Ever diligently in service to houndom, LBQT and I rendezvoused at Robins in Pasadena. We sampled Robins spareribs, baby back ribs, link, tri-tip, beef ribs and chicken last Saturday.
I felt the baby backs were the best of the ribs and the tri-tip was flavorful, however, not as tender as it should have been. The spareribs seem to also have suffered on the tenderness scale; these were definitely not cooked low and slow enough. At Robins they smoke the meats using hardwoods and then finish them over a flame. So all of the ribs had a chary tinge and there were grill marks on the slices of tri-tip.
I thought the baby backs were tinged just right, a little char on the edges, and perfectly cooked porkiness on the bone. These were by far the best; they were almost falling off the bone tender. I also enjoyed the tri-tip, other than its being a bit too tough, it had a nice smoky-beefy taste.
The chicken was pleasant to look at, but on the dry side, which usually seems to be the case, except at Loves or from my own Weber kettle.
The link was not hot (to my taste) and was very mealy, tasted more like grain than meat.
As sides we had coleslaw, onion rings, fries. There was a small chunk of corn on the cob also, but we did not bother with it. Robins has regular coleslaw and house coleslaw. The house coleslaw is supposed to be made with blue cheese and pecans. We ordered one of each, somehow I think we only got regular coleslaw for both orders, as I sampled both, and they both tasted like plain coleslaw, and nothing remarkable at that. Again, in the world of BBQ joints, Loves is (in my opinion) the standard of excellence in coleslaw. And again, I make better coleslaw than Robins just using some bulk slaw vegetables and bulk coleslaw dressing I can get at Smart & Final.
The onion rings were coated in a beer batter (I presume), which I usually do not like, but this was a very thin coating, and was not bad. They were, however, a bit greasy. The fries were not greasy, there were the kind with a bit of potato skin still on them (similar to the fries at Chilis) and I enjoyed them. My daughter, who was with us, scarfed them all up.
We were supposed to also get blueberry corn bread with our food, but after I got home I realized the corn bread never appeared at our table.
We sampled all four of Robins sauces, Robins Tangy Original, Carolina Sweet Mustard, Smokin Spicy Mad Dog, and Memphis Red Vinegar. All four sauces were of a thin consistency. I thought the tangy original did not have any tang. The mustard sauce tasted like thinned out honey mustard, and the Memphis stuff did nothing for me. I stuck with the spicy one, which had a slight, enjoyable bite I felt in the back of my throat when I first sampled it, but then on further tastes seemed to have lost its kick, (maybe my taste buds adapted to it) but at least, to my taste, it was far better than the other three sauces.
My only other visit to Robins had been in its former life, when it reminded me all too painfully of Dinahs in Culver City. I enjoyed the bar-b-queue much better than their former coffee shop fare. In terms of ambiance, it seems that Robins is opting for the theme experience, rather than the classic, no frills, BBQ joint. Lots of bright paint, tin signs and beer signs inside, and we spotted a barrel of peanuts surrounded by a carpet of shells on our way out. Kind of noisy, and definitely business on a Saturday night, but that might have been because of the review in the Times the previous Thursday.
All in all, I did enjoy the Q, especially since I accompanied it with two 24-ounce glasses of Moosehead. I would recommend Robins for anyone who happens to be in the Hastings Ranch area of Pasadena and has a taste for bar-b-que, but I would not recommend that anyone go out of his or her way to visit this place. I will return, if I happen to be in the neighborhood and have a craving for baby-backs or tri-tip.
Still on the agenda is sampling Hutchs Bar-B-Que in Pasadena and Guss Bar-B-Que in South Pasadena.
Robins Woodfire BBQ & Grill
395 N. Rosemead Blvd.
(About two blocks north of Foothill Blvd, between the Hastings Theater and Manns Theaters)
Pasadena, CA, 91107-3043