I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (2024)

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Food

Erin McDowell

2024-02-08T13:20:01Z

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (1)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider
  • In honor of Valentine's Day, a friend and I had dinner for two at Red Lobster.
  • We ordered two appetizers, two entrées, and two signature co*cktails.
  • The rich, decadent meal impressed me, and I felt completely stuffed.

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 co*cktails, the meal felt more special than those at other chain restaurants I've been to.

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But I was a little intimidated by the prices on the menu.

Here's what our visit was like.

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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.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (2)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

The first Red Lobster opened in Lakeland, Florida, in 1968. Red Lobster, a family-owned restaurant, was founded to provide "delicious, high-quality seafood" to everyone, according to the restaurant's website.

In 1970, General Mills acquired Red Lobster, according to the restaurant's timeline online, and the business expanded across the country. Today, Red Lobster has more than 700 locations across the world.

Because 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, such as 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.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (3)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

From vintage-inspired tees to a play on the iconic "I Heart NY" shirts — featuring a lobster instead of the "I" — the merchandise was fresh and a fun nod to New York City and the restaurant.

After checking in with the hostess, we were directed up the elevator to the second-floor dining room.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (4)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

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.

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We were seated in the Board Room of the restaurant, a smaller, enclosed dining room in the back.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (5)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

The room had five tables of various sizes, but we were the only two 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.

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The art on the walls emphasized the chain's nautical theme.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (6)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

The walls themselves had a polished-wood finish. We thought it gave the impression of being inside a luxury ocean liner.

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The menu was large and offered everything from appetizers and flatbreads to lobster, shrimp, crab, and signature surf-and-turf feasts.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (7)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

Right away, the prices intimidated us a little. They were higher than at other chain restaurants I've tried, including Chili's and Applebee's.

But since seafood is typically 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.

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I had never been to Red Lobster before, so I was excited to try the chain's signature Cheddar Bay Biscuits.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (8)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

I've heard a lot about these biscuits over the years, and I've come across countless copycat recipes online. But 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.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (9)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

They also arrived at the table warm, which we appreciated.

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The biscuits had a delightful cheesy taste, with a slight kick.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (10)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

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.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (11)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

The Deep Sea Lobsterita comes with Cazadores tequila blanco, Malibu coconut rum, and Finest Call blue curaçao.

Each margarita cost $15.99, excluding tax.

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The margaritas were very large and came topped with a pineapple garnish and a paper, glitter-covered lobster.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (12)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

The drinks were very sweet, and we were pleasantly surprised that they actually glittered as we swirled them with our straws, 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.

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We ordered two appetizers for the table. The first was the Parrot Isle jumbo coconut shrimp.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (13)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

The plate had six pieces of coconut shrimp and a piña colada-flavored dipping sauce.

It cost $15.49, excluding tax.

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The shrimp were extremely crispy, and the sweet coconut flaked off in my mouth with every bite.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (14)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

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.

But while I thought this dish was very tasty, I think the portion size was a little small for almost $16 for the serving.

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The second appetizer we ordered was the lobster dip.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (15)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

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.

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The dip was piping hot when it arrived and contained large pieces of lobster meat.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (16)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

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 bit oily. Combined with the richness of the dip, the dish left me feeling a bit weighed down.

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By the time we were done with our filling appetizers, I was feeling a little bit intimidated by our main courses.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (17)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

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 linguine Alfredo.

The Shrimp Your Way combination was among the least expensive entrée options on the menu. It cost $21 for the entrée, excluding tax.

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The double serving of pasta was massive. I thought it was a great deal for the price.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (18)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

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 chose this one 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.

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The carb-heavy dinner left me feeling stuffed, but I loved the taste of everything.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (19)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

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, such as bacon mac and cheese and crispy Brussels sprouts.

I chose the mashed potatoes, which I thought were creamy, buttery, and well-seasoned.

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My friend ordered the grilled sea scallops and shrimp skewers.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (20)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

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 that 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.

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This was, by far, the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant.

I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (21)

Erin McDowell/Business Insider

Whether you go to Red Lobster for Valentine's Day, a special occasion, or just for 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, the lobster dip, and the shrimp and scallop skewers. We also enjoyed the Lobsterita co*cktails and the complimentary Cheddar Bay Biscuits.

Our meal came to $125, excluding the tip, for two appetizers, two large entreés with sides, and two large co*cktails. I thought the meal was expensive, but most of the portions were bigger than any I've ever had at another chain restaurant.

For a special occasion, I wouldn't mind spending this kind of money. But for a standard Saturday night out, it was a little out of my budget for only two people.

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I spent $125 on dinner for 2 at Red Lobster. It was the most decadent meal I've ever eaten at a chain restaurant. (2024)
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