Red Lobster is arguably the most romantic chain restaurant, thanks to its focus on seafood and decadent dishes.
I took a friend out for dinner on a Saturday night at the chain’s Times Square location in New York City to determine if the hot spot is a good option for couples on Valentine’s Day.
From Red Lobster’s signature Cheddar Bay Biscuits to the glitter-filled cocktails, the meal felt more special than other chain restaurants I’ve been to.
However, I was a little intimidated by the prices on the menu.
Here’s what our visit was like.
A friend and I dined at Red Lobster in the heart of Times Square on a Saturday night. It was my first time eating at the chain.
The first Red Lobster opened in Lakeland, Florida, in 1968. A family-owned restaurant, Red Lobster was founded to provide “delicious, high-quality seafood” to everyone, according to the restaurant’s website.
In 1970, Red Lobster was acquired by General Mills, according to the restaurant’s timeline online, and business expanded across the country. Today, Red Lobster has more than 700 locations across the world.
As it was my first time dining at a Red Lobster, I was eager to see how this restaurant compared to other chain restaurants I love, like Chili’s.
Since it was a Saturday night in Times Square, an extremely busy tourist destination, I made a reservation a few hours before arriving at the restaurant.
As we approached, I took in the large marquee that advertised the chain’s “fresh fish and live lobsters.” Along the side of the building was a large lobster. It was impossible to miss the restaurant’s name, similar to how other chains in Times Square advertise to draw in tourists.
Inside the restaurant, a fishnet-covered wall advertised the chain’s merchandise.
From vintage-inspired tees to a play on the iconic “I Heart NY” shirts — featuring a lobster in place of the “I” — the merchandise was fresh and a fun nod to both New York City and the restaurant.
After checking in with the hostess, we were directed up the elevator to the second-floor dining room.
The dining room was expansive, with booths and tables filling the large restaurant. I was glad I made a reservation because the main dining area was nearly full.
It was borderline dark inside the restaurant, which created a slightly upscale vibe. The mahogany-accented booths and tables compounded the romantic atmosphere.
We were seated in the Board Room of the restaurant, a smaller, enclosed dining room in the back.
The room had five tables in various sizes. When we were seated, we were the only two people in the dining room.
It created a more private atmosphere, but we couldn’t help feeling a little awkward — we couldn’t hear any music from the main dining area, and we missed the buzz of being surrounded by other diners.
The art on the walls emphasized the chain’s nautical theme.
The walls themselves had a polished wood finish. We thought it gave the impression of being inside a luxury ocean liner.
The menu was large, and offered everything from appetizers and flatbreads to lobster, shrimp, crab, and signature surf-and-turf feasts.
However, given that seafood is known to be more expensive than other cuisines, it probably shouldn’t have been all that surprising.
I decided to be mindful of the prices but also order a similar amount of food to what I’ve ordered at other chains, for comparison’s sake.
I had never been to Red Lobster before, so I was excited to try the chain’s signature Cheddar Bay Biscuits.
I’ve heard a lot about these biscuits over the years, and I’ve come across countless copycat recipes online. However, I had never dug into the real thing until this visit to Red Lobster.
We received a basket of four biscuits, free of charge.
The biscuit was buttery and fluffy.
They also arrived at the table warm, which we appreciated.
The biscuits had a delightful cheesy taste, with a slight kick.
The biscuits were moist and flavorful, and I could immediately see why they have such a devoted following.
We both ordered a Deep Sea Lobsterita, which is a new twist on the chain’s signature margarita.
The Deep Sea Lobsterita comes with Cazadores tequila blanco, Malibu coconut rum, and Finest Call blue curaçao.
Each margarita cost $15.99, excluding tax.
The margaritas were very large. They came topped with a pineapple garnish and a paper, glitter-covered lobster.
The drinks were very sweet, and we were pleasantly surprised that they actually glittered as we swirled them with our straw, thanks to edible glitter poured into the drink.
The Deep Sea Lobsterita was fun and deliciously sweet and sour. The drink was also so large that we only needed to order one each.
