The locally headquartered Red Robin burger chain has produced some weird stuff lately, like the noticeably un-hot Cry Baby and Fiery Ghost burgers, Freestyle Coke machines that will eventually destroy humanity as we know it, and those blecky beer milkshakes. But the chief execs at Red Robin appear to be making up for those three strikes by offering customers four really good things: They brought back their above-average tasting artichoke and spinach dip, they reintroduced their badass Chili Chili Cheeseburger, they added warm pretzel bites with beer cheese sauce to the menu, and they finally declared the winning burger of their "Bring My Burger Back Contest."
And the winner is?
Fulfilling one of my wish-list hopes, Red Robin is officially bringing back the popular -- and contest winning -- 5 Alarm Burger on March 19. It's of my favorites: a nice-sized slab of ground beef smothered in jalapenos, salsa and chipotle aioli that's even better if you ask for extra onion straws on it.
Red Robin also decided to resurrect the Chili Chili Cheeseburger, my number two favorite: a burger slathered with Cheddar cheese, onions and decent house chili. This burger is available now, and again, I recommend ordering it with extra onion straws for maximum delish-ability.
Because the contest was so popular -- 250,000 votes -- Red Robin will also be bringing back the three runners-up: the Honey Mustard Chicken Burger, One Great Chicken Sandwich and the Santa Fe Burger, with their releases staggered through 2013. And all of those will no doubt be even better with extra onion straws as well.
I'm also happy to see the artichoke and spinach dip make a comeback (why the spinach-licking hell it got canned in the first place I dunno). Sure, every restaurant on planet Earth has some variation of this dip, but Red Robin's version is warm, super-creamy, an adequate portion size and comes with soft wedges of focaccia as well as chips. The bread works better, so I hope the chain works out a better focaccia-dip ratio this round.
I'm pretty psyched to try the new pretzel bites, too. Despite the fact that TGI Friday's and Applebee's have had these for a while now, I'm forgiving Red Robin for coming to the pretzel-party late, and embracing the fact that the crew showed up at all.
But trend-jacking also has a dark side, now in the form of Red Robin's new Irish Beer Shake, made with Guinness Draught, Jameson Irish Whiskey and chocolate ice cream. I tried one. It tasted like a drink I had probably made in college, after I was already pretty drunk.
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Will adding extra onion straws help the beer shake? I doubt it, but Red Robin still has an entire menu of gourmet burgers, bottomless steak fries and non-beer-adulterated shakes to keep me interested.