Pros: Good food, generally pleasant staff
Cons: a bit tacky, high prices
One of my favorite places to grab a burger and either a bottomless pop or a brew is Red Robin, the ubiquitous restaurant chain that has expanded all over the country (both Canada and the US) since I first became familiar with it in 1997 in Billings, Montana. Since that fateful day, Ive been to the various Red Robins around Vancouver too many times to count, almost always enjoying my visit. (Incidentally, that means that this review deals mainly with Canadian Red Robins, but I cant imagine that it would be too different from the US ones, though the prices might be different).
I think the reason I like going is because it feels comfortable and pleasant. Yes, the service can be iffy at times. Ive run the gamut from overly attentive servers to servers who cant seem to remember that were actually sitting there. One day, we ordered the Nachos with beef. They came out without beef. We sent it back asking that they put the meat on there, and we got it back with a bowl of meat next to it. We had to send it back again to actually get them to make it right. However, each time something like this has happened, the management has been very attentive to our concerns, rectifying the situation and offering some kind of restitution (usually comping our meal or something like that). I can definitely say that, even when the service is bad, its generally pleasant. We have yet to have a surly server, with the closest being a host who couldnt seem to understand our concerns about the booth where he sat us.
The decor has been generally the same throughout the Vancouver locations, so I assume its very similar elsewhere. Its a bit tacky, with lots of various muted colors, red leather booths that are often very tight along with (at least in most of the ones Ive been to) U-shaped booths that are more roomy. There are televisions all over the place so you can watch sports if thats what you want to do, and theres a bar area for those with the inclination to sit there instead. The bartenders, in our experience, are usually very nice as well. Often when we request a U-shaped booth, we discover that the area doesnt have a server at that time, and the bartenders responsible for it. We tell them that were not high maintenance at all and that it would be fine to have the bartender cover us, and theyve always been good about it. Only when its been really busy have we been a bit neglected, and its completely understandable at that point (though it would be nice if they actually had a server for our area if its busy like that).
Ok, enough about the restaurant itself. How about the food? They have a fairly nice variety of dishes, from appetizers (nachos which make a great meal if you get the double order, cheese sticks, wings, stack of onion rings, etc), to gourmet burgers, chicken, pasta, and other meals like that. My wife gets the popcorn shrimp or the Chinese dry ribs all the time, and theyre almost always cooked well. Occasionally the dry ribs are tough, but not too often. I always get either a Banzai Burger (a burger with Teriyaki sauce and pineapple) or a bacon cheeseburger. Ive never had a complaint with my food, with the only problem the occasional miscommunication between server and cook meaning that something gets put on that we asked to be left off. Again, if it becomes a major problem, management steps in very quickly. One time, my wife, who cant eat any mayo, asked to have the mayo left off her burger. When it came with mayo, we sent it back. The cooks just scraped the mayo off, which obviously doesnt do any good when you *cant* have any. At this point the manager stepped in and compensated us for our time and trouble.
The only problem with Red Robin is the high prices. While the online menu doesnt give any prices for me to quote, I can tell you that my bacon cheeseburger and fries come to almost $10, and the wifes dry ribs are something like $7-8 (considering these are considered appetizers despite the fact that my wife eats them as her meal, thats pretty outrageous). A Pepsi is around $2.50 (I think it was $2.29 last time, but I forget), but they are bottomless. The fries are also all you can eat, which goes a ways toward compensating for the high burger prices. Theres also a wide variety of alcoholic drinks, whether you want mixed drinks or just beer. The beer varies by location, but all of the Vancouver ones have featured Rickards brand beer, which is very good. They also have the basics (Bud, Miller, etc), of course. I cant remember how their alcohol prices are, as I havent had one in a while.
Given the number of times I have been to Red Robin (probably over 100 in 10 years), the service and experience is always going to be variable. Occasionally, youre going to get a server in a bad mood, or a cook whos having a bad day. The proof is in how the situation is handled, and Ive never had any problems with that. Generally speaking, I can say that Red Robin is a great place to get a burger (or many other things). I would recommend it wholeheartedly.
Oh, one thing that could improve the experience somewhat. I dont know if its just Vancouver or if its nationwide, but what is this fascination with 80s music piped over the speakers?