Reality Check

Reviews of fast food burgers and a look at how the real life version compares to the advertised beauty shot.

Reality Check: Fiery Ghost at Red Robin Packs No Ghost Pepper Punch

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[Photographs: Above, Red Robin; others, Lacey Muszynski]

When I reviewed Red Robin last year I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the burgers, so I jumped at the chance to try their new spicy summer burgers. How spicy? In promotions of their new burger schtick, they tout being the first national chain to use the ghost pepper—known as one of the world's hottest chili peppers—in the form of ghost pepper ketchup. As a spicy food-lover, I figured this would be a great time to finally try something with ghost peppers (though I have been eyeing up that little package of dried bhut jolokias I saw at the grocery store...).

But this is a Reality Check, so cue the sad trombone "womp-womp." These burgers sucked. "Ghost pepper ketchup"? Please. Taco Bell's fire sauce is hotter than this junk. I didn't really expect it to be super hot because they probably dumbed it down for the masses, but this was a joke. It didn't even taste good. It tasted like cold, sweet marinara sauce, with maybe a pinch of cayenne. Heinz plus ghost peppers would have been astronomically a better choice.

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Luckily one burger, the Fiery Ghost, ($7.99), added both fresh and fried jalapeño slices, so at least there was some heat from that. I've always been a big fan of fresh sliced jalapeños on a burger (à la Five Guys) because they give it a nice fresh crunch and heat, but the fried jalapeños lacked anything interesting.

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Both burgers had two patties, something that's a necessity at Red Robin because the patties are so tiny. Sandwiched between the patties was a slice of pepperjack cheese, which wasn't even noticeable.

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The only things that actually tasted good were the onions on the Cry Baby burger ($7.99). They added flavor, though very little heat, even though they were supposed to. The crispy fried onion strings were supposedly tossed in dry Sriracha seasoning, but it tasted more like paprika. Tasty, but not hot. The sautéed onions were cooked with Cholula, which again added some flavor, but very little heat.

Unfortunately the ghost pepper ketchup was slathered on both burgers, essentially ruining them both for me because of the sickly sweetness. I chose to placate myself with bottomless steak fries and root beer floats.

About the author: Lacey Muszynski is an editor, freelance writer and restaurant reviewer from Milwaukee, WI. When she's not burgerblogging on AHT, she might be updating her food blog, making fun of the Food Network, or wondering what her art degree has to do with all of this. Her idols growing up included Martin Yan, Chairman Kaga, and whoever was on Great Chefs, Great Cities that day.

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