My birthday was in July, and if you register at Red Robin for their Royalty program you get a free burger on your card on your birthday. You have until the end of the month to use it. I guess if your birthday is on the 31st you have to go on your birthday. I figured I'd re-visit and cash it in.
In a largely empty restaurant, the hostess tried to seat me in the bar, where nobody seems to want to sit in this restaurant. I asked for a mini-booth in the dining room. Mostly because I needed a photo of the dining room.
I ordered an iced tea; they have a yellow sweetener but it's a private label and not Splenda, something that I dislike about the big chains.
The amount of marketing materials on the table rivals TGI Fridays; In many ways Red Robin's trajectory mimics the misguided journey taken by TGIF.
Those of you who remember the original Red Robin won't recognize the place; it's been redesigned to appeal to younger, dumber people. A big neon YUMMM sign, bad music from Jamie Cullum and the Cults, and a generally juvenile ambiance.
I made a mistake when ordering; I ordered the Chili Chili Con Queso thinking that it was Chili with Cheese, but it's actually a cheese dip with chips. When they brought it out I just made a face and my server seemed to realize that I wanted chili. They took it away and re-ordered a cup of chili for me.
Because of the snafu, the burger came out before the chili.>
The french fry basket is a trick; it's just a ring so when I tried to move the fries they just flopped onto the tray. They have "Unlimited Fries" here, but they don't give you many initially.
Now the picture on the menu and web site has some nice green lettuce and lots of red onion, but the real burger is nothing like that. First, I cut it to see how it was cooked, and to get a better idea of what was in it.
There were a couple of rings of red onion, 3 mini pickles and some shredded lettuce. The menu says there is relish on it, which is what I suppose makes it gourmet, but I couldn't find any relish. So this was just a regular cheeseburger.
The chili came out, with a less than appealing presentation.
What a mess. Those tortilla strips are so badly needed. I took off the strips and mixed it up. It's not a bad chili. Not very spicy and there's nothing on the table to spice it up, but it's a decent bowl of beef and beans.
The chaos continued as my check was delivered with a $2.86 charge for my Free Burger. Apparently the Queso debacle ran havoc with their POS so they had to re-work the check. It ended up costing me about $7.
Red Robin isn't what it used to be. The great Buzzard Wings are gone. Maybe it's more appealing to kids now, but for $11 I can get a better burger in a better place elsewhere. Thanks for the Freebee though.
Before opening, I went to a "preview", where they give you free food and practice serving actual, grumpy customers.
These previews are training exercises, so just about every employee that works at the place is milling around. There are servers and bussers everywhere. They have a teenager with a clipboard outside, so they do check that you have a reservation before they let you in. Once you get inside, it's sort of like a normal day at a fast food joint, which is a good way to do it.
The first impression is that this location is a lot nicer than the one in Pembrook Pines, which looks like a real fast food joint. This one is more upscale; adults could come to this one without kids. They have a separate bar area with 2 big TVs; not the big horseshoe bar like they had in Lake Grove when I was a Red Robin regular back in the day; but suitable to have a beer or a burger while watching a game.
Red Robin Bar
They have a "dining room" with lots of booths; it definitely bridges the gap between a fast food joint and a real restaurant.
Red Robin Plantation Bar Tables
Unlike Joe's Crab Shack, where they gave me a choice of 2 menu items; they were serving the entire menu. I could get a soft drink, shake, entree or burger and a dessert. The appetizers were apparently rationed; my server said she was out of tickets. I'd already tried the wings in Pembroke Pines so I know that the Buzzard Wings of yesteryear were long gone, so I didn't need to try them again.
Iced tea came out right away.
Red Robin Iced Tea
As you can see, they also have their own seasoning, which I had no interest in sampling. The shake also came out immediately, which was unexpected.
Red Robin Chocolate Shake
This was pretty much ice cream and milk, which isn't a bad thing by any means. There was a whole second glass in the Shake Cup. It's the kind of shake that you can't drink until it melts a bit. I asked for no sprinkles, but, well, that's what training days are for.
I'd ordered the chicken Ensenada, which I assume is supposed to be a Mexican dish. It's supposed to come with 2 cutlets, but my server asked if I wanted 1 or 2. Not wanting to appear greedy given the food was free, I said 1 would be ok.
Red Robin Chicken Ensenada
As it turns out, its not really 2 chicken cutlets; It's one sliced in half and served as 2. The "thin sliced" trick. No matter, I had plenty of food. The chicken was decent, although more cajun than Mexican. The salad was bad; the idea of putting tortillas in a salad to pass it off as "Mexican" is just stupid; and the salsa was likely from a jar. If you're eating light this might be ok, but the chicken would be better on a bun with some pepperjack cheese.
I was getting dessert, and despite my server's cheesecake recommendation, I went with the "Gooey Chocolate Brownie Cake", because it looked so good in the photo.
Red Robin "Gooey" Chocolate Brownie
The brownie was just chocolate cake, the strawberries were frozen and there was some sauce that didn't taste much like chocolate. I didn't like this at all, and chose to leave and avoid the calories. Desserts should be really sweet, and this wasn't.
There's a new Red Robin in Plantation; they're doing this Preview through Saturday and although they claim there are slots available, there are no reservations remaining. So you'll have to wait until Monday April 14 for the grand opening.