Because I write food reviews, people assume that I like food. Yet you’d be surprised at how many people give me gift cards for chain restaurants.
4373 La Jolla Village Drive, University City
I get ‘em all: Chili’s, Applebee’s, Buffalo Wild Wings. If there is a chain that sells easy-to-find gift cards at a supermarket, old Patrick is going to get it for a birthday or anniversary.
There are some times near the end of the month when those cards come in handy.
It was a humble little gift card for Red Robin that brought my son, his friend, and me to UTC on a recent Saturday afternoon.
To be honest, I’ve heard decent things about Red Robin from people who like food. However, my last visit to a Red Robin was 27 years ago. I didn’t eat there. I was working.
Back in college, I spent a summer working as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle at parties. One of those parties was at a Red Robin for a boy who had recovered from leukemia.
I was supposed to be Michelangelo for the first part of the party, lead the kids through games, then leave for 45 minutes and come back in Donatello — all wearing a football helmet covered with a turtle mask that clearly violated U.S. copyright laws.
The kids kicked my legs while the father, who enjoyed a few drinks before my appearance, slapped my shell hard.
“Great to see you,” he said. “Really appreciate it!! I told Dylan that if he recovered, we’d have this party for him.”
I was touched.
“Thank you. That reminds me. Your deposit check bounced so I need to be paid in cash in advance.”
Now it’s 2017, and I’m sitting with my son and his friend at the Red Robin in UTC. He orders a kid’s burger with meat, lettuce and tomato and salad on the side ($6.99). Both come with a drink and a bottomless side dish. They ask me to get the bottomless steak fries in hopes I will share.
“Why do they call them steak fries when they’re not made of steak?” the friend asks.
“If it’s a bottomless side, does that mean it will spill all over the floor?” my son asks. .
I ordered the $5 deep-fried pickles to share before ordering the A-1 Peppercorn burger ($11.49), made with bacon, pepper jack, A-1 peppercorn spread, tomatoes, and deep-fried onions on an onion bun.
The pickles were served quickly and were crispy and tangy, especially with the Campfire sauce (BBQ sauce and mayonnaise).
The drinks were slow to arrive. The waitress explained they were out of kids' cups. I had to remind her two other times before those drinks came.
The boys were happy with their meals. I didn’t try them. My son wants to go back for the burger.
As for me, that A-1 Peppercorn burger had three measly half-strips of bacon and a bun that was doughy and undercooked — and I did not taste anything resembling anything tasting like peppercorn at all.
I repeatedly had to ask for mustard. To keep calm, I reminded myself that I was paying for this with a gift card.