Since we found out the last time we ate here that the menu was expanded, we had to try some new items (or at least new to us) at the Red Onion. If we’re going to stick to “enlightening minds, enriching palates” then we ought to broaden our horizons not just in variety of restaurants, but also in what is available at each.
Crinkle cut fries are a throwback to childhood, like the fries in the school cafeteria, but these are better than any you would have had in third grade. You can get regular or super, but the regular is a hefty portion already even for three people. Overwhelmingly smothered in real melted cheddar cheese and real bacon hunks, this is a tasty mountain that Bea the Dog gets to finish conquering at home.
On the bottom of the front page, under a lot of specialty burgers, is a chicken “burger” but don’t let the name fool you. It’s a breaded breast with lettuce, tomato, onions (grilled on request), smoky chipotle sauce, and August added cheese. The chicken itself is like a standard spicy breaded breast, but the sauce gives it a real kick.
If you really, really like cheese, get a double here. Zach has to be honest and say it was a little much for him – if he were to get double meat patties ever again (most likely not going to happen anyway), he would get single cheese. He chose this merely for the picture so that you can see just how big the burgers are here. Remember too, that they have a food challenge and you gain your fame by downing a minimum of five patties! Zach loves the burgers, don’t get us wrong, but it was his first time trying a double here and it was a lot of food. The supreme, according to the menu, “comes with everything except the kitchen sink: 1/4 lb bacon, mushrooms, cheese, & an egg (kitchen sink extra).” Tomato, lettuce, and onions come standard, and Zach chose grilled onions like August. Juicy and well seasoned patties with a nice crust from proper grilling, layered with thick cut bacon and a good mix of grilled and fresh vegetables, made for one heckuva flavorful burger.
Nestled between two thin genoise cakes is a smooth and creamy pistachio mousseline with fresh, ripe strawberries. A thin layer of fluffy, toasted merengue covers the top. This is a very refreshing dessert, rich but not too heavy. Pistachio and strawberry work well together.
A flaky tart shell, almond filling with a consistency of marzipan but a lighter flavor, and slices of a slow-poached pear come together for another refreshing dessert. As we are about to come in to Spring, these first two are like tastes of the season. The pear was poached well so it was firm and very dense in spices like cloves and cinnamon mingling with the red wine base.
We picked up a mini pecan tart and a chocolate salted caramel cupcake for our neighbor. We can’t vouch for the eating experience of these two items, but we can safely guess the quality. The pastry chef that bakes for all three Red Onion locations does great work.
You usually see the same cooks and they’ve been here for a while, so obviously they’re better than good and know what they’re doing. It was our first time meeting server Elaine, and she was pleasant and answered all our questions. Whether you’re looking for a good burger or want to pick up some superb desserts, and either way kids of all ages will be happy, this is the place.
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.