Archive | September, 2010

Red Lobster

30 Sep

Red Lobster
Red Lobster

Typically on our food blog, we’ve reviewed restaurants that are unique to our area and not chain restaurants, but this time we made a special exception! A few months ago, Red Lobster’s headquarters found our blog and asked us to go check out the Bloomington location (on the house!) as there have been a number of big changes, including a head chef who chooses the daily menu. This makes each Red Lobster location a lot more independent. I had to turn the offer down as we were heading to Niagara Falls during the grand opening, but Erica from Red Lobster HQ in Orlando offered us the chance to go back during Endless Shrimp Fest to do our review.

Red Lobster has always been more than just a chain restaurant to me. Our family went there when I was about to turn 6 in 1988 in Sioux Falls, and I remember very distinctly folding up the kids menu into one of those finger crab things. More specifically, Endless Shrimp Fest at Red Lobster has long been one of my favorite restaurant promos. In 2006, a group of us went to this same Bloomington location and I managed to eat 88 shrimp in various forms! In 2008, Lauren and I went to the Golden Valley location and I disappointed by eating barely half that number. Friday night, Lauren, Jason, and I were back in Bloomington for more shrimp. I had hoped to accomplish two things—eat a ton of shrimp while at the same time really enjoying my meal and not stuff myself to the point where the belt was being unbuckled.

Lauren and I hung out at the bar for about an hour before Jason arrived, where we had a comfortable spot to have a couple of drinks and watch the Twins game. Eventually we were seated and soon Jason arrived. It didn’t take us long to decide what to order, though Lauren opted for something other than the shrimp promo. Along with my endless shrimp, I chose the mashed potatoes and garden salad as sides.

There were five varieties of shrimp to choose from, and I intended to have them all, so I started at the top with the traditional Hand-Breaded Shrimp and also a serving of the Shrimp Linguine Alfredo, because as the heaviest and most filling of the varieties, I wanted to make sure I had room for it! The food took very little time to arrive, and I dug in. The hand-breaded was the basic, safe shrimp choice—simple but delicious, especially when dipped in the cocktail sauce. The linguine dish included a large number of tiny shrimp. It really was satisfying and I wish I could have a second helping of this.

The waiter was very prompt in coming back to take our “refill orders.” As soon as one plate of shrimp was delivered, a new order was immediately sent to the kitchen, creating zero wait time in between plates. My third plate was the Garlic Shrimp Scampi, which although equally tasty was smaller pieces. The waiter told us a man and woman came in recently and between them ordered 32 plates of scampi alone, which at first I thought was insane but later was able to believe it. The scampi is the only dish where that would be a plausible story.

Next I ordered the Garlic Grilled Shrimp, which came ten to a skewer. At this point I might have forgotten to actually taste and savor my food, and instead just wolfed it down, not paying attention to whether or not there was a noticeable difference between this and the Garlic Shrimp Scampi. After eating this portion, I began to get full very quickly. But there was one left to try, the new Parmesan Shrimp, which came in a shallow bowl with some seasonings and toppings. I agreed that this was equally tasty, and decided to call it a night. But the waiter announced to me that there was one more shrimp not on the menu that I could try—the Coconut Shrimp. When dipped in a sweet white sauce, the Coconut Shrimp cracked my top 3. But I was beginning to get light-headed and opted to not kill myself on this particular night by forcing myself to finish this dish.

Overall, I decided the Shrimp Linguine Alfredo was my favorite, but all six were very good and I would order any of them again. As usual, I simply overate and went home feeling bloated. Red Lobster remains one of my favorites, and is still the most reasonably priced sit-down delicious seafood restaurant in my book! Even as often as we eat out, Red Lobster still maintains the “special occasion” type of feel and is one of the few places I excitedly make plans to visit annually.

I admit that I was a bit skeptical when Ryan told me that Red Lobster wanted to give us & two readers gift cards. One because we really started this blog to focus on small, locally owned restaurants and two, because I knew about the FTC’s rules about compensation and new media and I was worried that I would accidentally run afoul of the law. However, I was swayed when we learned that they were taking strides to become fresher and more locally relevant, with each restaurant updating its menu constantly with what fresh fish they had in-house. Also, I was excited to share the love and give away gift cards to two of our loyal readers!

Like Ryan, Red Lobster was a fancier place for my family to go when I was young. I wasn’t very adventurous, though, and would only get the popcorn shrimp. Things have changed! I always remember being half terrified by, and half amazed by, the tank of live lobsters (which I honestly thought were called “monsters”) at the front of every restaurant.

Anyway, on a recent Friday Ryan and I asked Jason to meet us at Red Lobster. He had to work late so Ryan and I killed a bit of time at the bar, where the bartender was kind enough to switch the television to the Twins game. However, when I ordered a beer and a glass of water, the bartender only gave me the beer. The bar area was quite busy between people waiting for their tables, like us, and servers making drink orders for people sitting in the dining room. I didn’t get my water until twenty minutes later, when he asked me if I wanted another beer and I reminded him. Regular readers around here know how much I HATE IT when servers or bartenders forget my water or don’t fill it up. I am just an extremely thirsty person and I need a lot of water! So that unfortunately got the night off on the wrong foot.

Ryan was going to get Endless Shrimp from the get-go, but the all-you-can-eat thing has never been my preference, so I went for one of the specials off of their new Wood-Grilled menu, which was a wood-grilled lobster tail, wood-grilled skewer of shrimp, and shrimp scampi, along with salad and a side. Attempting to be healthy (really just justifying to myself eating TWO of the awesome cheddar-garlic biscuits) I got the broccoli for my side.

Shrimp, shrimp and lobster

My lobster was delicious – everything was delicious, but lobster is such a rare treat for me. I really could taste the smoke of the grilling which gave it a very nice dimension. The grilled shrimps were very succulent and the scampi delicious, of course, how could butter and garlic with shrimp not be tasty?

Overall I very much enjoyed our visit to Red Lobster, after I finally got my glass of water. I am sure that we will be back again next time Endless Shrimp Fest is on!

shrimp shells

Comment to Win a $10 Gift Card!
Leave your name and e-mail in the Comments of this blog and you will be entered to win one of two $10 Red Lobster gift cards! 2 winners will be chosen at random from all comments left on this post before 9 pm Central time on Friday, October 1st, 2010. Limit one entry per person.

Legal thing: Red Lobster gave us a gift card to dine at and review their location in Bloomington, MN, as well as two $10 gift cards to give away to readers of our blog. We did not receive any other compensation and were under no obligation to write a positive review.


Try bd’s Mongolian Grill on Us!

29 Sep

The friendly folks over at bd’s Mongolian Grill (yes, the bd is lowercase) want us to help spread the word about their Burnsville, MN location. Just print off this coupon and bring it in, and tell them Ryan & Lauren sent you! If our blog readers use the most coupons, we win a free dinner for eight, and who knows, we might invite you.