Red Robin v. Johnny Rockets at Annapolis Mall
My wife and I were at the mall on Saturday evening, which has never happened before, but we were running errands, and that's how it worked out.
I remembered that there was a Red Robin there, and we'd recently watched a Chow clip of the Supertaster trying their Ghost Pepper burger. As a dedicated chile fan I suggested giving it a shot. It took a minute to get through the front door of the restaurant, as two employees were gleefully scraping the name of a manager off of the glass. I'm sure there's a story there, but I couldn't care less what it is. I'm probably just getting old, but I'm of the opinion that it's a bad idea to impede customers from entering your place of business, and such a cosmetic issue would have been better handled after service hours. Once we got inside and walked up to the hostess station a crowd of young ladies stood staring at us as if they couldn't imagine what we might want. "Two for dinner." This threw them into a frenzy as no fewer than five waitresses and I assume a hostess or two swarmed around a chart of the restaurant's, which was moderately busy, tables. After no less than 4 full minutes one of them finally looked at us and proclaimed, "it'll be about 5 minutes." This with at least a half dozen empty and freshly cleaned tables clearly available much, much sooner. Added to this was a general sense of chaos, from the semi open kitchen, and waiters. Everyone just sort of stumbled around looking dazed.
I looked at my wife, widened my eyes, and we both spun on our heels back outside and into Johnny Rockets.
On entry two waitresses greeted us and bid us to sit wherever we wanted. We slid into a booth and were promptly waited on, drink orders were delivered followed quickly enough by burgers. I opted for the Houston which offered some claim to heat with jalapenos (pickled alas), and a spicy mayo. Not really spicy to my burnt out palette, but I'm sure someone would have thought it was. My wife opted for a double as she's all no-carb and tossed the bun on arrival. The option of a side salad or fries worked well for her although she never actually got to the salad. I got the half fries, half rings. The burgers were good. Not earth shattering, or revelatory, but good. We both agreed that they had better, fresher beef flavor than 5 Guys, and the buns and toppings seemed fresher, or at least lest squished into foil and tossed in a bag like 5 Guys. Fries were perfectly decent, and the onion ring were better than average.
The best thing really was the customer service. The young ladies working were friendly, efficient, and seemed to be enjoying themselves as they raced around seeing to everyones needs. As much as we generally revile the mall, we may have a new burger spot when I don't feel like grilling at home. Maybe Red Robin has better burgers. We'll probably never find out.
I've been to Red Robin twice. The first time, they gave us a 45 minute wait (to eat a hamburger?). There were televisions blaring everywhere (even embedded in the floor) so we left. The second time, I arrived just as they opened for lunch. The place was empty, but I had to wait 10 minutes for some reason. The burger was no different from any other Chilis/Ruby Tuesdays/TGI McPickle$h!tters chain burger. Fries were okay.
Haven't set foot in a Johnny Rockets in years, but I recall their service being better than average and their burger just fine.
The burgers and fries at Red Robin are pretty decent, but nothing outstanding. It's a great place for kids to run wild at, but if you're just in the mood for a burger and fries, Johnny Rockets is a better option. Simple, clean, prompt, and not bugnuts insane inside (like Red Robin inevitably is).