Despite months of reviewing dishes from all over Baton Rouge, I’ve yet to encounter a dish as strange and unsettling as the Red Ramen Burger from Red Robin. Introduced earlier this month, the Ramen Burger is not a normal burger topped with Ramen, what most people would initially envision, but rather a burger whose buns have been replaced with crispy Ramen patties.
Obviously trying to tap into the typical college student’s unholy loyalty to the dirt-cheap and unsatisfying noodle, Red Robin appears to be out of options for “gourmet” burgers that got actually got approved at headquarters. Now, they’re going back to the drawing room floor for the scraps that got tossed and laughed out the door five seconds into the pitch. Except this burger wasn’t even on their drawing room floor because the idea was actually “borrowed” from a boutique burger joint in Brooklyn called Smorgasburg who debuted the idea in 2013.
Disregarding whether or not Red Robin stole the idea, the abominable Frankenstein of a sandwich has two buns made of ramen, a burger patty, topped with Teriyaki and Chiu Chow aioli, plus a medley of chili-infused shredded cabbage, carrot and onion. Top it all off with a garnish of fresh basil and you’ve got a dish that would make the Japanese kill the waiter to protect their honor. It’s such a weird way to pay homage to the normally glorious Japanese cuisine that even this culture, the one that fries squid and insects in a bucket of oil, wouldn’t even try.
I can at least appreciate Red Robin’s attempts here. A national chain that no one seems to love, especially in the South, tries to garner some online buzz with an idea that’s sure to pop up on millennial blogs. I get it, but for Pete’s sake at least pretend like you think we have a ceiling on our tolerance for absurdities. The guts that it takes to pander this low to a fan base that’s got an almost endless supply of burger options is off the charts. Is this really what they think will get kids in the doors? Maybe they don’t realize that no one eats Ramen because they want to. It’s because tuition, loans and textbooks have become so ridiculously overpriced that paying 20 cents for a “meal” is the only option we’ve got left.
Red Robin, enough gimmicks. If you want customers, try making decent food.
Photo by Sean Richardson.