Red Oak makes great rail road ties.
I'm a kitchen/bath designer, and yes, oak is the least popular specie among all cabinets sold, WITH THE EXEPTION that it, or ash (but no national mfr. uses ash as it doesn't meet K.C.M.A. specs) looks TERRIFIC when stained VERY dark, like a coffee or espresso, and DRAMATIC with alcohol based analyn dies. Closed-grain woods just won't take those stains well, and aren't as dramatic with the dies, although still pretty cool. (think a sunburst Gibson guitar!)
Point is, I don't think the low-popularity issue is so much with the specie itself, but with the boring old finishes everyone uses. We all get bored easily and love the new and exciting! Just use it in some new ways!
I think the problem with red oak is that it looks garish flat sawn. And since that's the cheapest way to get wide boards out of it, it's pretty much all you see, especially at the big box places (and unfinished furniture stores, fwiw). It's ok quarter sawn... not as nice as white oak, but ok. As a flooring, it's pretty durable... seems to look best when you finish in a way that downplays the grain.
There is a reason so much of it is around. I love it quarter sawn. Ray flecks are not so dizzying as white oak, but are sufficient to tease the eye.
Its a great wood that I prefer if it's finished dark. I'm not uh of a fan of the golden finishes.
Can't say why here in the Capitol District/Adirondack Region of New York red oak isn't used much compared to local favorites like walnut, cherry, sugar maple. Its very prevalent, strong, machines very well, takes detail, and finishes nicely with oil. As woodturners we rarely even turn it.
A friend had an oak tree down a few years ago and I've still got 1/2 ton of oak waiting to be used. Here in England hardwood is much less common and much more expensive so I'm still building all my projects out of oak (English not American Red)
In Miami 30 yrs ago when I started building custom cabinets red oak was the thing, then as my client list became wealthier and more informed that switched to cherry, walnut, hickory and maple, in that order, what a relief. Then, after I lost everything in Hurricane Andrew, I moved to Dade City, outside of Tampa. Everything was red oak again and I was bummed, but again as clients became wealthier and more informed it went to hickory, cherry and maple and walnut, in that order. I've seen enough oak cabinets thank you very much.
Most times, if stained, if painted then poplar.