Something’s Fishy at Red Lobster

Photo via Red Lobster, Facebook.

I grew up in the Midwest, so for us seafood was canned tuna or salmon, McDonald’s Filet o’ Fish, or an occasional trip to Wisconsin for a fish boil.

Then, when I was in college, I got a job as a cook at a trendy burger restaurant. The owners were opening a fancy seafood restaurant and the company’s head chef decided I showed promise and picked me to be the sous chef. I got a quick course on all kinds of seafood. How to judge freshness, how to butcher a whole fish, and how to scale and debone a fish in minutes. I went from knowing nothing about seafood to being a seafood snob in about six months. As you can imagine, I never set foot in a Red Lobster. However, I knew they were quite popular. So, I was surprised to hear that the company was filing for bankruptcy and closing hundreds of locations.

The first Red Lobster restaurant was opened in 1968, in Lakeland, Florida, by entrepreneurs Bill Darden and Charley Woodsby. The "Harbor for Seafood Lovers," was an immediate success and within two years the duo expanded to four more locations. Such success did not go unnoticed, and by 1970 General Mills acquired the company, keeping Darden as CEO of the newly spun-off restaurant wing of the company, Darden Brands.

Eventually, Darden sold the Red Lobster brand to the private equity firm Golden Gate Capital for $2.1 billion in 2014. Golden Gate Capital held on to the company for six years before it sold its stake in the company to Thai Union, an Asian seafood consortium in 2020. Thai Union just announced that it will divest itself of Red Lobster. At least 99 Red Lobster locations are being auctioned off, about 15% of the company's approximately 700 locations. Thai Union executives blamed the $11 million in losses in the third quarter of 2023 on Red Lobster’s all-you-can-eat shrimp promotion.

After reading all this and realizing our choices may be fading away, my husband and I headed up to our Fort Lauderdale Red Lobster.

After we approached the hostess station and said party of two, my hopes weren’t high as she led us to a booth and dumped two packages of napkin-wrapped serving utensils before us, slapped menus on the table, and walked away, without a word spoken. But our server was bright and cheery and very helpful in describing everything on the menu, and there are a lot of options.

We started with Maine and langostino lobster flatbread. It was thin and crispy, with tons of seafood and mozzarella, parmesan, fresh tomatoes, and sweet basil. I found it a little bland, some dried red peppers would perk it up nicely. It was well-prepared, and at $17, reasonably priced. Next came those cheddar biscuits that folks rave about. They were delish!

I opted for the Wednesday night special, a small lobster tail and petite sirloin, both perfectly cooked and served with a choice of sides for $20. My hubby went for one of the “shrimp your way” dishes. He chose a three-way (been a long time since he’s done that) and got three shrimp dishes (from a choice of eight). He opted for Crispy Dragon Shrimp (very spicy, but small and mostly breading), Street Corn Shrimp (delicious and grilled to perfection), and Walt's Favorite Shrimp (again small and mostly breading). We ended up taking about a third of our dinners home and were delighted to find some extra biscuits in our to-go bag. Is Red Lobster fine dining? No. But I’ve paid a hell of a lot more at fancy restaurants for food that wasn’t any better.

Red Lobster
5950 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale


Phone: 954-514-7095
Hours: Monday - Friday 9AM - 2PM


2520 N. Dixie Highway,
Wilton Manors, FL 33305



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