Review

Red Robin: A bite of burger heaven

When Red Robin Gourmet Burgers flew into Central Florida in 2010, the name seemed mighty familiar to some burger fans. They were right.

In the 1980s Red Robin Burger & Spirits Emporium, a precursor to the present-day company, landed in Casselberry's Lake Howell Square shopping center.

That quick-serve eatery closed a long time ago, but the Red Robin company continued to evolve and has re-entered the Central Florida market as Red Robin Gourmet Burgers. There are two locations: Port Orange, which opened in 2010, and Winter Garden, the newest area franchise.

Today's Red Robins have been singled out by restaurant-rating guide Zagat as having the "Best Burger" in the full-service category for four consecutive years. In 2011 Parents magazine named Red Robin one of the "10 Best Restaurant Chains" for families.

I stopped by the Winter Garden restaurant this week. The menu has a variety of items highlighting chicken, fish, soups, shakes and salads, but I decided to stick with the namesake burgers.

The gourmet cheeseburger ($8.99) is the restaurant's original sandwich. It came dressed with shredded iceberg lettuce, a tomato slice, pickles, onions, mayo and Red Robin's signature pickle relish. We added cheddar (American, Swiss, blue, provolone and pepper Jack are cheese options, too). It was a pretty straightforward sandwich. The beef flavor was over-the-top and the leftovers traveled well.

Our guacamole bacon burger ($10.29) came topped with freshly mashed avocado, smoked bacon, melted Swiss cheese, onions, shredded lettuce, tomatoes and mayonnaise. We held the mayo and onions and asked for extra guac. The avocados gave the sandwich a luxurious buttery edge.

The prime chophouse burger ($10.49) was enhanced with tender horseradish-sautéed mushrooms, steak sauce, provolone cheese and crispy onion straws. The condiments combined for a mellow flavor with just a slight kick. The onion-flavored bun and creamy, country Dijon sauce brought it all together.

Burgers are huge. A half was more than ample and I noticed other guests were sharing sandwiches.

All burgers and chicken sandwiches come with bottomless steak fries. There is no extra charge for substituting a single-serving of a side salad, steamed broccoli or coleslaw for the hot and crisp potato planks. The slaw was a nicely balanced vinegary mix of red and green cabbages.

For those looking for something more indulgent, the mac and cheese ($2.29) is comfort-food good.

So, you might be wondering what a bird has to do with a place that prides itself on its burgers.

The company's roots reach back to the 1940s. The owner of Sam's Tavern near the University of Washington was known to sing "When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along)" with his barbershop quartet. It was such a favorite warble he changed the tavern's name to Sam's Red Robin.

The rest is burger history.

hmcpherson@tribune.com

Red Robin

Gourmet Burgers

Where: 3310 Daniels Road, No.102, in Winter Garden; 5537 S. Williamson Blvd. in Port Orange.

When: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday and Saturday

How much: $7.99-$13.49

Beverages: Full bar

Wines by the glass: From $4.99

Extras: Good for groups, gluten-free options, separate bar area, table service, children's menu, specialty cocktails, takeout

Call: 407-654-0626 for Winter Garden; 386-322-1570 for Port Orange

Credit: American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa

Online: RedRobin.com and Facebook

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