Red Robin is a favourite casual dining chain of mine because they love to experiment with different burgers, buns and toppings to produce unique combinations that I've at times only seen more available at Burger Fresh or The Counter. For the month of October, they have made a wonderful Oktoberfest Burger that is inspired by German Cuisine. So with that here is your....
1/3 lb beef patty cooked to order
German Black Forest Ham
grainy beer mustard sauteed onions
Whole Leaf Lettuce
all on a pretzel bun
One word: ACHTUNG BABY!!! Okay that's two words, but wow! This burger is a wonderful mix of bitter and savoury flavours offset by the sweetness of the beef and the saltiness of the pretzel bread bun. I've only had a burger on a pretzel bread bun at one other place: The Counter on Washington Avenue. I'd heard about pretzel buns used for burgers at a joint in Chicago on The Cooking Channel, so the fact that Red Robin deigned to do this is of no surprise, considering many of the different kinds of burgers they have on their menu as well as the special burgers they roll out each month.
I also noticed that Red Robin has stepped up its service quality and seems very committed to maintaining high levels of service. Given the debate I've seen online, in print and on TV regarding how customer service levels have been falling in North America, it is good to see one of the limited casual chains doing what it can to maintain the service levels. Just as a personal note: Red Robin is a chain that I visit once or twice a month. I have only on ONE occasion in 10 years had bad service, and when I addressed the issue with management, it was taken care of promptly. I've heard some folks make remarks about other locations around the country--what I hear is usually the service is very good, but every once in a while it has been poor.
What I am more specifically referring to is that wait staff were faster in their call backs the last 2 visits I've made there than they were the previous few times, there was a manager visibly circulating on the floor as well as on the cooking and the wait line areas, and the manager circulating was checking on customers, as well as backing up the wait staff. I don't know what brought this on--maybe the media coverage about this being the "Post Service Era" prompted some self-examination, or maybe there were several complaints and on the national level they felt it needed to be addressed. Whatever prompted it, Red Robin is clearly committed to keeping its service levels proper and I am grateful that they are doing so.
One other comment: Red Robin has provided allergen and sodium info way before other national chains have provided it and they are very willing to accommodate low or no salt cooked food at the customer's request. My mom is on a low sodium diet and really appreciates their doing this. Other restaurants need to start doing both of these if they aren't already doing so.
Since Red Robin is a chain and they have that standard kitschy atmosphere, I won't grade them on that attribute.
The Foodie Professor's Report Card for Red Robin's Oktoberfest Burger:
Oktoberfest Burger: A-
Cleanliness of Location: A
Overall Grade: A-
Red Robin has locations all over Houston, the US and Canada. I went to the Houston Westchase location.
Zao an, Y'all!!!