The Original Red Onion, Pinole CA
Red Onion just celebrated its one year anniversary for the Alameda location. There is also a place in Vallejo, but Zach has come to the Pinole restaurant for many years and turned August onto it. We wanted to share its awesomeness with you, but tonight, honestly we were amazed. Zach appreciates other chefs and restauranteurs who work towards their craft and refresh their menus. We had not been in for quite a few months, and although we weren’t expecting anything, were impressed that they’ve expanded the menu.
Walking up, you know what kind of a place you’re going into. The smell outside is delirious, grabbing you by the nostrils and yanking you in. Right inside is the dessert refrigerator. With a pastry chef on staff supplying all locations, our own pastry chef Zach took note of the great assortment and quality.
A new item on the menu quickly caught our eye. Marbled sweet potato crisps are sliced thin and cooked until the natural sugars caramelize, and they are divine. They came out hot, fresh, and perfectly salted to balance the sweet, and were even delicious cold so we took home the leftovers.
Zach loves chili. Being a chili cook-off winner himself he can be picky, and Red Onion passes his test. He ordered the chili con carne cheddar cheese fries – REGULAR size – which is easily enough for three to four people (we can’t even imagine what a FULL size looks like!). He orders these every time and he never finishes them because they’re so big, but he always wishes he could. The fries come from the freezer, not fresh, but they’re always properly salted, fried to perfection, and crinkle cut (a nostalgic favorite).
For the main course, August ordered a sauteed spinach and mushroom burger, with the spinach and mushrooms cooked in a buttery garlic sauce. It came with mayo, mustard, tomato, choice of fresh or grilled onions – she chose grilled, as they are always tender and sweet here. She also added blue and Swiss cheese with Zach’s recommendation. With the cheese next to the spinach (fresh and properly cleaned, thank you for no sand unlike another restaurant that kicked us out when we complained about copious sand in August’s spinach), it was like a creamy spinach garlic sauce with the already juicy burger.
Zach usually gets a Western burger or the Supreme, but tonight’s flip of the coin resulted in the Western. He got his onions grilled and added American cheese to the burger that already comes with lettuce, tomato, Bulls Eye barbeque sauce, and 1/4 lb. of bacon and beer-battered onion rings. The burger is always juicy, never greasy, and seasoned well. The bacon, quite abundant, is always crisp. Whoever runs the grill, whenever we come in, is masterful.
This was the first time we got desserts here. We always walked by and stared, sometimes lingering for a moment. But for you, reader, tonight we had to pick some to take home and try. The macaroons were beautiful and tasted as good as they looked. We tried salted caramel, raspberry, lemon, and pistachio, all rich in their intended flavors and texturally delectable – crisp on the outside, and soft and chewy in the middle with smooth creamy filling.
The carrot cake was beyond moist, decadent, and rich. The frosting was creamy, the walnut chunks sizable, and the carrots fresh. You couldn’t ask for a better carrot cake, even if Grandma was making it.
August is wondering, “How have I never tried a chocolate Henny before?!” At one point in her early life she said ganache was her favorite food, so it would only make sense that a matured palate would appreciate a grown-up ganache. The cocoa nibs were big but not numerous, so many of the mousse bites had an uninterrupted texture. The base was a light sponge cake, and the gilded chocolate on top was fanciful and unanticipated at a burger joint.
Make sure to order your burgers cut in half – they are otherwise monstrous! For example, if you add cheese, they will give you two slices! And if you want to try the new stuffed potatoes, they give you two of those, also! All the portions here are huge, so come with a friend or group to share or plan on bringing some home. We are not complaining by any means, just preparing you so you don’t feel overwhelmed when they bring out your plate. The non-hormonal beef patties are 1/3 lb., and they also offer Boca and Garden burgers, even for the Burger Mountain Challenge. If you eat a minimum of five cheese patties you earn a spot on the wall, but 12 will get you a Red Onion t-shirt! Don’t worry, there’s no time limit. Between 3-5 pm, though, and only on school days, they offer student specials. August appreciates that Red Onion looks out for the community in so many ways: supporting recreational childrens’ sports teams, discounts for students after school, and hiring dependable high school students. There are too many reasons to love this restaurant.