Smashburger Smashing Their Way Toward the Top of the BurgersphereBy Todd • Nov 22nd, 2011 • Category: Burger Blog
When I first wrote about Smashburger in November ’09, the Colorado-based chain had “a handful” of locations in 11 states. They also had visions of expansion- aiming for 200 stores by 2014. They’re on track, with current company propaganda boasting 24 states and almost 130 locations… with many more listed as “Coming Soon.”
Atlanta’s first outpost opened in July, but I refrained from going too soon. It’s easy to get everything right when the company founder is overseeing the details at a staged media tour on ribbon-cutting weekend. A more telling test is whether an unannounced lunchtime visit on a random Thursday four months later produces a raveworthy burger.
Insert your favorite superlative gushy adjectives here; Smashburger rocked, as fast casual burgs go. The chain’s gimmick is the way their third- and half-pound meatballs are “smashed” into a hot griddle, supposedly resulting in that crust of a truly great diner-style burger. (Photo by Darin Mcgregor, The Rocky Mountain News)
Your results may vary. Look closely; mine was missing the crispy coating of char I had hoped for.
Thankfully, though, there was plenty to get jazzed about. Like the size. Check out how much of this patty was hanging over the edges of the bun.
In Smashburger parlance, that’s a “Big Smash,” a half-pound patty. (A regular “Smash” is a third-pounder. You can double either for an upcharge. There’s also a “Small Smash” that no self-respecting carnivore would bother with.) While Smashburger prides itself on the geographically-appropriate burger on each store’s menu, I wasn’t here for the Atlanta. (It’s topped with peach BBQ sauce- never works on a burger- plus grilled jalapenos, a locally-produced pimento cheese, and coleslaw- which I don’t like at all.) Instead, I went basic: American cheese, LTO, and a slathering of the chain’s “Smash sauce,” a yellow-tinged spread which seems to be a mayo-mustard mashup. Put it all together on an egg bun, and you’ve got a damn sexy lunch date.
The total package wasn’t without its flaws. The smashed patty certainly offered a lot of beef surface area, but it made that single slice of American look positively puny, leaving much of the burger naked. Also, I got A LOT of onion. Bonus points for red, but my God, who needs an entire cross-section slice???
The fries disappointed. I tried the signature Smashfries, “tossed with rosemary, olive oil, and garlic.” Sound almost high-end, don’t they??? Despite being beautifully fried, I found them to be boring and bland. (Go back to that topmost burger shot and count how many flecks of rosemary you spot.) Next visit, I’ll try the shoestring fries or the sweet potato Smashfries.
Those are fairly minor complaints, though, ‘cos this thing worked on every other level. The bun is especially noteworthy. Spongy, rich, and slightly sweet, it was the perfect complement to this big beefy burger. It did start to fall apart as I neared the end, but then again, so did the patty itself. My guess is that the smashing technique makes the thin meat somewhat delicate and prone to crumbling after 10-15 minutes of manhandling.
In all, though, I thoroughly enjoyed my debut Smashburger experience, with plenty on the menu to lure me back. (Haagen-Dazs-and-Nutter-Butter milkshakes!) I’d choose it over most any fast-food burger, and I’d probably rank Smashburger better than fast casual faves Fuddruckers and even Five Guys. It did strike me as being a bit expensive, one of those places where they manage to a la carte you into a fifteen-dollar lunch in a blink. But the uber-friendly customer service is exceptional, the atmosphere pleasant, and the burgers undeniably tasty. Welcome to the bigs, Smashburger.