Cafe Society

Red Robin's "Cry Baby" and "Fiery Ghost" burgers: Where's the fire?

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I was intrigued by the idea that a popular burger chain would attempt to use the ghost pepper (Bhut Jolokia), which is very, very, very hot: somewhere between 855,000 and 1,000,000 Scoville heat units, compared to a typical jalapeño, which falls between 3,500 and 8,000 Scoville heat units. To unleash this much heat on suburban crowds seemed like a fast-track to a class-action lawsuit.

Here's how Red Robin describes the Fiery Ghost: "The style's star is one of the world's hottest chile peppers -- the ghost pepper, which teams up with both fresh-cut and fried jalapeños atop pepper jack cheese to round out this tour-de-fire."

I asked a company spokesman for more details: "Do you have special prep instructions for the cooks at Red Robin so they don't injure themselves with the peppers? (Think eye-burning, finger-burning, fiery finger-poking...)

"Preparing the Fiery Ghost or Cry Baby burger styles doesn't require the handling of raw ghost peppers," he said. "So no prep procedures are required other than our high standards of quality, safety and sanitation."

Hmmmm...so the peppers come in already cooked? In a relish or something?

And I had another question: "Have there been any reports so far of customers losing their sh*t, being hauled away in ambulances, or choking from the pepper-heat?"

"We have received great feedback from our guests about the Fiery Ghost style and the ghost pepper sauce," he said. "Our goal was to create a flavor profile with the pepper intensity our guests were asking for, but with a balance of ghost pepper spice and the sweet, acidic and salty flavors from the tomato base. In fact, some guests love the sauce so much they have been asking for extra to use as a dipping sauce for their bottomless steak fries."

Obviously, I had to try this for myself. So I trekked to the Red Robin location at 7460 West 52nd Avenue in Arvada around 6 p.m. on a weeknight. The place was fairly empty, but still noisy as hell with the "bleep-bleep-pew-pew!" of video game machines and the lilting refrains of the Dave Matthews band -- since '90s music brings the nostalgia for customers while they are waiting for their bottomless fries refills. I hadn't been to a full-service Red Robin in a while, but not much has changed since my last visit a few years back. There are still walls covered with studied eclectic-retro décor, there are still overpriced cocktails in every color of the neon rainbow, and the servers still ask you if you want your burger cooked with "some pink" or "no pink" -- medium or well done, respectively.
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Jenn Wohletz
Contact: Jenn Wohletz