None of us knew what was about to happen, and it wouldn’t have helped if we did.
For those of you who not familiar with the crimson crustacean, or don’t feel the need to eat yourself sick on occasion, “Endless Shrimp” is a semi-annual event at Red Lobster where for about twenty bucks, they’ll keep serving you shrimp until you tap out.
One day, Red Lobster sent me an email that said “Endless Shrimp is almost over…”
It’s not over until I say it is, Red Lobster. Do you hear me? I’m coming, Red Lobster. And all Hell’s coming with me.
Here’s the story of my ninety minutes at Red Lobster, and my ongoing battle with the concept of “Endless Shrimp.”
Spoiler Alert: I lose. Everyone always does.
3:42 pm – Let’s do this. I pull into the Red Lobster parking lot, and loosen up my belt. This is a day for the ages, my friends. This is the kind of day they make movies about, if “300” had been about gluttony.
3:47pm – My waiter, Bob, approaches the table, and doesn’t even bother to ask if I’d like an appetizer. “You look like you’re ready to go,” he says.
Yes, Bob. Yes, I am.
He gives me no extraneous conversation, and we get right to business. I make my order, I start with the Teriyaki Grilled Shrimp and the Hand-Breaded Shrimp.
Bob asks me if I want fries. Hell yeah. Then he asks what kind of salad dressing would I like?
I dispatch Bob with a scoff and a wave. This is not a day for salad. This is a day for victory.
Bob heads to the kitchen and leaves me sitting there giddy with anticipation. I’ve never been so happy to get too much of something.
3:51pm – They bring me the Cheddar Bay Biscuits. I don’t want one, but I have to have it.
By the way, I doubt anyone would ever name a bay after a cheese. It makes no sense. It would be like naming your dairy farm after a fish.
The woman at the next table is from somewhere on the East Coast, and orders chardonnay with her meal. That just seems wrong for some reason. This is a Red Lobster, ma’am. That’s like asking for the wine list at Denny’s.
3:55pm – I realized I should have eaten something before I came, because I just inhaled a biscuit. I have no memory of eating it, but it’s gone, and there’s a vague taste of cheese on my breath, so I must have devoured it. A prosecuting attorney would have a field day with me trying to deny my involvement in the disappearance of a biscuit.
4:01pm – The first round arrives. I almost pull it out of Bob’s hands.
Shrimp Count: 21
The beginning of a fantastic meal. Also, morbid obesity.
Cost per Shrimp (at $16.99): 80 cents
4:03pm – A moment later, Bob comes back around to ask me if he can get another round started for me. I would take a bullet for Bob right now.
This is good shrimp to start with. The Teriyaki Shrimp is sweet, and the hand-breaded is…fried. It’s delicious, but the fact that they refuse to just call it “fried” bothers me. Embrace your identity, Red Lobster!
4:07pm – I get ten (10) shrimp scampi brought to my table. I power through them, then dunk one of my Cheddar Bay Biscuits in the leftover scampi sauce. It’s horrible for you, but absolutely delicious if you don’t mind hearing your own pulse pounding in your ears.
I eat a few bites of fries and rice to form a landing pad in my stomach for the shrimp so they don’t get lonely, and start to riot.
Shrimp Count: 31
Cost per Shrimp: 55 cents.
4:12pm – Ten more fried shrimp arrive. I go back to the well for the Teriyaki Grilled, then immediately regret it because it’s only five shrimp. I feel like eating this much seafood in a row has affected my ability to do math.
I feel like I need to eat faster. When the shrimp is “Endless,” it becomes less of a tasty dinner and more of a challenge, a task to overcome.
Shrimp Count: 41
Cost per Shrimp: 41 cents.
4:17pm –Bob, who looks a great deal like Mad TV’s Will Sasso, sets up another round while I finish what I’ve got. I consider putting Bob in my will. I’m surprised at how tasty the shrimp is because, let’s face it, Red Lobster is not exactly renowed for five-star dishes. You don’t see a lot of Red Lobsters set up on beachfront lots.
4:23pm – I start to experience a lull, where I wonder what I’m doing with my life. Unprompted, Bob brings me some fresh Cheddar Bay Biscuits, and my moment of reflection vanishes.
At this rate, Bob will be able to pay off his student loan with my tip.
4:26pm – Bob brings me the Teriyaki Shrimp and asks if I’d like another round. I tell him yes, and he pauses before he pulls his pad out of his pocket. I feel like Bob is starting to doubt me. He’s thinking I’m going over the edge.
I’m not even to the suburbs of the edge yet, Bob. Stand back.
Shrimp Count: 46
Cost per Shrimp: 37 cents.
4:32pm – I begin to feel like Red Lobster has pulled the throttle back on me. Maybe they’re slowly hand-preparing my Shrimp Linguini in the back, but it sure feels like they’re easing back in some vain attempt to either save some money, or keep me alive.
