Happy 6th of July! All the fireworks are now 90% off. But in other, more important news, Happy I’m About to Reach 1,000 Reviews Day! We’re just a few away from 1,000 reviews of fancy, funky, freaky food, guys. It’s extremely exciting. But today, here’s a patriotic pair of burgers that will have your tongue singing Sousa marches all day long. If you happen to know Sousa marches. Okay, so there was a brief (eight year) period in my life when I played the flute in the local adult band. Not nearly as fun, erotic, interesting, or clever as it sounds outside of proving that in high school, I was that guy.
Whatever. Red Robin sent over a gift card to us to review their newest, sexiest burger selection, featuring the first usage of the elusive ghost pepper in a casual dining chain restaurant. The Cry Baby burger and Fiery Ghost burger are two new additions to the chain’s Tavern Double line, which allows you to choose between two sizes of burger, and then, for $1 extra, upgrade with a set of toppings. This is a great, streamlined way to get the Red Robin experience without agonizing over topping selection. One thing that has always confused me about the menu is that they emphasize customization, yet the menu lacks a complete list of toppings, sauces, and bread selection for you to create your own burger with. Instead, you’re picking and choosing elements from other burgers like you’re picking out items from those prefab, modern homes and tallying them up in your head. This way is easier, and includes a row of additional items at the bottom that you can add for an additional surcharge. Much better.
We ordered the two smaller Tavern Double burgers, and shared the latest beer from Blue Moon, Summer Honey Wheat. I’m not a beer person, but I loved this beer. It was fantastic and light, and didn’t weigh us down before our big meal. The flavor was identical to a honey wheat pretzel twist with a little citrus thrown in, and all I could think of when I was drinking it was how cool it would be to cook with this and infuse that phenomenal flavor into chicken or brisket. It was great.
Our burgers arrived shortly, and if you’re wondering now whether the Tavern Double is big enough for your appetite, stop wondering. These are enormous. While both burgers do go light on the dairy-heavy toppings (neither sauce is mayo based) they clock in at roughly 1,200 calories apiece. We chose to each eat half and save the rest for later. Let’s start with the two new sauces. The Fiery Ghost comes with a ghost pepper-infused hot sauce, a thick sauce with a flavor profile better suited toward sweeter sauces, like a curry, than a hot sauce.
It had notes of cumin, cloves and cinnamon that gave some depth to the meat, but lent a sweeter aspect to the burger that didn’t really scream “heat.” However, the Fiery Ghost was hot enough to make tears run down our faces…why? You’ll see. The Cry Baby came with a ketchup, also infused with ghost peppers. We preferred this one because it had a little more of a bite, a cleaner flavor with jalapenos at the forefront. Can’t say that either sauce was extremely hot, but then again, there must be restrictions for the number of Scovilles a restaurant’s sauces can have. Still a decent attempt, and each sauce made an excellent zippy dip for onion rings.
The Fiery Ghost burger was insanely hot. Not due to the aforementioned sauce, but because there were three whole jalapenos chopped up on the burger. You can see one of them sliced in the above photo. This is both good and bad. Good, because in the initial phases of the debut, some reviews had comments complaining about the weak topping distribution. I’m pleased to report that there were a ton of toppings on these burgers. The Fiery Ghost had three fresh chopped jalapenos and around six fried jalapeno coins on top, and the Cry Baby had plenty of fried and caramelized onions. However, this did mean that the Fiery Ghost was incredibly spicy, and the bite of the peppers overwhelmed most of the other flavors.
The Cry Baby had a better balance of flavor. The combination of the sweet caramelized onions and crispy onion strings really brought out the natural flavor of the beef, and the cheese and sauce gave it a bit of a kick. This was more like a steakhouse-style burger than an explicitly spicy one, but it still tasted wonderful.
These were solid burgers, and really fun additions to the summer menu. I think they’re more of a step outside of the norm than the bacon on everything and combined farmyard animal burgers that a lot of restaurants have been debuting. The creativity of the ghost pepper is in the right place, even if the heat is not. I can’t wait to see what else Red Robin concocts!