Business Insider recently released an article stating Red Lobster as the absolute, most favorite restaurant in the country amongst millennials. I’m not going to lie, I read this and nearly shit my pants. How could this be possible? To me, Red Lobster was always that sketchy restaurant on Route 1 that smelled kind of weird whenever I drove past it. Since when was that cool?
But then I began to feel a little weird myself, because I am a millennial, yet I had never been to Red Lobster before in my life. Obviously, I had to go see what the hype was about. I Googled the nearest Red Lobster location, contacted my dad and brother, the only two souls who would knowingly embark on this journey with me, and then rode the Metro for an hour, because there are no Red Lobsters within the city limits of Washington, D.C.
To say I was trepidated is an understatement. Seafood is a scary thing to me. I actually didn’t start eating shellfish until about a year ago. My mom was allergic to it, so I never had it growing up.
Admittedly, I finally heard the phrase, “How can you be a foodie if you don’t eat shellfish?” one too many times, so I dragged my ass to the doctor and got tested to see if I was allergic to it like my mother. Negative. It was like I was reborn. That first week of knowing I could eat shellfish was really special and exciting… until I went to a restaurant on a date, ate an oyster, projectile vomited all over the bathroom, and had to clean it up with toilet paper that had barely-there absorbency due to the lack of paper towels. Sexy.
With this moment embedded into my memory, I hesitantly opened the Red Lobster doors. Here is my story.
5:56pm: The restaurant is completely empty, save for an incomplete party in the waiting area. The dad of the group decides to be a jokester and pretend like he knows me. He says, “We’ve been waiting for you!” I am very confused. I glance to my left and see a very zealous host, impatiently waiting for me to approach the host stand. I nervously look around the lobby for my family, only to be met with a glass tank full of lobsters. They aren’t even moving. It’s like they’ve accepted their fate and are too depressed to even swim. Or they were delivered to the restaurant frozen and they’re in there just for show.
5:57pm: The cheery host leads me to my table. I sit and open the menu. The pages are all stuck together. I do not want to know what type of residue must be on them for this to happen. Where is my dad??
6:00pm: Dad and brother finally arrive. As soon our server approaches the table, I order the Spiked Strawberry Lemonade. The picture makes the drink look delicious, and it’s made with Absolut which is pretty impressive for a chain, and the menu says it comes in a special glass with the Red Lobster logo that you can take home with you. I am alllll about free stemware.
Here’s what I am expecting. Doesn’t that look delicious?!
6:10pm: Here is what arrives:
As you can see, it is not in the special glass as advertised. I sadly ask my server about the glass and he says they are out. My hopes and dreams are crushed. Kidding. But then I take a sip and the result is somewhat comparable. This Spiked Strawberry Lemonade is essentially dyed sugar water you would typically feed to a hummingbird. The jury is still out on whether there is actually any vodka in it.
6:20pm: My brother is just as scared as I am, anxiously flipping through the menu, waiting for something to catch his eye. Then, we order. Dad gets a lobster for the sake of being at Red Lobster. Bro settles on the tilapia fish tacos. A safe bet. I order grilled shrimp with no butter garlic sauce (#lactardprobs), a baked potato, and steamed broccoli. I am officially the most boring person on the planet. The server asks what toppings I would like for my baked potato. I awkwardly ask for some olive oil on the side. I get a weird look. The server is uncomfortable. What is he hiding? He then announces I will also receive a side salad with my meal, and that he will be back with some cheddar biscuits.
6:25pm: The cheddar biscuits arrive. Honestly, they look pretty delicious. I am gluten intolerant so I can’t eat these beloved carb bombs (what is my life), but I instead hold one in my hands and shamelessly take in the cheesy, buttery aroma. My family thinks I’m weird. Probably because I am. Whatever.
6:28pm: The side salads arrive. They are extremely average, however, I am impressed with the fresh cherry tomatoes and red onion. Then I look at the dressing. I ordered balsamic vinaigrette. WTF is this? Why is it pink? Salad dressing, what are you made of?
