We Tried Red Lobster's Ultimate Endless Shrimp And Lived To Review The Experience

Situated in strip malls and along highways throughout the United States, Red Lobster is among the most well-known chain restaurants in the country. It's a proverbial seafood haven, bringing the bounty of the sea to all corners of America at reasonable prices. Its menu is brimming with specials and iconic classics, from the aptly named Lobsterfest to the chain's beloved Cheddar Bay biscuits. Perhaps none of Red Lobster's deals have quite as much sway as its Ultimate Endless Shrimp.

While plenty of chain restaurants have versions of all-you-can-eat gimmicks, Red Lobster's Ultimate Endless Shrimp exists in a category of its own. What started as a promotion to bring in more customers eventually became so successful that Red Lobster made it a permanent menu item in the summer of 2023. It wound up being a bit too popular at its original price point, though; the chain lost $11 million in the same quarter that Ultimate Endless Shrimp was affixed to the permanent menu, per CNN.

 And though Red Lobster has since adjusted its prices to account for Ultimate Endless Shrimp's popularity, I knew that, when presented with the opportunity, I had to sample this lavish offering of seafood decadence for myself. 

What is Red Lobster's Ultimate Endless Shrimp?

The conceit of Ultimate Endless Shrimp is fairly simple: For a flat fee of $25 per person — at the time of publication and up from its original price of $20 — you can eat as much shrimp as your crustacean-loving heart desires. The special offers seven different shrimp dishes (four of which are breaded), as well as one side. Customers can order up to three dishes at once and can do so for as long as they're able. Oh, and perhaps Red Lobster's most popular dish, the Cheddar Bay biscuits, are complementary.

After fasting for almost the entire day, my girlfriend and I trekked to the Red Lobster near my home in New Jersey. I figured at best it would be a fun meal to share and, at worst, it would be an interesting test of our relationship. How much damage could all this shrimp really do?

One of the employees led us to a centrally-located round table large enough for six or seven people. I was thrilled. A booth wouldn't have worked here; this was the perfect arena for the shrimp feast we were about to undertake. Our server, Karl, couldn't have been nicer, explaining the menu like a referee reading the rules to two prizefighters ready to come out swinging. We pored over them with fake deliberation — as if we didn't already know our exact order. After a minute or so, we each ordered a water, beer, and our first round of Endless Shrimp dishes.

Round 1: Grilled shrimp skewer

Our first plate arrived about 10 minutes later, an oval slab containing our first three Endless Shrimp choices: the grilled shrimp skewer, Parrot Isle jumbo coconut shrimp, and shrimp linguini alfredo. We started with the skewer: six grilled shrimp atop a bed of orzo and served with a slice of lemon. Aside from being the humblest dish on the plate, it was easily the most straightforward — and that wasn't a bad thing.

The shrimp themselves were slightly rubbery and a bit dry, but it was nothing a little lemon juice couldn't fix. They also paired well with our chosen side of broccoli, which was steamed and extremely salty. I suspect the orzo was added to lend to a Mediterranean feel — not easy to achieve when nestled next to a heap of shrimp alfredo, but somehow, just barely, it worked. We knew there was plenty of gluttony to come, but the skewer kicked things off on a light, almost refreshing note. If only that could've lasted!

Parrot Isle jumbo coconut shrimp

We're not sure where Parrot Isle is, but its namesake coconut shrimp exists somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle of appetizers, entrees, and fried desserts. Red Lobster's shrimp, while indeed jumbo, were hard to define. They were butterflied and breaded well, with the characteristic strands of browned coconut poking out along their edges, adding a saccharine crust to the savory shellfish underneath.

It was full-send coconut shrimp in every sense of that newly made-up term. Fried sweets always hit hard, though, and it was this dish that landed the first proper blow in our Endless Shrimp bout. You always expect a little sweetness with coconut shrimp, but these could probably cause a cavity. Further accentuating it was an even more cloying white coconut sauce, a dip that vaguely tasted like cake frosting. 

If you squinted and ignored the flared shrimp tail, it would be fair to wonder if you were actually eating a zeppole or beignet. The only question is whether the Parrot Isle jumbo coconut shrimp should also be listed on the dessert section of Red Lobster's menu. I don't think I'd complain if it was.

Shrimp linguini alfredo

If the coconut shrimp was a jab, the shrimp linguini alfredo was an outright haymaker. Finally, we realized what we were up against. A slathering of shrimp laid atop pasta and covered in white sauce, this dish was straightforward but also far more indulgent than the other two on the plate, and we felt it from the very first bite.

