Red Robin

Gourmet Cheeseburger

Walking up to the Red Robin building in Spokane Valley, I could smell burgers—and they smelled good. I always consider it a good sign when a restaurant smells appetizing before you even walk in. Some places smell like old grease on the outside, which I find off putting. Red Robin smells like delicious burgers grilling.

There are three Red Robin locations in the Spokane area, and I’ve eaten at all of them multiple times. I generally like Red Robin’s food, although I will admit I don’t usually order their burgers. I do sometimes, but that Whiskey River BBQ Chicken Wrap is usually what I’m in the mood for. And their fries, of course.

I walked in just after the lunch rush, and found the restaurant still surprisingly busy. I didn’t wait more than a minute or so to be seated, and a few minutes later my server welcomed me and took my drink order. I asked for water, which was delivered very quickly and in a pleasantly large glass. I tend to drink a lot of water when I’m eating, so I was happy to see the default vessel was big.

Flipping through the menu, I found a page proclaiming Red Robin “the burger authority,” and informing me the restaurant has been in business since 1969. The chain was founded in Seattle, although its headquarters are now located in Colorado. At the time of this writing, there are over 500 locations scattered across the country.

The Burger

OK, I know that one wrap is pretty good, but this time I’m at Red Robin to review the burger that made them famous: The Red Robin Gourmet Burger. It’s your classic cheeseburger, featuring a fire-grilled beef patty, your choice of cheese, tomatoes, red onions, shredded lettuce, pickles, mayo and something called “Red’s pickle relish.” I ordered mine with cheddar cheese and asked that the pickle and relish be left off. The waitress asked if I liked pink, and I requested it have no pink.

When my food arrived, my first impression of the burger was that it was beautiful. Seriously, just take a look at the picture I snapped. The lighting wasn’t the best, but it should still get across what a fine-looking burger this is. Seriously, this may just be the prettiest burger I’ve ever eaten.

The perfectly formed bun, adorned with sesame seeds, was lightly toasted but still soft, with just the right amount of give. I pulled a little piece off and ate it, and even on its own it had a good flavor.

The ingredients appeared to be fresh, with no sign of wilting or discoloration on any of the lettuce. The red onions were crisp and added a good flavor, but tended to overpower the more subtle flavors I wanted to taste.

I asked that the burger be cooked with no pink, which is how it arrived, but I wish it would have been warmer. It was disappointing for such a good-looking burger to be lukewarm on the first bite. The patty was also a tad on the dry side. It’s true cooking out the pink requires a longer cooking time, which can translate into a drier patty, but there are definitely steps that can be taken to prevent this. Using meat with a slightly higher fat content will also help with the perception of moisture, because the presence of fat in the mouth increases saliva flow. This burger was far from greasy, but a little grease is a good thing (both for moisture and flavor), so eliminating it to this extent is actually working against Red Robin.

The Fries

Like McDonald’s, Red Robin has a great reputation regarding their fries. This is partly because they give you free refills, but also because they’re damned good fries. In fact, I would go so far as to say that what McDonald’s does for shoestring fries, Red Robin does for steak fries. I am genuinely impressed by Red Robin’s ability to deliver steak fries that are crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and not the least bit greasy. They’re hot without being overcooked, although they are very often literally too hot to handle.

The fries come under-seasoned for my taste, but with both salt and Red Robin’s signature seasoning at every table, customers can easily adjust the flavor to their liking. The salt doesn’t cling to the fries very well, but the seasoning does, and it’s usually what I want to add anyway.

The amount of fries that came on my plate was paltry, and I feel like Red Robin put more effort into the presentation of their fries than into considering their customers’ desires. I’d rather have an extra handful of fries than to see them all sticking out of that weird, oversized napkin ring.

Additional fries are free, however, and about halfway through my meal, my waitress stopped by to ask if I wanted more. I said yes, and a basket of fries were at my table in a surprisingly short amount of time. The amount I got looked like it was designed for 2 or 3 people to share.

The Price

For about $10 (before tax), I was able to get not only a burger, but enough fries to make me sick, if I had cared to eat that many. Actually, my burger, the fries on my plate, and a little over half of the additional fries had me full without feeling stuffed.

Considering the freshness of the ingredients, the fact you can eat as many fries as you like, and the size of the drink glasses, I’d say there is good value to be found at Red Robin.

The Restaurant

I ended up waiting kind of awhile for my food, which was annoying because I was hungry, but a bit of a wait isn’t unexpected for a sit-down restaurant. It gave me a good chance to really look around and notice the décor.

A few years ago, the Red Robin restaurants in our area updated their aesthetic to a more contemporary look. It’s generally pretty nice, although it retains a few touches of the previous “controlled chaos” style of wall decoration that was popular in the late ‘90s.

The temperature in the dining room made me wish I had a jacket, and although my chair looked pretty cool, it wasn’t especially comfortable and was slightly too low for the table.

The staff were constantly buzzing around the restaurant, giving a sense that if you needed to get someone’s attention, you wouldn’t have to wait long. On the other hand, it also gave the dining room a bit more of a sense of commotion than is conducive to a relaxing meal. Red Robin is also popular with families, so if kids are something you want to avoid, you should try to go to Red Robin at a time when children aren’t likely to be there (or even awake, for that matter).

The music wasn’t too loud, and on the day I was there, it was what some might call “hipster music.” I liked it, but Contemporary Folk isn’t for everyone.

The bathroom was mostly clean, although the floors were sticky, and I get the impression it only gets cleaned once a day, unless someone makes an especially large mess.

Paying my bill was dead-easy, thanks to the Ziosk tablets at every table. Not only can you use the Ziosk to pay your bill without having to wait for your server, but you can also use it to order appetizers, desserts, drink refills, and call your server to your table.

Simply looking at the Red Robin Gourmet Cheeseburger was the high point of the meal, and although it was generally well-made, it has a few strikes against it. I would definitely order the burger again, keeping in mind what I learned this time. Or better yet, order one of the many other burgers Red Robin offers.

Combine the burger with bottomless fries for about $10, and it’s hard to go wrong with Red Robin. They have an extensive menu with tons of options for burgers, entrées, drinks, desserts, appetizers, and more. There really is something for everyone, which makes it a great place to come with your family.

If you enjoy Red Robin’s food, I suggest joining the Red Robin Royalty program. It’s free to sign up and you get a bunch of discounts and offers, including a free burger every year during your birthday month. (I’m not being compensated in any way to say this, I just want you to enjoy free food.)

Red Robin Spokane Valley
14736 E. Indiana Ave. Spokane, WA 99216
(509) 921-1634

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Disagree with my review? That's cool, people have different tastes. Feel free to leave a comment and tell me why you think I got this one wrong. But keep your comments civil or they'll get deleted.

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