Ranking Red Lobster's Most Popular Menu Items

Red Lobster has long been the leading seafood chain restaurant in America, with over 700 locations and over $2.5 billion in annual sales, according to a report by 24/7 Wall Street. The chain was launched with a single family-owned seafood restaurant owned by Bill Darden and located in Lakeland, Florida, in 1968. Since then, the chain has become a behemoth in the landscape of American chain restaurants. It introduced now-ubiquitous casual seafood fare like popcorn shrimp to the market in 1974, created annual dining events like Lobsterfest in 1984, and its famous Endless Shrimp promotion in 2004. The chain has now expanded into 11 countries, so you can find Red Lobster everywhere from its native Florida to Malaysia and Ecuador. 

Some menu items at Red Lobster have serious cult followings, like the signature bread basket offering, the Cheddar Bay Biscuit. Others, like the Ultimate Feast, are the brainchild of a marketing team that understands the appeal of offering variety. Red Lobster's appeal is near-universal, with even NYC thirtysomethings enjoying their first visits. The menu is vast and diverse, with both understandable hits and more than a few misses. Here are some of the most popular items at Red Lobster, ranked from worst to first.

15. Crab Linguini Alfredo

Red Lobster's Crab Linguini Alfredo is exactly what it sounds like — lobster meat and some creamy cheese sauce served on a bed of linguini. The menu description promises "sweet crabmeat in a creamy garlic alfredo sauce," but what you get tastes more like ambiguous canned seafood with tasteless jarred alfredo sauce. The garlic and Parmesan that should add depth to the sauce taste mysteriously absent. What you're left with is cream and somehow not enough salt to add flavor but enough to make you feel gross after downing this 1,910-calorie dish that is 90 percent pasta and cream, ten percent seafood.

Any flavor the crab may or may not have possessed on its own is completely lost in this sea of pasta and sauce — it's more of a garnish than an actual addition to the dish. This is a fine meal to order if what you really want is mediocre pasta, but that's why people go to Olive Garden, and this is Red Lobster. You're better off ordering just about anything else on the menu other than a full pasta dish.

14. New England Clam Chowder

Red Lobster's New England Clam Chowder encounters many of the same problems as the slightly worse Crab Linguini. The primary difference here is that the chowder is unburdened by an overwhelmingly large pile of pasta, and it won't set you back nearly a day's worth of calories. The New England Clam chowder actually has more seafood flavor too, presumably from the presence of some form of seafood stock.

However, salt is the primary ingredient you'll taste in this dish, and the chowder can be either thin and watery or thick and gloopy on any given visit. The sprinkling of parsley on top adds nothing, and the clams are decidedly chewy in a not-good way. This soup is probably best as a dipping sauce for the accompanying garlic bread, which is light on the garlic but heavy on the butter. That said, this is probably the worst choice you could make when it comes to appetizers at Red Lobster. All of the other options are significantly better.

13. Crunchy Popcorn Shrimp Dinner

Considering the fact that Red Lobster literally invented popcorn shrimp, you would think that its Crunchy Popcorn Shrimp Dinner would be higher up on this list. However, just because it was the first to take tiny shrimp, bread them, and throw them in the deep fryer does not mean that they're still the best at it.

For starters, unless you're extremely lucky, the shrimp are highly unlikely to actually be crunchy. They're also comprised of significantly more breading than they are shrimp, which means that you're basically ordering a plate of slightly soggy fried bread crumbs. This will satisfy the consumer who is merely interested in eating handfuls of something, anything that's deep fried, but all others will be disappointed here. The popcorn shrimp at fast-food seafood spot Long John Silvers is actually significantly better than Red Lobster's offering. If you can get better popcorn shrimp at a drive-thru, it's best to skip this one and leave more room for Cheddar Bay Biscuits. 

12. Maine Lobster and Sirloin

Red Lobster's Maine Lobster and Sirloin is America's most entry-level surf and turf. A lobster tail paired with a seven-ounce peppercorn-seasoned sirloin steak, it should be hard to go wrong with this combination at Red Lobster's price point. However, this is actually one of the worst ways to get bang for your buck at Red Lobster. The portions of both steak and lobster are comparatively small, and neither is particularly good.

No matter what you tell your waiter, you're probably going to get a medium-well or well-done piece of sirloin, and the supposed peppercorn seasoning is perhaps only a suggestion to the kitchen. The lobster tail will taste primarily of the butter it's doused with, and no, it will not look anything like the surf-and-turf combos you've seen in Red Lobster commercials. In fact, there's a good chance your lobster won't even have that nice red hue you've come to expect.