We ordered two appetizers for the table. The first was the Parrot Isle jumbo coconut shrimp.
The plate came with six pieces of coconut shrimp and a piña colada-flavored dipping sauce.
It cost $15.49, excluding tax.
The shrimp were extremely crispy, and the sweet coconut flaked off in my mouth with every bite.
The creamy, pineapple-flavored sauce added a delicious tartness to the coconut shrimp. I’ve never had this kind of sauce with fried shrimp before, and I was really impressed.
However, while I thought this dish was very tasty, I think the portion size was a little small for almost $16 for the serving.
The second appetizer we ordered was the lobster dip.
The menu said it was made with Maine and Langostino lobster, spinach, and artichoke in a three-cheese blend sauce. It came served with tortilla chips and pico de Gallo.
The lobster dip cost $17.99, excluding tax.
The dip was piping hot when it arrived and contained large pieces of lobster meat.
The lobster meat was tender and juicy, and the dip itself was perfectly cheesy. I didn’t even realize it had artichokes in it when I ordered it but was pleasantly surprised by the addition. It was creamy, rich, flavorful, and filling.
My only complaint was that the chips served with the lobster were a touch oily. Combined with the richness of the dip, the dish left me feeling a bit weighed down.
By the time we were done with our filling appetizers, I was feeling a little bit intimidated by our main courses.
I ordered the Shrimp Your Way deal, which offered a variety of shrimp dishes. I could choose two from the menu and opted for a double serving of shrimp linguini Alfredo.
The Shrimp Your Way combination was among the least expensive entrée options on the menu. It cost $21 for the entrée, excluding tax.
The double serving of pasta was massive. I thought it was a great deal for the price.
The pasta tasted strongly of cheese, and there was a generous serving of Alfredo sauce that clung to each and every noodle.
The dish was slightly on the oilier side, but the shrimp tasted fresh and had a nicely grilled texture that amped up the flavor. While I liked the dish’s taste, it was on the heavier side — I definitely wouldn’t order any appetizers if I were to choose this again.
Since it was my first time at Red Lobster, I had no idea what to expect regarding portion size. I would get this dish again, but go for the half portion next time.
It was just too much food, and I ended up taking half home for leftovers.
The carb-heavy dinner left me feeling stuffed, but I loved the taste of everything.
In addition to the two shrimp dishes, I could choose a side from a number of options, including broccoli, orzo rice, mashed potatoes, fries, coleslaw, or a baked potato.
There were also premium sides to choose from, like bacon mac and cheese and crispy Brussels sprouts.
I chose the mashed potatoes, which I thought were creamy, buttery, and well-seasoned.
My friend ordered the grilled sea scallops and shrimp skewers.
The dish came with a skewer of grilled scallops, a skewer of grilled shrimp, rice, and the choice of two sides. She opted for the mashed potatoes and broccoli.
My friend thought the scallops and shrimp were hearty and nicely charred, as if they were actually roasted over a fire, and agreed with me that the mashed potatoes were creamy and herby.
She also agreed the portion was massive. She got six scallops and six pieces of shrimp, in addition to the three sides — by the end, we both felt extremely stuffed.
“Overall, the skewer meal felt lighter and healthier than the rich appetizers we shared,” she said.
The grilled sea scallops and shrimp skewers cost $28.99, excluding tax.
This was, by far, the most decadent meal I’ve ever eaten at a chain restaurant.
Whether you go to Red Lobster for Valentine’s Day, a special occasion, or just a regular Tuesday night, I think it’s a good option if you want to splurge a little on some fresh seafood.
The highlights from the meal were the coconut shrimp, lobster dip, and the shrimp and scallop skewers. We also enjoyed the Lobsterita cocktails and the complimentary Cheddar Bay Biscuits.
Our meal came to $125, excluding tip, for two appetizers, two large entreées with sides, and two large cocktails. I thought the meal was expensive, but most of the portions were bigger than any I’ve ever had at a chain restaurant.
For a special occasion, I wouldn’t mind spending that kind of money. However, for a standard Saturday night out, it was a little out of my budget for only two people.