Red Lobster is one of the United States’ most successful restaurant chains and its menu extends far beyond its signature dish. Besides lobster, patrons can indulge in a variety of vegetable dishes, fish, steaks, and numerous takes on the humble shrimp. There is even classic American fare like hamburgers available if seafood really isn’t your thing. But what about going beyond the menu? There’s an argument that some of Red Lobster’s tastiest dishes are special orders exclusive to customers who are in the know.
This article should help you think outside the lobster cage and get the most out of your next visit to Red Lobster. The best part is, some of the things we’ve listed have their own range of customization options, so you can put your own twist on a few of the things you see here. Some items are familiar Red Lobster staples with important additional details and customization options. Others are unique combinations you may have to assemble yourself. And there are even a few twists that the kitchen will apply for you. No matter what, you’ll want to dive right in and try these hacks yourself.
You can keep the Cheddar Bay Biscuits coming
A highlight of any visit to Red Lobster is the chain’s famous Cheddar Bay Biscuits. Your server will soon bring you a basket of six biscuits that you can pick away at between courses. While you may worry about filling up on the flaky treats and not being able to finish the food you’re actually paying for, you shouldn’t ration them through fear of running out. The company’s Cheddar Bay Biscuits are actually unlimited for dine-in customers. If you tear through the six at your table, your server will return with six more upon request. Unfortunately, customers getting takeout aren’t so lucky. The free snack is a dine-in only perk. If you’re eating elsewhere you can order as many biscuits as you want, but you’ll be paying close to $3 for each half dozen.
While the biscuits themselves have been a fan favorite for around 30 years, their whole premise is based on a geographical lie. Despite the cheesy-sounding region lending its name to several products over the years, Cheddar Bay does not actually exist. It was made up by Red Lobster itself to make its biscuits sound more traditional and legitimate.
You can opt for a luxury potato filling
Red Lobster’s actual menu recently got a revamp, and that revamp included a delicious lobster and langoustine stuffed potato. However, those of you who have tried the potato may have noticed there’s something missing. The beurre blanc sauce itself, while delicious, doesn’t have the depth or creaminess of the chain’s Langostino Lobster-Artichoke-&-Seafood Dip. It lacks the three-cheese blend, which is a core component of the dip, as well as the mild, nutty, hint of artichoke. In our experience, there is also less crustacean meat in there.
However, you can rectify this experience and give yourself the premium potato experience you deserve — and it isn’t that much more expensive. Most of the entrees on the menu come with two sides, and those sides include baked potatoes. Order those baked potatoes plain, and ask for them early alongside an order of Langostino Lobster-Artichoke-&-Seafood Dip. One tray of dip is enough to generously stuff two potatoes, and you can even add a delicious sprinkle of pico de gallo to top it all off. In our opinion, not only is the custom option nicer than Red Lobster’s own effort, but it may in fact be the best thing on the menu, secret or otherwise.
Load your fries, but hold off on the salt
Baked potatoes are almost universally loved, but they aren’t for everyone. Plenty of people prefer french fries, and those people don’t have to miss out in any way. You can substitute the baked potato in the Creamy Lobster Baked Potato for a bowl of french fries. The creamy sauce on its own is a great fry topping, but the texture and flavor of the lobster meat take things to the next level. There is one thing about this secret menu hack you may want to take note of, though.
Red Lobster’s fries tend to come with a generous sprinkle of sea salt, which is delicious when you’re eating the fries plain or with a slightly sweet dip like ketchup. But when combined with an already briny lobster sauce, the salt levels can be a bit too much for most people’s palates and take away from what is otherwise a fantastic dish. So remember, if you’re making this sub you should ask for the fries sans salt.
Gluten free may actually be better
Red Lobster’s wait staff is on hand to provide a whole host of gluten-free options to people who have special dietary requirements. The restriction does limit your choices somewhat — everything fried is off-limits — but the menu still contains some interesting options that aren’t clearly stated as gluten-free. At its most basic level, you can just order plain seafood options like a skewer of boiled shrimp or a steamed lobster tail. But if you want to take things to the next level, you can request a gluten-free version of classics like the Garlic Shrimp Scampi.
As our server highlighted, some customers find the gluten-free scampi has a butterier flavor than the standard version. Several other shrimp on the menu are gluten-free, which your server can advise on, and you can also load it up with a couple of gluten-free sides like the mashed potato or house salad.
You can go dairy free on the main dish
Lobster aficionados will know nothing makes the already great dish better than a generous pour of fresh, melted butter. The already sweet lobster meat is given a deep, creamy, flavor and whoever is eating it gets a one-way ticket to culinary heaven. But you can’t eat butter, you don’t have to miss out. There’s a dairy-free way to add a similar kick to your lobster dinner. On request, your server can bring you out a pot of olive oil as opposed to butter. It isn’t exactly the same, but different doesn’t mean second best.
