« Pollo Inka | Main | Red Robin »

Red Lobster

In a word: Fishy.

The specs: #0545  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Red Lobster on Urbanspoon, EatDrinkMadison; official web site (Warning: It will sound like you are boiling your computer in oil as of press time).

JM ate the Create-Your-Own-Feast with garlic shrimp scampi and crab legs with a lemonade.
John ate the peach-bourbon BBQ shrimp and scallops.
Lindsay ate the Maui Luau shrimp and salmon with a white wine.
Nichole ate the Caesar salad with grilled shrimp and a Cosmo.
The bill was $38 or $9.50/person, plus tip. (thanks, Lindsay!)
JM gave Red Lobster a B-; John and Nichole gave Red Lobster a C+ (see our grading rubric).

Latest Red Lobster news and reviews

Cheese biscuitWe went into Red Lobster with low expectations. So low, in fact, we'd already come up with a scathingly funny* five-word review by the time we walked in the door. By the time we left, we'd changed our minds just a wee bit: enough to decide Red Lobster was worth writing up for real, and also that, should anyone suggest Red Lobster for a group outing in the future, we wouldn't cop an adolescent 'tude about going.

Besides, Lindsay was an infinitely good sport, not to mention dedicated to her profession, to let us drag her here for an interview. So here goes.

The cheese biscuits were as addictive as they ought to be, and were very salty and rich, but only moderately flaky. A standard iceberg mix salad was fresh and unassuming - nary a brown edge or chewy crouton to be found.


The garlic shrimp scampi had the home-field advantage with JM in that the simple, just-garlic-butter-and-shrimp treatment is his personal preference, and too often (usually in McFarland: see Beach House and the Greenie) scampi is bulked up with noodles. It's harder to mess up simple ingredients, so this was decent. The crab legs were full of (surprise) delicious crab meat.  He's had better and he's had easier to eat, but these legs were just fine.

Crab legs

From left: John's bacon-wrapped scallops in peach BBQ sauce met with approval. Lindsay's salmon was quite good, flaky and moist, though the rice had that processed look that comes from boil-in-bag cuisine. Finally, the shrimp on the Caesar salad were surprisingly fresh-tasting, though the appealing grilled preparation added a lot.

BBQ shrimpSalmonCaesar salad with shrimp

Molten cookie

By the time the molten cookie dessert had rolled around, we had, as reported, heard five renditions of "Happy Birthday" and were generally in as a fine a mood as the rest of the diners, though we outlasted most of them as the parking lot was full upon arrival and nearly empty upon departure.

So, as it turns out, company and context end up informing our opinions strongly, as usual; we wouldn't really pick Red Lobster, but even for big-box mall dining, it wasn't that bad.

*To us. At the time. OK, it probably wasn't that funny at all. And besides, we might use it later.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

All you can eat fried shrimp twice a year = top notch junk food dinner.

The write-up and the grades don't seem to line up. The only "meh" comment in the writeup was re: the pre-processed rice. I'd have inferred a B+ rather than a C+.

It's true, Red Lobster has actually added a few twists to their "fried X/butter-slathered Y" equation; those peach bourbon scallops are one such example.

Certainly miles more acceptable than Olive Garden, which has just gotten more and more horrifying as the years have progressed.

I was less than disappointed, which is saying something. I think the wine helped. I also liked the garlic biscuit enough to consider making it at home, which is saying a lot.

The whole experience, though, was colored by the fact that I had no idea whether the fish on the menu was sustainable, farmed/not-farmed, full of mercury, causing the instant death worldwide of dolphins and turtles and small children, etc. I think I have read too much about fish to enjoy it anymore. And I don't feel like Red Lobster has done any homework on this.

My grade, for the record, was a C. I would not go back there on my own (mainly 'cause I want better wine and no fish-guilt) and if somebody suggested going there I would probably whine about it. I'm essentially a bratty teenager when it comes to dining out choices.

Lindsay, I know exactly what you mean about seafood concerns. I loved my little Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch card but lost it somewhere. FWIW I did just read on Nation's Restaurant News that Darden (RL's parent co.) is launching a sustainability/PR push.

Next up, I hope they stop inflicting heinously flashy websites on the world.

If you happen to have an iPhone or iPod touch, there is an app from the Monterery Bay Aquarium that is pretty snazzy:

I am shocked by the lack of golden brown items in your meals. That is how I remember Red Lobster.

The cheddar bay biscuits are still good.

I love this blog. One idea: when you include prices, can you say for how many diners in the same line? "$38 for four," for example, would help put the price in context without the extra step of counting the names further down.

Re: The Seafood Watch List. I got one a few years back from the Shedd Aquarium that I tote around to this day. I wouldn't be surprised if they still have them, and it'd be a great excuse to visit Chicago.

Lindsay: Nichole beat me to the Global FISH Initiative link, but I will tell you that my wife has a really strong fakeout recipe for cheddar bay biscuits. I'll send it your way. I can't remember if it came from one of the Top Secret Restaurant Recipe cookbooks or not.

Will, great suggestion - we can do one better: how about "The bill was $38 or $9.50 per person, plus tip."? One of us is a mathematician, after all. Plus, it's interesting.

and wait, why isn't anyone asking what the previously thought-out review was? i'm dying to know!

Where is this Cheddar Bay, anyway?

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.


Listen to The Corner Table podcast "Remembering Restaurants," aired December 24, 2020, where Chris and Lindsay talk with us "about the menus and memories left behind when restaurants go away."

Madison Food coverInfo about our book Madison Food: A History of Capital Cuisine is here, or read it for free thanks to the library - print & ebook.



About Follow madisonatoz on Twitter Contact
Blogroll Ad 
Free Blog
Read our book and food tour
Dish du jour Creative Commons License subscribe to RSS Subscribe
Memo to restaurants Bloggers' Rights at EFF Quizzes
Reflections BlogWithIntegrity.com Tip jar
Banner image by Kayla Morelli, Red Wheelbarrow Design