6:29pm: Actually… what are you?
6:30pm: I dip my finger in the dressing, and take a taste. I like to think I have a fairly trained palate, but I for the life of me cannot figure out what is responsible for this Easter-egg-pink hue. I give up and gingerly pour some dressing atop the crisp greens and dig in. This dressing is weird, man. I don’t even know.
6:35pm: I glance at the basket with the cheddar biscuits. There are still three left. I literally cannot remember a single incident when my brother did not devour the entire bread basket. That’s his thing. We’re that annoying family that always asks for more bread. I ask him what the deal is, and my 19-year-old brother says he can’t even finish one whole biscuit. The first two bites were apparently great, but the buttery flavor became overwhelming very quickly. I’m not sure those words have ever before been uttered in the English language before now.
6:45pm: The main course arrives. Dad is pretty pumped about his lobster. My brother’s fish tacos look pretty amazing. I am served a pretty hefty portion of shrimp – two skewers worth – that seem kind of naked on the plate. The baked potato looks like something that was dug out of the compost because the chef decided last minute it could be salvaged. I have no complaints about the broccoli.
6:46pm: My dad is ready and raring to go to town on his steamed Maine Lobster, bib and all. I ask for a bite, and he is generous enough to give me part of the claw. The meat is kind of rubbery to the touch, but I go in for the kill. The lobster tastes like straight-up sea water. It tastes like I was for some reason eating a piece of rubber while being wiped out by a wave at the beach, which is not something that would ever happen but I don’t know how else to describe it.
6:47pm: I de-skewer all of my shrimp, and then go to grab the side of olive oil I ordered for my baked potato. I am met not with olive oil, but a conspicuous clear liquid. I perform the finger taste test again, and decide this must be canola oil. Either that, or literally the shittiest olive oil on the market. I dress my baked potato with it anyways, and add a few grinds of salt and pepper. Note to Red Lobster: the grindable table salt and pepper is a nice touch.
6:48pm: I put a piece of shrimp in my mouth. It’s pretty dry and flavorless. I know I asked for it to be made without butter sauce, but can a gal get some EVOO and salt & pepper? I then cut off a piece of the baked potato. The skin is extremely fibrous and wrinkly. It tastes like it was cooked in the microwave. I’m not entirely sure that’s how it was prepared, but that’s what it tastes like.
Disclosure: For all of you that are going to say the food in these pictures look pretty good, I would like you to know that if you have natural light and a good camera, you could make dog shit on the sidewalk look appetizing. End rant.
6:50pm: My brother has yet again only eaten a few bites of his meal, and this dude can eat. Like I mentioned, he’s nineteen, but I didn’t mention he’s six feet tall. I’ve made tacos for him before, and I literally didn’t have enough tortillas for his appetite. Now he is in front of me, barely one taco deep. I take a bite and I have no complaints. They were served on corn tortillas, which is a huge plus for me, and I have nothing bad to say about them. My brother was just really not feelin’ it.
7:00pm: Our meal is pretty much complete at this point. My brother, dad, and I sit silently as we wait for the bill to arrive, generally very uninspired by the experience we just endured. We pay the bill, and leave.
7:15pm: I arrive at the Metro station to begin my trek back into the city. My phone dies. There are no trains arriving in the next 20 minutes. All of a sudden, my stomach starts acting up. It’s pissed and making noises that are probably audible to the innocent bystander next to me. These are obviously not hunger growls because I just ate. These are angry growls. My stomach is basically yelling at me for what it was just fed. It’s going to be a long ride.
As I sat on the train that finally arrived, the familiar bitterness that my body has come to associate with shellfish ravaging within me, I contemplated whether I should remove the contents of my purse and use it as a receptacle for my vomit, vowing never to step foot in another Red Lobster for as long as I lived. And that millennials suck.
Photos by: Analiese Trimber