Reality Check »

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

Reality Check: Oktoberfest-inspired Fare at Red Robin

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[Photograph: Red Robin; others, Lacey Muszynski]

Judging from Red Robin's latest batch of limited time menu items, Oktoberfest seems to be a big event for them—but then again, they seem to tailor their burger toppings for every possible occasion. So why not go German? Not only do they add all things mustard to their special Oktoberfest burger, they make it a three-course event with a pretzel app and a beer milkshake. So in honor of Oktoberfest, I tried all their German-inspired specials.

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First, the namesake burger, the Oktoberfest B├╝rger ($9.99, in Wisconsin; prices may vary by location). Since my experiences at Red Robin have been mixed—my most recent visit wasn't great, but my Chain Reaction review visit wasn't half bad—I wasn't really sure what to expect. Luckily, this burger was pretty good. They take the standard six-ounce patty, cook it "with pink" if you prefer (I did), top it with Swiss cheese, mustard grilled onions, sliced ham, and more mustard, all on an ever-so-trendy pretzel bun.

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You really have to like mustard for this one, but thankfully the coarse ground mustard is relatively mild. The ham, while mostly just salty and not lending much of any other flavor, was better quality than I figured it would be, and was grilled to get rid of any deli meat sliminess. The onions were pretty mild and sweet. The pretzel bun was a little dry and tough, as I've always felt these pretzel breads can be. Sure looks nice, though.

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[Photograph: Red Robin]

There are plenty of Germans in Wisconsin, so it only makes sense to merge the two food heritages into the Pub Crawl style burger ($9.59). I opted to get it with the standard six-ounce patty instead of two smaller patties for $1 more.

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If you're mustard adverse but want to get in the German spirit, this is the burger for you. It's topped with those same mustard onions, but the mustard is very mild in this application. Bacon and Merkt's beer cheese spread round out the mix. The beef on both the burgers had a great charred flavor and was cooked medium well. My only complaint on this burger was that there wasn't enough of the cheese spread.

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Which brings me to the pretzel bites appetizer ($4.49), served with that same beer cheese spread and mustard. In true Wisconsin fashion, I've always been a fan of "cold pack cheese food" such as Merkt's. As a warm dip for pretzels, this tastes like the thickest, cheesiest beer cheese soup you've ever had. And the little pretzels have a delicious crunch on the outside—I suspect they might have been quickly deep fried. Delicious.

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And if you're not too full of German goodness by this point, you can have a beer milkshake ($4.59) made with Sam Adam's Oktoberfest, vanilla ice cream, and caramel. The wheat flavor hits you first, followed by a mellow vanilla and caramel at the end. The beer flavor—plus sweetness—is there, without any of the bitterness.

Note: Oktoberfest items are available until November 11 or while supplies last.

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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