which was cooked perfectly. Even the salad, while pedestrian, was fresh and not overdressed. Nothing earth-shaking, but everything was well prepared and tasted really good. I hope my credibility on the SF Bay Area board is not ruined by this post!

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Kathleen M

                              I came on today as well to post about red lobster.
                              i have been there twice in the last year and most recently went last night and got the wood-fired "ultimate" combo.
                              for what i paid ($26) i really enjoyed the value - cheddar bay biscuits (i am a fan), salad with lots of fresh veggies and a blueberry vinaigrette and my meal with broccoli which like Kathleen mentions is cooked perfectly.
                              For me to get a seafood entree and a salad somewhere else it would be an easy $30.
                              When I am hungry and craving seafood (and don't want to make it myself) this is definitely better option than legal seafoods (though if happy hour, they are the better value).
                              Not much else for seafood in PA.

                              1. re: pie22

                                Wow... There's a fair amount of Legal bashing on some of these boards, but this is the first time I've seen it compared unfavorably to Red Lobster!

                                I'm curious: how was the seafood itself? You didn't mention what you ordered.

                                1. re: brandywiner

                                  oh sorry, i didn't think i came off as bashing cause i am not, it is definitely tastier and fresher than RL.
                                  i was going off pure price value and hunger factor, if i ordered enough to feel full at legal, i could spend an easy $50 in myself.
                                  legal has great oysters, chowder and a tuna app that is amazing as well as any of the fresh fish entree options...but assuming i am paying...only happy hour is the monetary steal.
                                  obviously that is cause seafood is expensive...so basically if i am trying to get full, it would be red lobster if i want to enjoy some good food and drink, it would be legal seafood.
                                  really the best option if for me to make my own meals :)

                                  1. re: pie22

                                    Gotcha. I guess I misread your intent. Thanks for clarifying.

                            2. We've been to Red Lobster three times in the last 2 months. I think I have found the secret to eating at RL: don't order the cheap stuff. You want all you can eat anything, th equality is going to plummet. I always order a lobster tail with something else and come away quite happy. There are damne dfew other lobster places in Toronto, other than Chinese restos where the "two lobster special" seems to be all about shells. I have noticed the buiscuits aren't as cheesy as they once were. Another thing that seems important is decor. The downtown one is bright, modern and new with lots of windows. The other one I have been to resembles eating in the cargo hold of an old freighter!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Danybear

                                The old freighter look is what they call atmosphere :-).

                                1. re: Danybear

                                  In our area they have been making lots of new renovations which have eliminated most of the kitschy decor for a more elegant modern look. If only they would bring back a modicum of the quality we were getting in central PA.