I've written about Robin's before several times, but I went there for lunch over the weekend and had something that was surprisingly good - more on that later - so I thought I would do another post. Plus, I sat in a section with better lighting than I have before, so I was able to take some better pictures of the food.
Elizabeth and I had taken her car to the Toyota dealer on Saturday to get it serviced, so we figured instead of going all the way back to our place we would just head up the hill about a mile to my parents' house and watch baseball for a couple hours. First we stopped by the Victory Park farmers market, though, and that made us pretty hungry. So we decided to go to lunch with my parents, and I suggested Robin's, since Elizabeth had never been there.
She immediatly liked the place, and asked me to take a picture of the Schlitz Beers sign for some inside joke. She was disappointed that they didn't have any brisket or pulled chicken on the menu. I almost always order the chopped pork, so I had never considered that. My dad asked, as an aside, why they don't have brisket. The waiter surprised me by saying they are actually going to try doing brisket soon, when "Robin finds a recips that he likes."
Elizabeth and my dad both ordered the chopped pork sandwich with fries. My mom ordered the "Cheeseburger in Paradise" - your basic burger. I ordered something I have never ordered in all times I have eaten at Robin's over the last fifteen years: the beer brat sandwich. Over the last few years I have eaten at the Robin's barbecue stand at several events - the Sierra Madre Art Fair, Old Pasadena Summerfest, South Pasadena farmers market, and others. The bratwurst has never been good; it has always been a dried-out sausage in a burnt casing that appears to have been sitting on the grill for an hour. But I know there is a difference between a barbecue restaurant and the catering arm of their operation, so I figured I would give it a shot.
Elizabeth, my mom and I all had iced teas and my dad had a Dad's root beer. We got a sample of all four sauces: the "tangy original," "mad dog spicy," "Carolina sweet mustard," and "Memphis red vinegar." I love the idea of having different regional kinds of sauce to complement the different meats. Unfortunately, they go too heavy with the sugar in all of the sauces, even the spicy. The Carolina and Memphis are my two favorite, although I fully admit that they bear zero resemblance to any kind of sauce I have had in either Carolina or Memphis. (Add a healthy dose of red chili flakes to the Memphis sauce, however, and you're in the ballpark of what a classic vinegar sauce should be.)
I liked the look of my brat when it arrived; it looked much bigger and juicier than any Robin's sausage I have had from their stands. It was covered with onions and I added some sauerkraut from the dish that accompanied my food, a long with a slather of Grey Poupon. It was outstanding. I gave Elizabeth a bite - actually, I asked her "which end of my weiner do you want?" which made my mom almost spit her drink out - and she thought it was great, too.
I took a couple bites of Elizabeth's chopped pork. It wasn't the best I've had there but it was certainly good. If it had been my sandwich I would have added some vinegar sauce to it, but she liked it fine as is. My dad liked his, too. My mom said her burger was good but I didn't try any.
A few years ago, I stopped going to Robin's. I thought the quality had gone way downhill and when I wanted barbecue without having to drive too far I would just head up to Zeke's. But over the last two or three years, I have to say, Robin's has reached a level of consistency that was not there before. I do not remember the last time I had a bad - or even average - meal there, and that was something that used to happen all too frequently. If indeed they do start making brisket, I will certainly head back to try it.