Chain Restaurant Reviews: Red Robin in Deer Park, IL

Red Robin was close to my old apartment, so much so that it felt like an extension of my home. I've been to Red Robin more times than I can count, from my 24th birthday party (which was paired with an at-home viewing of S1 of Are You the One?) to that time my ex-boyfriend met my husband and we took him out for a burger (he loved it, and, thank you for asking, we did have a nice time). But overexposure to RR made me start picking other places instead, and then I started acting like an adult with my money and stopped going out to eat all of the time. :(

Then the other weekend, my friends Sarah and Emily were in town from the city and craving some of that suburb chain restaurant goodness. When they asked which chain restaurant we'd go to, I played coy, listing, like, two others before Red Robin. When they said they didn't "really care," I was like, "Yeah, me neither... Let's just go to Red Robin then? We could go to Red Robin?" I said it like a question.

The interior of the Red Robin in Deer Park is decorated in the same way that maybe someone who overheard someone else describing a Hard Rock Cafe would decorate their establishment: plush, burger-shaped seats coated in stiff plastic; a wall hanging of glass soda bottles in varying colors; and neon lights that spell out "YUMMM." 

The four of us were seated in a comically large booth meant for at least eight people, which was nice because it's summer and I don't really like being close to people, not even my best friends and/or husband. We sat down by a kid who had recently shit himself, but they left afterward and the smell faded pretty quickly back to "fried food." 

Adam, our waiter, was kind of bro-y in that way that many in the chain restaurant industry are. Like, super nice to us, but also probably uses the word "bitch" a lot in his day-to-day conversation. He brought me a Diet Coke that I thought was a regular Coke, so I said, "Excuse me, sorry, I think this is a regular Coke?" So he brought me another one, and it tasted the exact same. I then realized was because of a massive syrup imbalance and then pretended like it was cool and tasted great because I didn't want to keep bothering him. I drank half of it.

Sarah and Emily ordered a spinach and artichoke dip with tortilla chips for $7, which they encouraged me to sample. The menu uses the word "creamy" both in the name and in the description. If I were to guess the ration of cream to vegetable, I would say 3:1. It tasted sort of like thick, salty milk with an echo of spinach.

I ordered a Boca burger with no bun and a side of buffalo sauce. Oh, no. Sorry. Buzz Sauce. It's Buzz Sauce at Red Robin, and I know this now because every time I said "buffalo sauce," I was corrected. Every burger comes with your choice of side, which is confusing because who is not going to choose fries? I paired them with a really garlicky garlic aioli. It was so, so, so good.

Emily also got a side of the regular fries, and was greeted with a surprise fry that was still frozen. She told everyone at the table to touch it, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. Justin and Sarah both did, and they made noises of repulsion. I love myself. I don't do those kind of things to myself. 

At the end of the meal, I leaned back in my seat, and above me was a black-and-white framed picture of a woman. She had her hands held to her cheeks and was screaming in fright. Who was she, this woman? An actress? A burger eater? A prisoner? Emily joked that maybe Adam had also given her the fry, and then I mimicked the woman's expression and held my hands to my cheeks and started (quietly) fake screaming. Emily and I laughed and Justin and Sarah did not.

Sometimes going back to someplace you used to love makes you wonder why you loved it in the first place, but I would say this trip only sharpened that love. Overall, I would give the Red Robin in Deer Park 9/10 stars, with a one star deduction because of the whole Diet Coke thing and the cold fry.

Hale GoetzComment