Red Robin “Some Pink or No Pink” Gourmet Hamburgers

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I saw someone eating a well-done steak recently and thought to myself, “What’s the point?”  The good news is that it also reminded me that I still needed to write a review for Red Robin, so here it is!

I have just 5 words for you: SOME PINK or NO PINK?”

Those are the infamous words coming out of the so-called "Gourmet" Hamburger Restaurant known as Red Robin. 

Red Robin would like to think of themselves as a "Gourmet" Hamburger Restaurant where they’ll happily prepare your burger to your liking… as long as it’s burned to 160°F or more. 

Unfortunately, there is NO SUCH THING as a gourmet hamburger that’s cooked to "Some Pink" or "No Pink", and Red Robin should be ashamed of deceiving their customers into believing there is.  The fact that they do this indicates one of two possibilities:

  1. They use questionable-quality ingredients in their meat, so they HAVE to burn the living heck out of the meat to keep their customers safe
  2. Their cooks aren’t capable of properly cooking a piece of meat per actual well-established USDA guidelines

Regardless of what your waiter or waitress tells you, the story typically varies from employee to employee. Some even try to blame the state or the county by stating along the lines of  “The county REQUIRES us to cook our meat to 165°F” which is a complete lie.

Chapter 246-215 WAC provides the safety standards for food served or sold to the public in Washington State. Washington adopted the 2001 edition of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Code, with some modifications. The relevant PDF is available here:

Chapter 3 – WAC 246-215 Working Document – PDF Document

The entire 108-page text is also available here for anyone brave enough to decipher it:

Washington State Retail Food Code Working Document – PDF Document

Page 27, Section D states:

(D) A raw animal FOOD such as raw EGG, raw FISH, raw-marinated FISH, raw MOLLUSCAN SHELLFISH, or steak tartar; or a partially cooked FOOD such as lightly cooked FISH, soft cooked EGGS, or rare MEAT other than WHOLE-MUSCLE, INTACT BEEF steaks as specified in  (C) of this section, may be served or offered for sale in
a READY-TO-EAT form if:

  1. The FOOD ESTABLISHMENT serves a population that is not a HIGHLY SUSCEPTIBLE POPULATION, and
  2. The CONSUMER is informed as specified under  3-603.11 that to ensure its safety, the FOOD should be cooked as specified under  (A) or (B) of this section;

                                                          — OR

  1. The REGULATORY AUTHORITY grants a VARIANCE from  (A) or (B) of this section as specified in § 8-103.10 based on a HACCP PLAN that:
  • a)  Is submitted by the PERMIT HOLDER and APPROVED as specified under § 8-103.11
  • b)   Documents scientific data or other information showing that a lesser time and temperature regimen results in a safe FOOD, and
  • c)   Verifies that EQUIPMENT and procedures for FOOD preparation and training of FOOD EMPLOYEES at the FOOD ESTABLISHMENT meet the conditions of the VARIANCE.

In other words, Red Robin COULD prepare burgers to order as long as they (1) Don’t serve food to sick people, (2) They place a blurb in their menu stating that eating raw or undercooked food is potentially bad for you (which they already place in the menu), and (3) they request a "variance" from the state to serve food to order which would require employee training for food preparation and handling. The fact is, Red Robin won’t do this because it’s easier not to, and it’s easier to just serve you an overcooked hamburger instead.

How’s THAT for “Gourmet”?

How long would Daniel’s Broiler or Ruth’s Chris Steak House stay in business if they only offered to cook your steak to “Some Pink or No Pink?” True “Gourmet” hamburgers are made from excellent quality meat and can be cooked to order.

Rant aside, there are other aspects of Red Robin that make it well worth avoiding if you’re truly looking for Gourmet food. The inconsistent wait-staff is one. Your mileage may vary when it comes to drink refills or basic attention to needs for napkins, forks, etc… I can easily recall several times when my glass spent more time empty than full. Iced tea that actually has ice in it is also tough for them to understand, and they’ve actually served me warm “iced” tea before.

On the rare occasion when the food is prepared properly and the wait staff is on their game, the experience isn’t awful by any means, especially compared to your other choices in Monroe, WA. There’s lots of room for improvement here, however, but they don’t seem to be making much effort to change for the better, even though the General Manager, George Constantine, assured me they were.

I don’t want my burger to smile at me, Red Robin. I want to smile because the food tastes good and because you prepared it the way I asked (and paid) you to prepare it. The only burger on their menu that’s appropriately named is the “Five Alarm Burger”.  Go figure.

Other "Favorite" Red Robin Burgers:

•  The Carbon14 Burger
•  The Burnzai Burger
•  The ‘Stop, Drop & Roll’ Burger

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