11. Seaside Shrimp Trio

Red Lobster is well-known for its seafood combination meals, which offer quantity and variety at a relatively low price point. The Seaside Shrimp Trio is our least favorite of this bunch, primarily because it'd anchored by a sizable bowl of shrimp linguini alfredo that just isn't very good. The creamy shrimp linguini alfredo tastes exactly the same as the Crab Linguini Alfredo but with a handful of tiny shrimp on top rather than crab meat.

The garlic shrimp scampi feels unfinished, like it should be served on a bed of linguini given the fact that the shrimp are literally swimming in a pool of garlic butter. The fried tail-on shrimp that round out the trio feel like an afterthought, and they're hit or miss depending on how adept the staff happens to be at working the deep fryer. It does offer a lot of food — a lot of shrimp, specifically — and if you're just trying to eat a bunch of shrimp served in different ways, this is certainly the order for you.

10. Ultimate Feast

Fans are devoted to Red Lobster's Ultimate Feast to the point that when the price was raised by just $4 in 2018, the internet was very upset. The Ultimate Feast, which now cost around $30 in 2018, according to Delish, comes with a lobster tail, snow crab legs, garlic shrimp scampi, fried tail-on shrimp, rice, and one other side. All that is a lot of food.

Despite the higher-ticket lobster tail and snow crab legs, the shrimp scampi is often presented as the star of the plate, though again, there's really nothing to do with all of that garlic butter. Technically, you could pour it over your rice, but you're not going to. The lobster tail and crab legs seem like high-ticket items, but they're mostly for show. Both are served steamed, neither have a lot of meat, and they won't taste like much of anything until you dip them into melted butter at which point they'll just taste like butter. The fried shrimp are, as always, hit-or-miss.

The main appeal of the Ultimate Feast is that you get to try a little of everything, but none of it stands out.

9. Admiral's Feast

The Admiral's Feast isn't trying to be everything for everyone — it's a feast fit for the kind of person who spends their days at sea. Clearly, Red Lobster thinks that what seafaring folk really want when they get back on dry land is not fresh, unspoiled seafood but a giant pile of deep-fried whatever came out of the ocean that day.

The Admiral's Feast comes with tail-on shrimp, bay scallops (those are the small ones), clam strips, and whitefish, all battered and deep-fried, served with two sides, one of which could conceivably be french fries. There is no denying that you're getting a lot of breading when you order this, especially when it comes to the bay scallops and the clam strips, which are more breadcrumb than mollusk. As with all fried food at Red Lobster, you're at the mercy of the kitchen staff on any given night because they are not always particularly adept with the deep fryer. However, when the Admiral's Feast is good, it's good.

8. Lobster and Langostino Pizza

The Lobster and Langostino Pizza at Red Lobster is a classic case of so wrong, it's right. A culinary travesty of lobster meat, langostino, chopped, often underripe tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil piled on a base that seems somewhere between an ultra thin-crust pizza and a tostada should not be as good as it is, and yet, it's delicious.

The combination of lobster and langostino allows this appetizer to feel a little more luxurious than many of the chain's other lobster-forward offerings, which can have a tendency to feel skimpy. It hovers somewhere between pizza and nachos, which is an unexpectedly delightful place for an appetizer to land. While this is not the best appetizer at Red Lobster, it's a good one. In fact, we often love meals here comprised entirely of appetizers and dessert. If that's your jam too, you should definitely order a Lobster and Langostino Pizza as part of your seafood smorgasbord.

7. Key Lime Pie

Some of the biggest sleeper hits on the menu at Red Lobster are the desserts, and the chain's take on one of Florida's most famous desserts, the key lime pie, is a hit. They don't try to get fancy with this one: It's just a lightly tart custard on a graham cracker crust, served with a dollop of whipped cream and often, inexplicably, a few wedges of actual lime.

Does Red Lobster's Key Lime Pie have the subtle, floral notes of a homemade key lime pie made with actual key limes, which are a different variety altogether than the Persian limes most people are accustomed to seeing and eating? Nope, it doesn't. It's most likely just a regular lime custard tart, but it's a pretty good one. It's also the lightest dessert option on the menu, so it tends to pair well with the massive combination platters that many people order at Red Lobster. 

6. Lobster Bisque

Red Lobster's take on the classic Lobster Bisque is considerably better and more consistent than its version of New England Clam Chowder. In fact, the lobster bisque is kind of good. Like the chain's other chowder, this is actually best as a vehicle for bread, but there's a major difference here: The Lobster Bisque is great for dipping Cheddar Bay Biscuits, which are a breadbasket item truly in a class of their own.

