Here’s what to expect from the seafood chain’s majorly renovated offerings—including cheese fries topped with clam chowder and clam strips—that become available nationwide on Monday, December 4
new food at red lobster
Credit: Courtesy of Red Lobster

Starting Monday, December 4, Red Lobster will serve an entirely revamped menu with new dishes and price points, but—fret not—the same Cheddar Bay Biscuits. We got an early taste of every single new dish, and, predictably, we have a lot of feelings.

The biggest overhaul of the menu, aside from its new we're-just-a-seafood-stand-on-a-dock aesthetic, is the addition of two sections: Tasting Plates and Globally-Inspired Entrées. The "bite-sized" tasting plates include a buttery, warm Petite Lobster Roll, sweet Yucatan Shrimp, Loaded Seaside Fries that are literally cheese fries topped with clam chowder and fried clam strips, Shrimp Potstickers and deep-fried Dragon Broccoli drizzled in the same sweet-spicy "dragon sauce" that accompanies the dumplings. The new entrées include pub-style Fish and Chips, Salmon New Orleans, Southwest-Style Tacos with your choice of protein and Yucatan Tilapia and Shrimp.

Did you catch when we said that Red Lobster will now serve cheese fries drenched in clam chowder and fried clam strips? Because that's real, and it's happening. #2017.

But does the chain pull it all off? Mostly, yes. (It helps that a basket of Cheddar Bay biscuits can help chase anything you don't like, but there's so much butter in the new offerings that your palate is likely incapable of rejecting the flavors.) Red Lobster seems to be gesturing vaguely at every major seafood-adjacent trend from the past two decades, and their lateness doesn’t detract from the satisfaction of foods like a butter-soaked lobster roll or a little plate of bright, crispy shrimp dumplings covered in scallions. (Though the lobster roll could have used a bit more lobster meat to soak up the excess butter seeping out of the bread, but we've never met a lobster roll we couldn't finish every last bite of.) The Seaside Fries, while ridiculous, taste spectacular, and there's something exhilerating and fun about eating a dish that is not afraid to be absurd.

"The new menu takes advantage of the recent updates we’ve made to our kitchens, including new equipment, like lobster and crab pots and sauté stations, and new technology that improves the pace of meal," the president of Red Lobster, Salli Setta, tells us. "Better equipment means our food is fundamentally better–and our guests will taste it in every bite." Setta mentions that some of the items have been tested in select markets around the country, to positive results.

red lobster dragon shrimp
Credit: Courtesy of Red Lobster

"We feel confident based on what we heard in testing that our guests will enjoy our new menu and think of us for more dining occasions," she says. "Guests told us that the new menu increases occasion relevance, such as a casual night out with friends or a date night. And, the new menu offers variety and more opportunity for adventure."

Some dishes are better not Red Lobstered, like the Yucatan Shrimp, which shows promise as a dish (seasoned grilled bread poking out of anything makes our hearts swell) but is ultimately too sweet, too rich. The Southwestern Tacos, too, could benefit from a lighter hand with the jalapeno ranch, though the flavors are satisfying, if not authentically Mexican or even Southwestern American.

Surprisingly enough, one of the best new items is a tiki-inspired punch that tastes like what you would concoct to fill up a jumbo novelty mug at Myrtle Beach for senior week. Sprite, mango purée, pineapple juice and several healthy glugs of rum make a delightfully balanced punch for washing down any number of salty things.

Another upside of the overhaul? An increased diversity of price points. The Tasting Plates average at $4.99, and the prices of the globally-insired entrées range from $10.49 to $16.99.

Red Lobster is inching as close as it can to reinvention without sacrificing that which makes it successful—butter and abundance and biscuits and vaguely nautical vibes. We’re impressed with the ambition of the pivot. Oh, and their new filet mignon. It’s tender as hell.