I went to a Red Robin restaurant for the first time recently and it was okay. I knew that they focused on burgers and that it was a sit down restaurant, but I didn't expect the restaurant to be as overly festive as it was. It kind of reminded me of the American restaurant in Wee Britain (or Little Britain or whatever they called it) at the beginning of the third season of the awesome show 'Arrested Development' where they served baskets of doughnuts and pitchers of cola.
During my visit I ended up making the mistake of not ordering a hamburger. It was my first time at Red Robin, a restaurant that prides itself on their burgers, so of course I should have ordered a burger, but for some reason I didn't (it might've been because I just didn't find the burgers on the menu that appetizing). I ended up ordering the ‘carnitas burger’, which was alright. The pork was seasoned interestingly, but it was alright. Along with the burger I got their parmesan garlic fries, which sounded and looked really good, but in truth weren't that great.
This was my first visit to Red Robin and I have to admit that I wasn't that impressed. Maybe if I had ordered a real burger I would have had a better experience, but I didn't and this was the experience I did get.
4809 West Hwy 290
Austin, TX 78735
Head Public Restaurant Critic
I went to a Red Robin on a Sunday late morning/early afternoon because a friend of mine wanted to go. This was my second visit to Red Robin -- on my first visit I had a pulled pork sandwich, something which I regretted because in hindsight I realized that I should have tried one of their hamburgers, which is what they tout as their signature dish.
I ended up ordering their "Guacamole Bacon Burger" because I like avocado, and thus guacamole (apparently Red Robin's guacamole is "zesty"), and it also came with "three strips of hickory-smoked bacon with melted Swiss cheese, onions, lettuce, tomatoes & mayo". The burger was good I guess, but it was just too big to eat without it becoming a bit of a mess. Plus, the burger alone was just under $10, and I'm just not that comfortable paying ten dollars for a burger. And, although the burger was huge and I had about half of it left over to eat later, burgers are a food item that reheat poorly, because it contains bread, cheese (optional), beef, and veggies, all of which reheat at different rates, so when you pull the burger out of the microwave, part of it is still cold, part of it is soggy, and part of it has rotted (the lettuce). If you still want to eat a leftover burger without reheating it, then the only option is to eat it cold, at which point the beef and bread has become hard and stiff -- its just not worth it. Anyways, long story short, ten dollar burgers are not my thing, unless they have truffles or expensive caviar on it or are made out of kobe or are gold plated, otherwise, I'll just stick to McDonald's (*shivers*) double cheeseburgers.
Besides the burger, the other thing that kind of spoiled my Red Robin experience is that it’s a family-theme restaurant, so everything is dumb-down and 'safe', from the stupid things on the walls like old posters and signs to a guy (or girl) walking around dressed as Red Robin's mascot saying hi to the kids. It probably didn't help that we were probably eating with the after-church crowd.
But, one thing that pisses me off and which many restaurants do, including Red Robin on this visit, is sing happy birthday to the customers. I hate it when restaurants do that, because it makes one person feel special at the expense of all of the other patrons that become annoyed. On this visit, it was someone's birthday at the table right in front of me, so when a good number of waiters and waitresses came to sing happy birthday, I got a good view of all of their asses and butts as they were right in front of me as I was eating my hamburger -- this would have been fine if I was at Hooter's, but let's just say that the employees at Red Robin's are not working under the same personal fitness standards as the waitresses at Hooter's. But whatever.
All in all, expensive burgers, invasive intrusion of my privacy, and annoying decor. Although, my table's waiter was great -- he was always there to refill my coke and my fries (they have unlimited fries) before I was even done with my coke or fries.
Awesome service (this time), mediocre everything else.
Richard Jones Barbeque is a small, modest barbeque place. I wasn't too hungry on this occasion nor did I want to spend too much on food that I wasn't particularly craving (not that the menu didn't read appetizingly, but I just wasn't that hungry), so I decided to get a brisket-stuffed baked potato.