4:33pm – Ten more fried and a whole plate full of shrimp linguini arrive. I realize I’ve been here a half hour and I haven’t used my fork yet.
Shrimp Count: 72
Cost per Shrimp: 24 cents.
4:35pm – I realize the Shrimp Linguini Alfredo is very cheesy and very tasty, and also very much a trap. It’s like eating Sakrete, it’ll fill in the cracks and crevices left in my stomach. Then when I take a drink of tea, it’ll expand into a regulation size basketball. I’m going to need to do some emergency spot eating here.
I momentarily lose track of how many shrimp I’ve had because I think I’ve accidentally eaten my pen.
4:37pm – My next round of Teriyaki Shrimp arrives and for a moment, I have three different plates of shrimp in front of me. And I don’t feel bad about it at all. I think that’s one of the first signs of mental illness.
Shrimp Count: 77
Cost per Shrimp: 22 cents.
4:41pm – Bob comes by and looks at me and says “So what are you thinking?” I tell him to hit me with the Hand-Breaded again.
Bob pauses a beat, then says “Okay.”
I can tell that Bob and I have spent enough time together to form a real relationship, and he’s really growing concerned. I feel like at some point, instead of coming back with a plate of shrimp, Bob will come back with my friends and family so they can all tell me how my gluttony has affected them personally.
4:45pm – I burp, and it feels like it opens up an entire new stomach within me. I wonder if this is what marathon runners feel like. Or maybe cows.
I have a brief moment of clarity. When did gluttony become manhood? Eating far too much food doesn’t equate to slaying a dragon, or building a bridge. Why is this something we aspire to? A hot-dog eating contest shouldn’t be how we elect our leaders.
4:49pm – Another waitress delivers a plate of Hand-Breaded, and I order another round of scampi. Bob is off with the waitstaff singing “Happy Birthday” to the woman from New York who ordered the chardonnay, which means she’s also spending her birthday in a Red Lobster. Her afternoon gets weirder by the moment.
Shrimp Count: 87
Cost per Shrimp: 19 cents.
4:51pm – We’ve now passed the point where Bob is concerned about me, and now he’s actively cheering me on. Bob asked me if I skipped breakfast to get ready for this, and I tell him that’s not how it works. I’ve been training for this moment for weeks. Or maybe all of my life.
I order two more rounds while we’re chatting.
4:52pm – I go to the bathroom to wash my Teriyaki-stained hands, because they have reached levels of adhesiveness only seen in Spider-Man comic books. There’s no danger of me skipping out on the bill, of course. I’m not really a threat to dine-and-dash. I couldn’t even dine-and-roll at this point.
As I come back, I notice new faces at the tables around me. Then I realize those are the third families to sit down and order since I walked in. I’m going deep in the count for this one.
Lonely is the man on an Endless Shrimp quest.
4:58pm – My latest edition of scampi arrives, and as I approach triple-digits, I genuinely become concerned about the life decisions I’ve made.
I look up and see a limousine pull through the parking lot. I assume it was the birthday girl, which makes the afternoon even weirder for her.
Shrimp Count: 97
Cost per Shrimp: 17 cents.
4:59pm – Bob comes back by and asks, “What’s next, brother?”
It’s good to have him fully onboard.
I tell him I want another skewer of Teriyaki Grilled. He reminds me I’ve got one coming already. I say I know, and to keep them coming. Bob nods and heads off.
I feel like I’m learning to drown in food. Somewhere Aquaman is plotting my demise, as public enemy #1 of the oceans.
5:06pm – Five more Teriyaki shrimp show up, which puts me over the top. And I have more coming. From the way Bob is acting, when I finish they’re going to give me some kind of a championship belt.
Shrimp Count: 102
Cost per Shrimp: 17 cents, still.
5:09pm – I finish the grilled, and I’m waiting on the scampi. Bob comes up and asks me if I want any more. I tell him I’d better stop, since I don’t want to be late for dinner. He laughs briefly, and then looks at me to make sure I’m kidding.
I just stare into his eyes until he feels uncomfortable and hurries away.
5:14pm – My scampi arrives and I am both hungry, and very much done. I officially tap out and Bob tells me three times to “Come back any time,” which makes me feel like there’s some kind of wager going on in the back room as to how many schools of shrimp I’ll finish, and Bob is the grand prize winner. I’ve been the highlight of his day.
Shrimp Count: 112
Cost per Shrimp: 15 cents.
5:21pm – I sign the check, double the bill for Bob’s tip and plod to the car. I tapped out at 112 shrimp, and I understand that I will be ill for a couple of days.
Every great now and then it’s worth it. If anything goes really wrong, I’m sure Bob will send a wreath of Teriyaki shrimp to my funeral.
— Reid Kerr only does all-you-can-eat when it’s seafood. And he’ll keep telling himself that, like it matters.