Eat This Now

Been Spending Most My Life Eating In a Cheddar Bay Paradise

Endless Cheddar Bay Biscuits accompany every meal and inspire a near-fanatical following.
Endless Cheddar Bay Biscuits accompany every meal and inspire a near-fanatical following. Bri Valdivia
In the spring of 2013, I broke up with my long-term boyfriend and decided to dabble in the world of OkCupid. By the fall of 2013, I was utterly frustrated and beyond done with online dating. In a final burst of contempt, I filled every field of my dating profile with the same three words, all in uppercase letters: CHEDDAR BAY BISCUITS.

The reaction was immediate: Men started to ask if I wanted to go to Red Lobster. Offers to procure said biscuits started pouring in. I ignored them and deactivated my account, but I'll never forget the reaction that change incited.

click to enlarge "Every occasion was the perfect occasion." - BRI VALDIVIA
"Every occasion was the perfect occasion."
Bri Valdivia
Cheddar Bay Biscuits are practically a culture unto themselves. I don't personally know anyone who goes to Red Lobster for the lobster; it's all about the biscuits.

People — who just don't get it — like to point out that you can buy the biscuit mix at most grocery stores. But, the point of Cheddar Bay Biscuits isn't to have them on hand. They represent something more, a gentleman's agreement. I'll order a pound of fried shrimp and, in exchange, Red Lobster will give me as many biscuits as I can conceivably eat before crying.

Pre-pandemic, I fired off an early a.m. tweet, asking any follower that might see to go to Red Lobster with me. That's when one friend admitted she's never been to the casual-dining seafood establishment.

Never been to Red Lobster? A concept so outrageous I can barely grasp it.

Since childhood, I have found every conceivable excuse to go to Red Lobster. Graduations, awards, holidays — every occasion was the perfect occasion. On the final night of my first-ever college spring break, I went to Red Lobster with my best friend. For my 21st birthday, my mom bought me my first (legal) alcoholic beverage from Red Lobster.

click to enlarge Crab Stuffed Mushrooms smothered in cheese and baked. - BRI VALDIVIA
Crab Stuffed Mushrooms smothered in cheese and baked.
Bri Valdivia
Is it premium fare? Definitely not.

Red Lobster's purveyors may offer some of the best fish available, but it has to be frozen for distribution, and whether it be flavor or texture, a little something is always lost in transit. And if you were to feed a robot the idea of what seafood should be, it would spit out the nearly 20-page Red Lobster menu (if Cheesecake Factory is the king of oversized menus, Red Lobster is certainly the duke).

But will it scratch an itch for fast and fun casual dining? I can practically guarantee it.

click to enlarge Buttery Cheddar Bay Biscuits press against their cardboard prison, saturating it. - BRI VALDIVIA
Buttery Cheddar Bay Biscuits press against their cardboard prison, saturating it.
Bri Valdivia
I don't love lobster. I can barely tolerate the stuff unless it's heavily masked by other flavors. That's why Red Lobster is the perfect lobster-touting eatery. Instead, I delight in their seafood stuffed mushrooms. Ostensibly, lobster is contained therein, but the seafood paste that fills the mushrooms has no discernible flavor other than "ocean animal."

Buttered, fried, grilled, baked, chilled — the shrimp options are as endless as advertised. Similarly, the surf and turf selections come in a variety of styles to suit every (maybe even bad) mood.

And don't even get me started on the Alotta Colada.

If you're looking for a fresh, local, or higher-class seafood experience, I cannot recommend Buck &Rider or The Salt Cellar enough. Otherwise, it's Red Lobster all day, daily.

One of my final pre-pandemic memories of 2020 is receiving a red, heart-shaped cardboard box, officially licensed with the Red Lobster logo. It was completely full of Cheddar Bay Biscuits. It was the last box left from the Valentine's Day promo, and my friend had sought it out especially for me.

The biscuits weren't endless, but they've been my last taste of the Bay for a long time.
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Bri Valdivia is a bartender who regales regulars with tales of her former life as a radio producer and podcaster. She’s been haunting the streets of Tempe for 14 years and lives for sweaty bike rides, large quantities of melted cheese, strange beers, karaoke, and tabletop games.