Location: 12646 Route 59, Plainfield
Information: 815-230-3056, www.redrobin.com
has a lot more to chirp about than just their famous gourmet burgers.
In fact, we were surprised by how much we enjoyed other things on their menu, such as the chicken tortilla soup and the spinach wrap. Even their catchy name channels the upbeat song, Rockin' Robin, which I began humming subconsciously while viewing the menu. No doubt a subliminal message to make you think fun, fun, fun!
The restaurant is brightly colored and lavishly decorated Americana. You're greeted by the Statue of Liberty proudly displaying a cheeseburger on her famous torch, and just about every square inch of the place, floor to ceiling, is covered in vintage posters and memorabilia. Look for the life-sized carousel horse, which was once part of a merry-go-round.
We started with the strawberry lemonade (just 10 calories!) that came served is a whimsical hurricane-shaped glass and featured fresh-sliced strawberries floating near the bottom. It was both tart and sweet, and the strawberries added natural sweetened flavor. A bit pricey at $4, but the free refills help justify the cost.
Red Robin is known for its gigantic gourmet burgers, but as we discussed the menu with our friendly server, we learned there is one entree that outsells them: the Whiskey River barbecue chicken wrap. That made me curious, and since I'd had their amazing burgers before, how could I resist trying something new?
It was very good, despite a couple of shortcomings. The sandwich features diced chicken coated with barbecue sauce and mixed with shredded cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, lettuce and ranch dressing, all folded into a spinach tortilla wrap.
The chicken was excellent -- moist, with a tangy barbecue favor -- but the tortilla chips were very crunchy and completely unnecessary. I was also disappointed that the ranch dressing was almost nonexistent. Fortunately, I had no trouble getting more.
The wrap was accompanied by the restaurant's trademark "bottomless" steak fries, which are are similar to thick-cut fried potato strips and served with a highly addictive campfire sauce (a combo of BBQ sauce, mayo and season salt). All in all, $10 was a fair price for this good-sized meal.
I also ordered the Santa Fe chicken tortilla soup, made with cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, chicken, corn, black beans, sour cream and tri-colored tortilla chips. It's more like a Tex-Mex dish than a simple cup of soup, hearty and full-flavored. It's a great choice if you're not looking for a heavy entree. A cup is $3, a bowl $5.
The BLTA (bacon, lettuce, turkey, avocado) croissant was another pleasant surprise, consisting of sliced turkey, applewood smoked bacon, fresh avocado slices, lettuce, tomato and mayo. Topped off with honey poppy-seed dressing, this combination was fantastic!
For starters, it's rare to find croissants offered on a menu as a replacement for bread. And the addition of turkey and avocado to the old BLT standard was a step up in my book. The croissant was flaky, buttery and fresh. This entree also came with steak fries, all for $10.
One item that went whizzing past our table and we wished we had sampled was the onion ring tower ($8) -- literally 13 onion rings stacked one on top of the other on a vertical stand. It simply screams fun. It's served with campfire sauce and ranch dressing for dipping.
We saved room for dessert, and good thing, too. The hot apple crisp with warm caramel sauce, cinnamon and vanilla ice cream ($6) was a real treat. This dish is about as American as you can get, other than Mom's apple pie, and Red Robin's could give Mom a run for her money. In one word, delicious! It's similar to an apple crumble with oatmeal cookie crumbs on top and large enough to feed three people.
This is the fourth Red Robin I've dined at, and it's now my favorite. The atmosphere, food and service were superior to what we've experienced at its locations in Naperville, Wheaton and Wisconsin.
The place is huge -- it can seat up to 280 -- and the noise level can get high when it's crowded. But there was a lot of laughter while I was there, so clearly diners were having a rockin' good time.