Now, I've had some really damn fine brisket-stuffed baked potatoes before -- they're awesome and really hard to screw up. So, even though I wasn't that hungry, after ordering the brisket-stuffed baked potato my mouth started watering just from my passive thoughts of it while waiting for it to come. Seriously, I subconsciously cyked myself up for this potato; it was going to be awesome! A brisket-stuffed baked potato is so tasty and flawless to mess up.
Then I got my potato. And a small part of my soulful enthusiasm faded from my body into the aether, never to be recovered. What I received was what can best be defined as a "deconstructed" brisket-stuffed baked potato, and at worst just laziness.
What I received was a baked potato, brisket, cheese, sour cream, barbeque sauce, onions, and pickles, all discrete and separate. The bummer was that during the wait between ordering and waiting for my potato, I had gone from "not hungry" to "Pavlov’s dogs salivating", and then I got my potato. All I wanted to do when I first got my plate was dive right in and start eating; instead I had to assemble the damn thing.
This was one of the lesser brisket-stuffed baked potatoes I have had. But I still gobbled that sum-of-a-bitch right up, after some assembly of course.
Richard Jones Barbeque
2304 S. Congress
Austin, Tx 78704
Head Public Restaurant Critic
This is my second visit to RJ's BBQ, and in my review of my first visit I wrote something along the lines of "It's not great, but it's good enough", and that about sums up this second visit. I wasn't blown away by RJ's, but the food wasn't bad and the quality of service and friendliness of the staff more than made up for any deficiency in the food, so I'm pretty sure this will not be my last visit.
On this occasion, I was torn because I didn't know what I wanted to order. I was eyeing the "Richard Jones Combo Plate" which their online menu describes as a choice of any 2 meats, "smoked BBQ chicken, brisket, or smoked sausage, turkey breast, or ham", "served with pickles, onions, BBQ sauce, and RJ's homemade cornbread, and two sides"; but, RJ's offers two daily specials, and I decided to go with one of their specials that day (Thursday), the chopped steak with mashed potatoes and corn (I substituted the corn for macaroni and cheese). The food was decent, not mindblowing, but homemade. I quite liked it.
Also, I must admit that I really didn't know what "chopped steak" was when I ordered it. I didn't know it was a salisbury steak, which reminds me of that old 'Saved by the Bell' episode where a superstar visits Bayside High and is given a tour of the school by Mr. Belding, and as they're exiting the cafeteria the star confuses the tapioca pudding for salisbury steak or something, I can't really remember.
316 East 6th Street
Austin, TX 78701-3686
Head Public Restaurant Critic
sober: satisfactory non-sober: good
Recently, I was at a local bar just off Sixth Street in downtown Austin. Hungry, I decided to get a slice of pizza from one of the several store front eateries situated on Sixth Street. Before, when I wanted a slice of pizza downtown, I would go to a place called Hoek’s – it was a death metal pizza place, always dark and lit only by red lights, with loud death metal music constantly playing and pierced and tattooed workers that I would not want to get into a mosh pit with. Sadly, Hoek’s closed down and I had to settle for Roppolo’s Pizzeria.
There’s not anything really special about Roppolo’s. It’s pizza by the slice. I paid $3.75 for my slice, which is a little high, but it’s on Sixth Street, so they can get away with charging hungry drunk people more than their pizza’s worth because hungry drunk people will pay anything for a slice of pizza at 2 a.m.
The one thing that did kind of strike me the wrong way was that they had written, on a white board next to their menu, the monthly record for highest tip, which, for the month of February, was $50 (see, drunk people really do just give away their money). Besides the ‘tip record’, it encouraged people to become famous by breaking the record (the record holder gets their name on the white board). Not surprising, I did not break the ‘tip record’ with my tip.
I went to Shady Grove and I wasn't that impressed with the place. My dinner mate and I had nachos as an appetizer, and the nachos had some sort of baked beans on them, which was a bit weird. The menu was kind of limited, but for my entree I had a chicken fried steak smothered with chilies and cheese and a twice baked potato, which was all decent I guess, but everything had a kick to it -- it was all spicy, including the potato. Afterward my tummy hurt. :-(
Contact: HeadPublicRestaurantCritic AT gmail DOT com