The olive oil gives that fatty depth to the meat, and pairs beautifully with other common additions like lemon. It’s actually a common accompaniment to lobster in several cultures, so you can get a little taste of the Mediterranean with your North American seafood staple. Even if you are able to tolerate dairy, there is also a long-standing argument that olive oil is healthier than butter. So if you’re trying to take better care of your health, this could be an easy substitution that allows you to work a very rich meal into your new diet.
Steamed lobster can be boring, but you can fix that
As the name suggests, Red Lobster sells a lot of shellfish. The titular crustacean is available in several forms, as a quick glance at the menu will show you. It’s chopped up and dropped into sauces and bisques, available whole, and forms the main part of several entrees. If you order a dish that comes with lobster, like one of the surf and turf options, the chef will steam it. But that isn’t the best way to eat lobster, and you can take things to the next level with an easy request. Simply ask your server and you can have your lobster grilled, which adds a more intense, charred, flavor to the meat.
It is worth noting that not all lobster dishes at the restaurant have the option of coming grilled. Sauce components and whole lobsters are off-limits here, and the option is only available with the tails. Don’t let that put you off, though — once you have your lobster grilled there’s no going back. It’s so good you’ll likely ask for it to be done this way every time. It’s just a shame it’s a secret menu hack and not something a server asks every time you order.
Make use of those free biscuits
While unlimited Cheddar Bay Biscuits are a treat in themselves, you can also put them to very good use. The biscuits can form the basis of a Cheddar Bay Slider, which is a great way to put a spin on other menu items. To make a Cheddar Bay Slider at its most basic level, simply slice a biscuit in half and make a small sandwich with another menu item of your choice. Shrimp work very well texturally with the soft biscuit. The various steak options can be sliced thinly and added. You can even make a tiny attempt at a lobster roll if you wish. To take things to the next level, you need sauce. Luckily, there are plenty of those available to you.
On request, your server will bring you a dish of beurre blanc sauce, which the restaurant uses on its lobster stuffed potatoes. This pairs very well with the steak. As for your shrimp options, that depends on the shrimp you’re using. Some of the breadcrumbed options go very well with the chain’s piña colada sauce. Cocktail sauce is a classic that pairs well with almost any shrimp dish. Tartar sauce and coleslaw are also available. You have unlimited biscuits and a wide variety of menu items to choose from, so have some fun with the Cheddar Bay Sliders and come up with a combo that really works for you.
You can liven up your salads
An often overlooked side at Red Lobster is the humble salad. Diners have the option of a basic garden salad or a Caesar salad for a little extra money. On their own, they’re nothing special. However, they’re easy to jazz up by adding a shrimp skewer of your choice. A shrimp salad is a meal in itself, and you have no excuses for staying basic at a place like Red Lobster. We used this as an opportunity to sample the recently released Cheddar Bay Shrimp, which has a crunchy coating similar to the chain’s famous biscuits. This was combined with a Caesar salad.
While there is a multitude of shrimp options at Red Lobster, we felt a breadcrumbed option went best for textural reasons, and the cheesy kick of the Cheddar Bay Shrimp really enhanced the other Caesar ingredients. If you’re trying to opt for something healthier, you can always rely on plain shrimp or the jumbo shrimp cocktail. What you shouldn’t be relying on is a plain salad, when the option to lump on some protein is there for those in the know.
Go beyond the cocktail menu
If you glance at the standard Red Lobster menu, your drink choices are pretty limited. You can grab a beer, some staples like the Triple Berry Sangria, or a seasonal treat like the Fireside Martini. If you ask, you can get a dedicated drinks menu which adds more options but is far from expensive. Here you’ll see classics like the Old Fashioned and more interesting concoctions such as the Lobster Caesar. But your options don’t end there — you have a fully stocked bar and an experienced bartender available. While the average customer will only see a handful of beverage options on the basic menu, a more seasoned cocktail enthusiast will see a world of opportunities.
As there was a lot of seafood being consumed, we opted for a classic Bloody Mary garnished with a cocktail olive. In terms of overall quality, it contained a reasonable, but not overpowering, amount of vodka and had a noticeable Tabasco kick. The Red Lobster bar sums up the whole secret menu hack philosophy. Just because it isn’t written down doesn’t mean it isn’t an option. If the ingredients are there, the chances are your server will make it happen for you.
There are more than three desserts
Red Lobster regulars will have noticed that at first glance the dessert menu seems as limited as the drinks menu. There are a handful of options, accompanied by some limited edition treats. The staples include a loaded brownie, and the limited options are usually a generous slice of some cake or other, coupled with ice cream and some sauces. As with the drinks menu, you aren’t just limited to what’s written down in front of you.
If you don’t quite have room for cake, but still need something sweet to round off your feast, you can simply order a scoop or two of ice cream with a sauce or sauces of your choice. Sauces on offer include caramel, strawberry, and chocolate. These can really enhance the company’s vanilla ice cream. If you want a healthier option, a wide variety of fruit is available and a classic fruit salad is an option. You can also go back to the ice cream but load it up with sauces, fruit, and whipped cream before topping it with a cherry to create a kind of sundae. It’s a creative way to round off your custom dinner.