The sauce itself was milky and sat atop the linguini rather than coating it, which left several of the pasta strands toward the bottom disappointingly dry. It did manage to catch the shrimp, which seemed to be simply boiled. But, it was hard to get any shrimp flavor due to the sauce's overwhelming creaminess. Pasta with alfredo sauce is usually worth skipping at restaurants, in part because it's quite simple and reliant on gobs of dairy. Like any alfredo, though, this one kept us coming back for more even when we weren't sure how. By the end of it, we didn't know if we'd be able to press on — until our server Karl sarcastically rang the bell for our second round.

Round 2: Garlic shrimp scampi

Several minutes passed between the first Endless Shrimp plate and our second order, and we needed every moment of it. Periodic sips of Modelo and lemon water weren't exactly clearing space, what with the alfredo gumming up the works. But we decided to continue headlong into the dairy, ordering garlic shrimp scampi and "Walt's Favorite Shrimp." (We were also surprised with a second grilled shrimp skewer, which we accepted with a bit of a friendly groan.)

Thankfully the scampi didn't come with pasta — we'd already had plenty — but it might've helped sop up some of the separated butter sauce pooled in the rounded rectangular plates in which the shrimp were served. These were the tiniest shellfish we received, possibly grilled as the skewered shrimps were, but there was no way to tell because of all the butter. I made the brutal mistake of grabbing one with my hands, turning into buttery King Midas until I could get my greasy paws on a napkin. Suddenly the end of Endless Shrimp seemed near.

Walt's Favorite Shrimp

Sitting alongside the scampi was Walt's Favorite Shrimp, apparently named for Walt King, said to beone of Red Lobster's first employees. These were butterflied and tightly breaded, which created a unique texture that we couldn't fully appreciate as our digestive systems began to rebel against us. Plain old breaded shrimp just wouldn't stand out here, so our compliments to Walt, wherever he may be.

Though the actual shrimp were good, the real highlight was the cocktail sauce they came with. If this was an approximation of homemade cocktail sauce, you can tell Red Lobster tilted more toward the ketchup than the horseradish. But unlike the coconut shrimp, the sweetness here was more of a subtle touch that made the whole plate more enjoyable. I even dipped a couple of the extra skewered shrimp into it when no one was looking. 

That said, this far into the meal, time began to slow down. It felt as if an hour passed after Walt's final shrimp disappeared from our plate — and it still wasn't enough. But I knew we had more shrimp to try.

Round 3: Crispy Sea Salt & Vinegar Shrimp

With two more types of shrimp to go, our decision was essentially made for us. But, we soon learned that this Red Lobster location was fresh out of its popcorn shrimp. Instead, we received a second order of our final shellfish — the limited edition "Crispy Sea Salt & Vinegar Shrimp."

Yet another breaded shrimp, the salt and vinegar zing on these came through clearly. The breading was slightly wet, almost as if they'd been tossed in a sauce. However, the flavor was achieved. The dish was surprisingly gratifying even though by now the sheer volume of shrimp had fully taken hold of our physical bodies. 

I struggled to stab them with my fork and dip them in Red Lobster's house ranch, which was just rich enough to force a few extra bites. Salt and vinegar (and shrimp-induced meat sweats) will make you do that. It's a good thing this is a limited flavor because Red Lobster might run out of these, too.

Is Ultimate Endless Shrimp worth trying?

By the end of our meal, we were battered — much like several of the shrimp of which we'd eaten far too many. We'd arrived at Red Lobster's to test the limits of Ultimate Endless Shrimp, and the house won by unanimous decision.

Our server Karl sarcastically asked if we'd be game for a fourth round of shrimp. We were not. I confirmed with him that we would've been able to continue, endlessly, if the shrimp hadn't gotten to us. He mentioned seeing past customers order Endless Shrimp for hours on end, and jokingly told us he wondered how far we'd make it. His humor made the meal far more pleasant, even if I left with an unfounded sense that we'd let him down. Hopefully, he hadn't placed any bets on us lasting more than three rounds.

The value of Red Lobster's Ultimate Endless Shrimp is difficult to quantify. If you're dining with a family full of ravenous kids or a college student with a bottomless stomach, it's probably worth it. If you're counting calories or trying to have any semblance of a reasonable meal, it's probably not. We had our favorites, but I can't say every shrimp dish we tried was of the highest quality. There's no question, however, this offer will fill you up for a decent price. But, even if you count yourself among the shrimpiest of Red Lobster shrimp lovers, beware: though the shrimp may not end, your taste for it surely, eventually, will.