By itself, the Lobster Bisque is creamy with a bit of tang that suggests some generic cooking wine and one of the strongest punches of lobster flavor that you're going to find on the menu. It has an almost velvety consistency, and while there isn't a ton of lobster meat in this soup, that's not really what a bisque is about in the first place. This is a soup that can stand on its own, but when paired with a warm Cheddar Bay Biscuit becomes almost like a lobster fondue on crack. It's worth trying, at least once. 

5. Wild-Caught Snow Crab Legs

This is not the most flavorful or exciting option on the menu at Red Lobster, but it's straightforward, simple, and does what it's supposed to do. It's the Wild-Caught Snow Crab Legs, which are exactly that: a plate of steamed crab legs served with butter. As is the case with snow crab legs in general, these are thin and fairly easy to crack open, but they're more of a snacktivity than a true meal since you're going to be putting in a lot of effort for not very much meat.

No snow crabs will knock you on the head with flavor, so if you love the process of cracking open crab legs and sucking out the little slivers of crabmeat, you might as well order these next time you're at Red Lobster. They're an especially welcome accompaniment to a meal that's heavy on cheesy seafood appetizers and/or deep-fried seafood, as they're lighter and more subtle.

4. Langostino Lobster Artichoke and Seafood Dip

Artichoke dip in any form is a classic comfort food of American casual dining. It's warm, gooey, and savory. Plus, it has a hint of earthiness from the presence of canned artichokes, which makes it a slightly more sophisticated choice than just ordering nachos or chips and cheese dip. Here, as is the case with the Lobster and Langostino Pizza, the combination of both seafoods gives this appetizer bulk and flavor, so you don't feel like you're digging for a few chunks of meat in a quagmire of cheese.

The three-cheese blend is surprisingly satisfying. The menu says that this dish includes lobster, langostino, and some additional unidentified "seafood," which helps explain why this has more seafood flavor than any other item on the menu. There's depth of flavor, umami, and a good amount of lobster and langostino, which make this hands-down the best appetizer at Red Lobster. Go crazy and dip your second or third basket of biscuits in it once you've polished off all of the tortilla chips. 

3. Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp

The undisputed best of the deep-fried options on the menu at Red Lobster, the Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp are the perfect sweet and savory seafood item. The shrimp are, in fact, jumbo, and since this breading is made with shredded coconut, it feels lighter than the batter on any of the other fried items. When coupled with the creamy, tangy, and also fairly sweet piña colada sauce, it's an addictive menu item that feels like a miniature vacation in the middle of the monotony of daily life.

Perhaps because of the lighter batter, this dish also has less of a tendency to get soggy than some of the other fried shrimp dishes in particular, so it's always the safest bet if fried shrimp is what you're after. You can get an order of ten with two sides, but they also come in a smaller appetizer portion if you want more of a snack-sized coconut shrimp experience. 

2. Brownie Overboard

We've said that the desserts at Red Lobster are lowkey some of the best options on offer, and the Brownie Overboard sundae is the best of them all. It starts with a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream, which gets snuggled up with several warm wedge-shaped chocolate chip brownies before the whole thing is drizzled with caramel and hot fudge sauce and topped with whipped cream. It's decadent!

True to its name, it goes a little bit overboard. Often, it is served in the same almost comically oversized glass as the chain's signature overly alcoholic beverage, the Lobsterita. And it is absolutely delicious. The Brownie Overboard is the quintessential American casual eatery dessert. It's not trying to be anything other than what it is, a decadent chocolate-lover's dream that makes good use of the hot-cold combination of warm brownie and ice cream that keeps you going back for more long after you're full. 

1. Cheddar Bay Biscuits

Cheddar Bay Biscuits are the stuff of legend for a reason, and that reason is the fact that they are literally the perfect food item. Cheddar Bay Biscuits are so popular, Red Lobster serves over one million biscuits every day. A quick search on Pinterest will show hundreds of DIY copycat recipes and hacks to make your own copycat biscuits at home. For Valentine's Day, you can send someone a heart-shaped box of cheesy biscuit goodness. Originally introduced as a replacement for hushpuppies, Cheddar Bay Biscuits have only been around since the early '90s. But since then, they've developed a rabid cult following. 

The biscuits owe their ultra-savory flavor to an infusion of garlic and cheddar cheese in the biscuit dough, and when a basket of hot biscuits arrives on your table at Red Lobster, you know you're about to have a good time, no matter what else follows during the rest of your meal. They're so good that it's worth going to Red Lobster just to get biscuits. Or better yet, to order takeout biscuits by the dozen to eat in the comfort of your own home.