In case you haven't already noticed, we love a good deal here at Cheapism. When it comes to all-you-can-eat specials, you best believe we'll be game to try 'em out. So when we heard about the return of Red Lobster's "Ultimate Endless Shrimp," we knew we had to check it out to see if it was worth the $20 price tag. The chain says the deal is back for the long haul, with refillable shrimp dishes being offered "all day, every day" at participating locations across the U.S.
It should first be noted that I live in Colorado, and while I enjoy the occasional seafood feast, we are landlocked here. When it comes to finding really great seafood, I don't harbor a lot of high hopes. After all, this isn't Florida or New England where people are used to eating seafood so fresh that the poor animals are still swimming when they're brought out on a plate. (Kidding — or am I?)
But, I love my job as a food writer, and even more so when I get to eat and write about it for a living. So, I enlisted the help of a few shrimp-lovin' friends, and off we went to the nearest Red Lobster, located about 15 minutes from Denver.
@__megthepony Trying out Red Lobster’s “Ultimate Endless Shrimp” 🦐 @Cheapism ♬ original sound - Megan Marie Flaherty
Commence Operation: Shrimp Extravaganza
As soon as we walked into Red Lobster, we were hit with the nostalgic pang of that fabricated old-timey (and slightly tacky) vibe that only certain chain restaurants have. Even the lobsters adorning the entrance (the ones trapped in tanks awaiting their fate as someone's dinner) looked tired of being pointed and stared at.
"We're here for the 'Endless Shrimp', please," we told the hostess. We went on a Wednesday night so the place was pretty empty. Our server, Danny, was lovely and brought a few baskets of the chain's iconic Cheddar Bay Biscuits to get us started. In hindsight, I should not have gone as hard as I did on the biscuits, but how can anyone resist? They're so fluffy and delicious.
Danny then took our orders, and to cover all our bases, we each ordered something different from the "Endless Shrimp" menu, which had five options: Walt's Favorite Shrimp, Grilled Shrimp Skewer, Garlic Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp Linguini Alfredo, and Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp. The deal offers two choices of the above-mentioned dishes to start, plus a side of either fries, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, or rice. After that, you can mix and match as much as you want with the refills.
Of course, since this is an all-you-can-eat, Danny reminded us that we were not allowed to take anything to go. Ah, suddenly the biscuits were making sense — perhaps that's Red Lobster's strategy to deter hungry customers from eating its business straight into bankruptcy.
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Which of Red Lobster's Endless Shrimps Reigned Supreme?
After trying all five shrimp dishes, my fellow taste testers and I all agreed that two were superior: the Garlic Shrimp Scampi and the Grilled Shrimp Skewers (my girlfriend Megan also loved the Shrimp Linguini Alfredo, but that dish was mostly just pasta with a few small shrimp tossed into the sauce).
I was impressed with the seasoning on the garlic scampi and thought it tasted almost like Gambas al Ajillo, a renowned Spanish dish consisting of shrimp cooked in olive oil and tons of garlic. Given that Red Lobster's version is made from frozen seafood, the shrimp were nice and tender, and the garlicky flavor really came through. The skewers were also tender and had a bit of char on them, which helped add a smokey flavor reminiscent of good barbecue.
Walt's Favorite Shrimp came in close behind the scampi and skewers — the shrimp had a nice crunch and were fried to a perfect golden brown. I'm not a huge fan of fried foods, though, and could only eat a couple before getting that icky, over-oily taste that lingered unpleasantly in my mouth. That said, I can see why it's a fan favorite.
The only bone I had to pick was with the Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp. While the shrimp were indeed huge, they had an overwhelmingly chemical taste. It almost felt like I was eating coconut-flavored sunscreen or lotion. I had to deduct some hefty points for that and rank it in last place. Sorry, extra large shrimp.
The Bottom (Feeder) Line
All in all, we were impressed with Red Lobster's "Ultimate Endless Shrimp," especially in a state like Colorado that does not have access to fresh seafood. At only $20 per person, it's a pretty solid deal if you're a seafood lover and can eat a lot of shrimp in one sitting.
The only tips I'd offer? Do not overdo it on the cheddar biscuits, or you'll be too full to take full advantage of the deal's "endlessness." And stay away from the coconut shrimp.