November 14, 2013
THE HUNGER JAMES OFFICIAL RATING:
A few years ago, when I lived in Florida, I would see commercials for Red Robin Gourmet Burgers every fifteen minutes. The pictures of juicy burgers, crispy French fries, and that ever-popular “Yum!” slogan would be stuck in my head for days. Unfortunately, the closest Red Robin was over an hour away from me, and every time I would went to make the drive, I would eventually pass a Wendy’s or Krystal’s or a Hardee’s and pull over.
Now, living in the [great] state of New Jersey, there is a Red Robin just a few minutes away. My friend and I would always pass it and vow to go, but again, Wendy’s would always win.
BUT NOT TONIGHT.
Tonight, we decided to be daring and experimental and give this gourmet burger chain a chance. Walking in, we were unsure whether this was a sit down restaurant, a diner, or just a counter service. (I am actually still in the dark).
Basically, this is just a burger joint and they are “famous” for their burgers. Being a huge fan of burgers, I felt like I was in heaven! There were over 30 burgers to choose from, and it turned out to be one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. It was a true Sophie's Choice ruling, where instead of choosing which child lives, this was way more difficult. And more important.
Something I also noticed while perusing the menu was text that read, “Bottomless French Fries.” That’s right. All you can eat French fries. This was my happy place.
I decided on the Blue Ribbon burger, which is a beef patty, topped with blue cheese crumbles, bbq sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, and mayonnaise. And when given the option, yes, I added bacon. When she asked me how I would like my burger cooked, this is when things started to go downhill. “Medium rare, please” I responded with a smile that soon became a frown when she shook her head no and said, “We only cook our burgers two ways here: pink or no pink.”
Ok, fine. I get it. Some places get nervous about cooking meat too rare (especially when the meat quality is as fantastic as theirs). When the waitress was finished taking our order, she asked if we would like to add any specialty sauces to our order. “All of them,” I replied. Suddenly, things were starting to get better.
When the food arrived, I saw a big, giant burger, about 8 French fries, and a plate filled with every sauce you could imagine. I asked her what each one was and she started naming them off: chipotle bbq, honey djon, bacon mayonnaise, spicy ranch…”
I cut her off faster than an Asian lady in traffic and said, “WHAT DID YOU SAY before spicy ranch?!”
“Oh, the bacon mayonnaise? Yeah, it’s just our normal mayo with bits of bacon in it.”
“SIX MORE, PLEASE” I demanded.
When the food finally arrived, I was still hopeful about this dining experience. Even though I would be eating “pink” meat, the array of sauces brought to our table made me believe in love…I mean, food…again.
I picked up the immense burger and took my first bite, hoping to dive into a land of euphoric bliss.
I took a second bite. Even worse than the first.
“What the hell!” I shouted with my mouth full. “How can they say this is a gourmet burger joint when the burgers aren’t even that good?!”
It’s not that the burger was bad by any means, but it just wasn’t….great. The bun was cold. The meat was less than “pink”, the bacon wasn’t crispy, and the cheese wasn’t even melted all
the way! The saving grace of the entire meal? You guessed it. That bacon-mayo concoction they so brilliantly created. I poured it on my burger and used it for every French fry. And the free second and third orders of fries, too.
Speaking of French fries, they were actually pretty good. I am not a huge fan of French fries (you have the option to exchange the fries for macaroni and cheese, but unfortunately, the m&c was not bottomless - I asked) but these were big steak fries, greasy and salted to perfection.
After paying the check and walking to the car, I had the same reaction as to when I saw Avatar in theaters. “All that hype for that? Well, it’s safe to say it was no Titanic.”
Sorry, Red Robin, but your advertisements are misleading and your commercials are misread.