I actually visited Red Robin several weeks ago, and while it’s true that I’ve been somewhat remiss in my posting lately, in this case there’s a little more to the delay. Red Robin is one of those restaurants that gives incentives for signing up for their e-mail list, and a few weeks before my most recent birthday, I received a coupon for a free “gourmet burger” with no further obligation. Since their burgers automatically come with bottomless steak fries, all I had to do was add a drink and poof, instant meal. I was watching the kids one evening and didn’t feel like cooking, so it seemed like a perfect excuse to trade in that birthday certificate.
Red Robin is one of those places…well, suffice it to say you know you’re in a chain restaurant the second you walk in the door (one of the children put it best when she said “I went to one of these restaurants before, but I thought it was called Applebee’s“). There’s a lot of pointless decor that has little to do with the food you’ll be ingesting, and the restaurant’s logo is everywhere.
|If it weren’t for the size of the place, I’d swear it came off an assembly line|
One of the wee ones decided on the cheeseburger…sorry, “Rad Robin Burger” kid’s meal, and the other chose chicken strips…there I go again, I mean “Chick-Chick-Chicken Fingers”. I was feeling a little decadent at the moment, and since it was free anyway I went for one of the more evil menu selections, The Royal Red Robin Burger. The menu describes it thus: “This is the aristocrat of all burgers because we crown it with a fresh fried egg. It’s topped with applewood smoked bacon, American cheese, crisp lettuce, fresh tomatoes and mayo.” Sounded good to me! After insinuating to the waitress that a bloodbath might well ensue if anybody attempted to sing a birthday song to me, I sat back to wait for my order. The kids colored their specially designed menus/placemats with the provided crayons, and I tried my best to ignore the decade-old “alternative” rock songs playing just a little too loudly on the speaker system while enjoying a soda in a Red Robin glass and looked forward to trying the Red Robin seasoned salt.
To be honest, I was hating the atmosphere at this point. Things like that never used to bug me, but over the past few years I’ve been spending a lot less time at corporate theme restaurants and a lot more buying good, inexpensive food made with high quality and fresh ingredients from unpretentious vendors. But still, it’s a burger place, and I do have a weakness for a good burger. I was willing to let bygones be bygones by the time my food landed on the table.
|The Royal Red Robin Burger|
I spent a long time trying to figure out what my problem with this burger was. The condiments were used judiciously, the veggies were fine, the cheese was properly melted, but I suspect the burger was a frozen, pre-formed patty at some point. Still, it’s not the first time I’ve had to deal with one of those. The only thing I can think to say is that it was too “safe” for my tastes. It’s like the thing was designed for the lowest common denominator, like every ingredient was precisely measured to a achieve a balance (the burger patty had such a sharp edge that it certainly must have seen the inside of a mold, for instance), so that only the pickiest of people would find cause for complaint. The kids were perfectly happy, the usually picky one even going so far as to say this was now one of her favorite restaurants, but I was miserable. There was not a single bold flavor, defining characteristic, or memorable trait about this burger. Sitting here now, I hardly remember a thing about it other than being shocked that I was eating a burger with a fried egg used as a topping and that it didn’t feel more evil.
There was nothing horrible about the experience to be honest, there just wasn’t anything great about it either. Plenty of people can, and do, love places like this. It’s just not my cup of tea. I’d rather go to a greasy mom-and-pop diner for a burger. Or Fuddruckers, at least I can control my toppings and sauces there, and they have elk! Hell, there are a few fast food places I’d rather go to. But, I’ll probably end up at Red Robin again, likely at the behest of the children. Said children wrapped up the evening by splitting my free birthday sundae, yet another item which seemed like it had been planned by committee and was strictly controlled, while I watched the staff relay information and instructions via concealed microphones in their uniform shirts like some kind of bizarre secret service. While I waited for them to finish, I recall having two distinct thoughts: the steak fries were actually pretty good, and the breakfast burger from Carl’s Jr. is better if you want egg on your burger.