BBQ Review: Let Down in Pasadena

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We’ve been to Robin’s BBQ a few times before but it has been a couple years.  I remember having mixed emotions about the place, and wanted to put a final verdict on it.  So we loaded up the big white van and headed to Pasadena for some research (we needed to make a Whole Foods stop, as well!).

You walk into Robin’s and you immediately experience a visual beat-down brought on by their over-the-top decorations.  The walls are covered by a mix of retro, Americana, and small town memorabilia.  Less is more, I say.  But the delicious smell more than makes up for the tackiness of the decor.  It really smells like you’ve walked into a backyard BBQ.  The host grabs a basket of peanuts and takes you to your table.  I really appreciated being able to munch on some peanuts while we ordered and waited. 

Anyone else out there like artichokes?  Okay, both of you, take a look at this bad boy….

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Wow!  I need to say that again: WOW!  Now backwards: WOW!  Upside down: MOM!  Man, truly one of the most wonderful veggies I’ve ever put in my mouth.  Steamed (maybe boiled) then finished over a wood fire, the charred smokey parts are absolutely the best.  Luckily, we didn’t have to share with the BBQ Kids since, understandably, it didn’t look too appetizing to them.  I wonder about the first dude to ever eat an artichoke.  He must’ve been pretty hungry.

Also pictured above are a few pieces of Robin’s signature blueberry cornbread (served with blueberry butter).  Oh, what a treat!  Not a whole lot of corny-ness going on but they sure delivered some pre-dinner dessert-like goodness.  A pleasantly crunchy topping and moist interior marry well with the oh-so-good blueberry butter.  Pure genius!

With such an amazing start to our meal, expectations were high.  The main event came in a garbage can lid, which could easily feed four adults.  The garbage can lid combo only comes with two sides, which aren’t enough for four adults.  We had the real french fried potatoes (which were very good) and cole slaw (which was nice and creamy but a bit bland).  Piled into the lid was a veritable protein party that included beef ribs, pork spare ribs, pork baby back ribs, a hot link, half a chicken and tri tip.  My eyes bugged out in gluttonous delight!

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Then I dove in!  I started with a beef rib and it was some work getting my teeth through it.  Tough.  Not only that, but there was an unpleasant after taste.  Something “chemically”, maybe gaseous, but definitely not good. The pork ribs and hot link gave me the same sensation (the BBQthDirector’s wife reported the baby backs to be tender, but they still had the chewy membrane on them; the spares were decenly tender but overly charred). The hot link was not spicy at all and weirdly sweet. Didn’t like it. For whatever reason, the chicken and tri tip didn’t have any unpleasant, unnatural after taste. Both were mildly smokey, tender, and juicy. My guess is that the ribs and links are charred over a propane grill. Hickory good. Propane bad.

Their sauces were pretty bad.  The house sauce that comes slathered all over the meat had a tinge of cinnamon, clove or allspice, which I only like in pumpkin or sweet potato pie.  I asked the waitress to bring me samples of their other sauces.  Their varieties included watered down ketchup, watered down mustard and watered down apple cider vinegar.  Seriously, the worst BBQ sauces I’ve ever had the misfortune of trying.  Pretty good service, though.  Efficient and friendly.

I wouldn’t go out of my way for Robin’s BBQ.  But the artichoke and blueberry cornbread are good enough to bring me back for chicken or tri tip if I’m in the area.  Maybe even a burger.  Wait a minute, I like burgers.  More research must be done….

The rib rating (1 bone being awful, 5 bones being legendary):

Ambience/Service: 2.5 bones

Sides: 4 bones

Sauce: 1 bone

Meat: 2.5 bones

Overall: 3 bones

Robin's Wood Fire BBQ & Grill on Urbanspoon

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13 comments so far

  1. Robb on

    thats kinda a bummer jay! sry u had to be let down.. i know how important the LEGIT BBQ is 4 ya.. but count ur blessings.. one time me and my friend went to this BBQ place.. seemed kinda nice at 1st.. kinda old fashion. as soon as u walked in u cud smell the meat getting finished of in the hickory smoker.. it was awesome!!! the appetizer was creamy buttery scones!!! they were amazing! all was going well.. it was already almost in my top 3.. so then they brought out the main event.. the BBQ!!! when i picked it up bit into the juicy tender smoked meat to look down and see.. not 1 but 2. cocroaches licking up MY BBQ sauce! i just droped the meat in shock! and told my friend who was already on his 2nd or 3rd bite. to get up leave now.. and ask questions l8r.. and the rest is pretty much a blur!! lol.. so count ur blessings becuase am still scared by that.. and still look under my food b4 i eat!! (but am glad u had a good time!) 😛

  2. Burbank Guy on

    I love Robin’s! I make it out there at least once a month. Wood fired artichokes = love! And they’re beef ribs are usually incredible! Maybe you had a bad batch.

  3. jaynepomuceno on

    Whoa, Robby, that’s bad! I promise, Dave won’t do that to ya. I haven’t forgotten about your prize!

  4. Kevin aka Tony A. on

    wow! robby i feel bad for you!

  5. Jane on

    Hm, you know, artichokes are not something I go out looking for, and I have never had a craving for them…but I am able to enjoy them if I eat it, and that looks really good!
    Was back in Malibu today and went to a La Salsa…not BBQ or seafood like my last time down there…but pretty yum!

  6. Naenae on

    I am sorry you had a bad experience! Hope your next one turns out better! 🙂

  7. jaynepomuceno on

    Burbank Guy, thanks for reading. The beef ribs definitely needed to be cooked longer. But that aftertaste….

    Jane, went back to El Matador, I’m assuming? Haven’t been to La Salsa, but I’m sure it’s better than Taco Bell.

    Nae, the ribs were the big let down. Overall, the experience wasn’t horrible. I need to come up with some type of rating system. Something different. Not stars or a number scale. Maybe a rib scale! I would give Robin’s 3 ribs out of 5.

  8. Michelle on

    You have some of the most entertaining restaurant reviews around. Great info! We like Zeke’s Smokehouse in Montrose, not terribly far from Pasadena. You might want to give it a try!

  9. Becka on

    lol I like your new rating scale.

  10. jenmarie on

    Wow, they are totally biting Dave’s garbage can lid style. Man…

  11. Jane on

    Yeah, Jay. Jenn really wanted to check out El Matador so she, Heather and I went down yesterday afternoon. The college/career class is going on the 25th, too.
    La Salsa was pretty yummy! Although being better than Taco Bell is not a huge feat in my book. One of the only places below it is McDonalds….the only thing they have going for them is the playplace!

  12. L.A. Food Bloggin on

    “…visual beat-down…” That’s great! You ever think about having a separate food blog? Don’t get me wrong, your site is very unique and entertaining. If not, would you consider becoming a contributor for la.foodblogging? E-Mail me at the address I provided and I can give you more details.

  13. ocnative on

    It’s been a couple years for us, too, but we remember it being pretty good. They also do some really good fish n chips if you’re into that. All you can eat on a certain night, I think. LOL about their decor! So true!


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