Red Lobster has been bringing seafood to landlocked parts of the country for over 50 years now. Known for specialties like their cheddar bay biscuits and events like Lobsterfest, this seafood restaurant is beloved by families across the country. The chain has even made it into pop culture lore (thanks, Beyoncé) and has inspired copycat recipes for its most popular dishes.
You might think you know the menu, but the chain has been surprising customers with new favorites in the past few years, including twists on classic dishes. If you haven't visited a Red Lobster in a while, we've got all the information you need about this American favorite.
Red Lobster's History
The seafood chain started out as a family-owned restaurant in Lakeland, Florida. Bill Darden opened that first restaurant in 1968, followed by four other locations across the Southeast. In 1970, General Mills acquired the five restaurants and the chain expanded rapidly across the United States.
In 1995, General Mills spun off Red Lobster and sister chain Olive Garden into a separate company, Darden Restaurants. In 2010, the seafood restaurants got a makeover, with the new design inspired by the historic fishing village of Bar Harbor, Maine.
In 2014, Darden sold Red Lobster restaurants to Golden Gate Capital, which continued to expand locations. Today there are over 700 Red Lobster locations in 11 countries.
One thing to know is that the chain has committed to seafood sustainability and promises that it sources all its seafood from trusted suppliers.
What to Eat at Red Lobster
Obviously, seafood. But Red Lobster has a few specialty menu items, from the ocean and not, that you definitely want to try.
First, the popcorn shrimp. Sure, you might think of it as a kids menu thing, but this bite-sized, crispy fried shrimp, which was introduced in 1974, is fun for adults, too.
Second, the cheddar bay biscuits. Whatever else you get, the biscuits are a must. They're so popular they actually have their own Facebook page. (And fortunately, you can buy cheddar bay biscuit mix at the grocery store.)
Third, the appetizers. Really, you can make a whole meal out of menu items like the Lobster and Langostino Pizza and Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp served with the restaurant's signature piña colada sauce. Or go for comfort food with the Lobster Artichoke and Seafood dip (and if you like that plus the cheddar biscuits for dinner, you're welcome to sit next to me).
Entrees at lunch and dinner range from grilled fish and your choice of sides to new Power Bowls for an extra healthy seafood meal. There's also Red Lobster's take on lobster rolls, with Maine lobster and shrimp tossed in their signature mayo and served on a toasted roll.
Red Lobster's combo plates are legendary. You can go with steak and seafood, have a wood-grilled lobster, shrimp and salmon extravaganza, or do a shrimp trio with Walt's Favorite Shrimp, garlic shrimp scampi and shrimp linguini Alfredo. Or just get the Ultimate Feast, which combines Maine lobster tail, wild-caught North American snow crab legs, garlic shrimp scampi and Walt's Favorite Shrimp.
Red Lobster's not-so-secret menu
Red Lobster restaurants do technically have a secret menu, it's just that all the servers know about it and you can find the secret menu items pretty easily on redlobster.com.
LobsterFest happens every year. Started in 1984, it's now a Valentine's Day tradition for the restaurant chain where the highlight menu favorites and introduce limited time specials. In the past, they've created the Lobster in Paradise, with crispy coconut Maine lobster tail, and Creamy Lobster Alfredo.
Endless Shrimp is another annual limited time special offered by the restaurant. The chain generally adds new shrimp dishes to the menu during the event, including Crispy Sriracha-Honey Shrimp and Nashville Hot Shrimp.