I pride myself on the fact that I rarely eat at chain restaurants; in NYC I have thousands of amazing restaurants at my fingertips and am thankful that I don’t have to settle with a few national restaurant chains to eat at (sorry to my friends who live in former cities I have once called home). But when word came that my friend Paul wanted to celebrate his birthday at Red Lobster (of all places) I admit that I kinda got excited. I had actually never been to a Red Lobster before, and when I say I will go anywhere once, I mean it.
So ten of us headed to Red Lobster on a warm summer evening (last week) to celebrate Paul’s 28th. I don’t mean to hate on people who love RL, but it became quite a joke for us to be eating here. Being in Times Square it should come as no surprise that this place is gigantic and filled with gaudy ocean kitsch and decadence. We were seated upstairs on the second level (the first floor handles the bar and waiting diners) and only saw the real deal when we used the bathrooms on the third floor where a cruise ship of craziness unfolded in front of our eyes as it was, no joke, the size of a soccer field!
With ten of us our waiter was pretty accommodating and patient, even when it was busy, we were never ignored, or waited too long. If anything, he checked on us very frequently, probably to ply us with more beers! Not surprisingly, everyone went with a seafood feast of some sort and then promptly begged our waiter to bring us what we had been clamoring for since the birthday dinner was set…the cheddar bay biscuits!!!
Nearly everyone I spoke to prior to this meal raved about the cheddar bay biscuits jealous that I was going to eat them in mass quantities. Some even begged for me to bring some back in a doggie bag! Even when we arrived my friends freaked at the prospect of having them in their hands only minutes later. Needless to say I was pretty stoked to taste what everyone was raving about and they did not disappoint! Even a week later, they are the most memorable thing I ate that night. Soft and doughy, they were a cross between a popover and a biscuit. Each bite filled your mouth with what seemed like a pound of butter and cheese. I was careful not to stuff all of them into my mouth or hide them in my bag for later. I now fully understand and appreciate the hype….I could have eaten only the cheesy biscuits with my beer that night and been good to go.
For $29.99 the “Ultimate Feast” called my name….there was so much going on that it was kind of hard to focus and figure out where to start. I mean looking at the above photo makes me shudder thinking I ordered that entire meal. The plate was larger than my head and contained shrimp scampi, fried butterflied shrimp, lobster tail, crab legs, and lobster mashed potatoes. Yep, that was all heaped onto the plate and I went at it like a fat kid deprived of sugar who finds a lone chocolate bar hidden in his bunk bed. I prepared myself for this meal all day and made sure to not overload myself with frivolous calories beforehand (I ate two smoothies, a power bar, banana, and an apricot as if I were training for some eating competition) but I couldn’t come close to finishing it! Perhaps I had ingested too many biscuits (for good reason) or perhaps I couldn’t stomach another bite of the rubbery shrimp, but I accepted defeat and watched as everyone either finished or too gave up. RL may have severely overcooked the shrimp but they did some serious justice to the crab legs; I should have just ordered an entire plate of them!
*Crab Leg Queens!*
The prices are good for the amount of food that you get as the servings are enough for two people! A plate full of seafood, no matter how edible, at any run-of-the-mill spot in the city would cost double or triple the amount of what I paid for my meal, so ya I’ll put that my pipe and smoke it. By the time I put my fork down and looked at my plate I could barely see straight. I was a little shaky and my eyes got all blurry, probably due to the volume of buttery food sloshing around in my stomach. So when the waiter asked if we wanted dessert I nearly fell over; absolutely not! But being Paul’s birthday and all, our amazing waiter indulged him and us in bringing a “sundae” of two cheddar bay biscuits smothered in chocolate sauce and topped with two candles. The irony of the entire night was successfully centered on that moment alone and it was fun knowing our waiter was in on our joke and could laugh along with us.
I cannot speak for my friends… but at the end of the day you have to kind of take it for what it is… it’s RED LOBSTER. It’s in the middle of Times Square for god’s sakes! I bet you that over 75% of its customer base are tourists so you have to recognize it for what it is. But I did walk out and think one thing… I am a very lucky girl that I have access to a wide variety of cuisines living in NYC and simply cannot judge this place for bringing seafood to the masses. To be honest, having never been to one in my entire life before I was pleasantly surprised; I had a great time with friends celebrating Paul’s birthday and enjoyed eating a fair share of my meal. But that being said, I will not return. It’s not you Red Lobster…it’s me.
5 Times Square