Red Robin is a national chain, with locations from coast to coast. It originated as a local tavern in Seattle in the 1940s, but didn't begin expanding outside the Seattle area until the 80s. It's a full-service, sit-down restaurant, and it also has a full bar. Red Robin is relatively new to Middle Tennessee - they opened in Murfreesboro and Mt. Juliet a few months ago, and have just recently opened their first Nashville location in the new Nashville West shopping center on Charlotte Pike.
The menu at Red Robin is expansive. Their schtick is offering lots and lots of different burgers with every topping combination imaginable. There's the Bonzai Burger, marinated in teriyaki and topped with grilled pineapple and cheddar cheese. Or the Santa Fe Burger, topped with poblano peppers, guacamole, crispy tortilla strips and pepper jack cheese. Or the Five Alarm Burger, topped with pepper jack cheese, jalapeno peppers, salsa and chipotle mayonnaise. You get the picture. Of course there's also the option to "build your own" from the endless list of toppings and condiments. After visiting the restaurant a few times and trying a few of the readymade burgers, I settled on a modified version of the "Gourmet Cheeseburger," with American cheese, crispy onion straws, red relish and mayo.
Now that's a tasty burger. The only thing is, I think maybe why it's so tasty is because I've come upon a really incredible combination of toppings. And I think, when it comes down to it, that's the appeal of Red Robin - toppings. The burger patties themselves are not very flavorful. But with 101 variations to choose from, you're bound to find something that will make it flavorful. One other note - bottomless french fries. They do have unlimited french fries at Red Robin. Unfortunately, they are steak fries, which are not my preference. But they do have this incredible seasoning on the table for the fries that is pretty interesting.
Five Guys is different from Red Robin in almost every way. It began on the east coast (Washington DC area) in the 80s and began franchising in the eastern U.S. in 2003. It's a fast casual setup and there are peanuts on the floor. The menu is ridiculously simple - burgers, hot dogs, and fries - all cooked to order.
Fresh is really best word I can use to describe the food. The burgers are juicy and the flavor of the beef, seasoned perfectly, really shines through. This is the closest I have tasted to a homemade burger in a restaurant.
The burger-to-bun ratio is just right, and although I usually prefer a plain bun to one with sesame seeds, this bun is awesome, with just the right density and moistness. Although there are plenty of toppings to choose from, I usually get mine with just cheese and grilled onions - I think it complements the flavor of the beef just perfectly. Again, I should also mention the fries. These are some of the best fries I've ever had! They're cut fresh daily and twice fried with the skins left on. The seasoning is perfect. This is what french fries were meant to be.
If I have one beef with Five Guys, it might be the service. I have been to the Green Hills location a few times now, and have seen a noticable decline in courtesy and attentiveness of the employees there. Hopefully the management can nip this trend in the bud so it does not ruin what is an otherwise great restaurant.
Until next time...