9434 Civic Center Blvd.
West Chester, Ohio
As a childless couple my husband and I don’t really fit the Red Robin demographic, but we found ourselves celebrating a birthday there recently with family and I am happy to note that the restaurant chain offers several meat-free options for vegetarians.
The restaurant itself is something of an assault on the senses: the décor leans heavily on bright, primary colors; the walls are covered with an assortment of framed memorabilia; there are TVs in every nook and even lurking beneath the plexiglass floor of the lobby; and they’ve got the classic rock cranked. Add to this mix dozens of families with small children, birthday celebrations, balloons, and beer and you’ve got the makings of either a festive afternoon or a migraine.
Red Robin’s claim to fame is customizable gourmet burgers with a "bottomless basket of fries," which can be refilled as many times as diners like. It’s not exactly the healthiest of gimmicks, and the fries aren’t anything special – just your basic steak fries with a shake of a special Cajun-style seasoning. They would be better off touting their delicious Freckled Lemonade, which comes in a tornado-shaped glass filled with strawberries.
My five-year-old nephew was greatly amused by the Towering Onion Rings (seen in photo on right), a 13-stack tower of sweet yellow onions that have been breaded, seasoned and crispy-fried. He wasn’t keen on actually eating the onion rings, but loved trying to restack them on his plate. He said it reminded him of his little sister’s Fisher-Price Rock’a’Stack toy. I’m not much on fried food, but the onion rings and the two dipping sauces were pretty good.
On the entrée menu there are two vegetarian selections: Red’s Rice Bowl, which is a tame stir-fry of veggies and rice; and a Garden Burger, which was surprisingly tasty and fresh. All burgers come with bottomless fries, but they allow the substitution of a side salad, which is what I opted for. The salad was ok but certainly nothing to write home about. It was bafflingly full of tortilla strips – I’m guessing that perhaps it was an attempt to give some crunch to otherwise limp salad greens. The burger made up for it though, as it was one of the better veggie burgers I’ve tried in awhile. It was juicier than most and you could see bits of shredded vegetables and cheese binding it all together, plus it came topped with fresh shredded lettuce, tomato and red onion on a thick whole grain bun.
Red Robin’s staff is enthusiastic and friendly, and we found the service to be fast and efficient. The food, however, was mediocre. Although I was happy with my Garden Burger, one of our group remarked that their (non-veggie) Royal Red Robin Burger was "probably one of the worst burgers I’ve ever tasted" and another was disappointed in their choice of Carnitas Fajitas because there were only scant amounts of peppers & onion, and the pork was on the dry side. The desserts scored better marks, as their massive Mountain High Mud Pie defeated the best efforts of five adults and two kids to finish it, the milkshakes were rich and creamy, and the birthday celebrant got a free chocolate sundae.
All in all, the restaurant isn’t a place I would go back to in a hurry, but it was a huge hit with the under-six crowd, who were excited to see a guy in a Red Robin costume walking around the eatery, and were delighted with the free helium-filled balloons they received as we were leaving.