Since I was a child, it's been a dream of mine to try everything at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. (dream big, right?). The fact that I went to the chain's flagship Times Square location really was the cherry on the top. Before I tell you about the best items, here's a quick history lesson:
You might think that Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and Forrest Gump are like the proverbial chicken and the egg: Which came first? In fact, the restaurant was created two years after the Academy-award winning film was released. But why is it called Bubba Gump instead of Forrest Gump? If you haven't seen the movie, it's a riff on the characters Benjamin Buford "Bubba" Blue and Forrest Gump, two Southern guys who became best friends during the Vietnam War. Bubba unfortunately dies a few scenes after they agree to start a shrimping business together, but Forrest Gump follows through on his promise and opens the shrimp restaurant.
In real life, Tom Hanks doesn't own the chain restaurant in any way, but he does have an interesting connection to the Times Square location. Before the building was a shrimp lover's paradise, it was his first bank when he lived in New York City in 1979.
"I wanted to draw some money [to] buy groceries, and they insisted on waiting for the check to clear. … I’m not a contentious guy, but I did cause a stink," Hanks shared with Cheatsheet.com in 2020. Little did he—or that bank—know that he would become a movie star, and the success of his film would turn the bank into a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
Now that you're caught up on the pop-culture history of this spot, here are the items you must try:
Shrimper's Net Catch with Mama Gump's Garlic Bread Basket
Peel-n-eat shrimp is a staple at Bubba Gump, and for a good reason. It's steamed in beer, adding an ever-so-slight malt flavor, and the lemon, garlic, and butter sends it over the edge. The shrimp are super-easy to peel, making it perfect for the novice shrimp eater at your table. And if you don't get the garlic bread basket with your shrimp, you're not getting the full experience.
The bread is slathered with butter and slightly soggy, but the exterior still has a crunch to it. The dusting of parm on top gives it a cheesy salty flavor that is one of the most addictive breads I've had at a chain restaurant.
This is an underrated drink. It's easy to be persuaded by larger, boozier drinks on the expansive beverage menu, but make room for the Coco Mojito. This drink checks all the boxes: tart yet sweet, refreshing, boozy but not abrasive. It's a mix of coconut rum, pineapple juice, guava puree, lime juice, mint, and soda water.
Shrimp Po' Boy
The baguette is crunchy and has that slightly stale bite where it feels like you'll yank your tooth out, which I welcome with open arms. In other words, it's the ideal vehicle for the saucy, zesty mess that is a po' boy. The shrimp is breaded just enough for texture but not so much so you can't taste the sweetness of the shrimp, and the pickle and the spicy mayo add acidity and creaminess.
Best Seafood Entree
If you're the indecisive one in your group, go for the Shrimper's Heaven. It has three types of fried shrimp: tempura, coconut, and double-fried. You get three different sauces to try so you won't get bored. The tempura shrimp is my personal favorite because the batter is delicate and light, but the coconut shrimp is a fan-favorite thanks to its thick coconut crust.
Best Meat Entree
Lt. Dan's Surf & Turf
If you know anything about Bubba Gump besides shrimp, you probably have heard about their ribs. The meat is tender and flavorful with brown-sugar sweetness coming through and a tangy, slightly sour flavor at the end. The grilled shrimp is smoky and sweet and the perfect portion for a meal.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae
Served warm in a skillet, it's everything you need. This sundae is piled high with three scoops of vanilla ice cream, sprinkled with peanuts, and drizzled with chocolate and caramel. It's like a Mr. Goodbar with a melty, gooey cookie mixed in.
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