Thursday, February 21, 2013

Smashing! - New Burger Joint in Town

If you are reading this, that means the bat phone rang and tonight's post will be one saved for just such occasion.

It's not in Indiana yet, but in our neighboring states, all over actually, a new burger place has popped up.  Smashburger.  Opened in 2007 nationally, most consumers have been comparing them to Five Guys.  It's hard not to draw comparisons between the two, both use fresh beef, both serve foods fast, and both offer a whole bunch of toppings and freshly made fries with a similar franchise model.

Five Guys is popular around here. When the coworkers get to choose where we eat when in the city, it's one of their favorite choices. Having a big table at Five Guys we can all sit at to talk and share fries (their fry servings are HUGE) in a very casual atmosphere (loud music, friendly personnel and peanuts on the floor) is something the fellows I work with enjoy. The guys are comfortable with that red and white tile storeroom feel.  They can be loud, they can be messy, they can just relax and eat and the staff is always so friendly to us.

I introduced Dad to them (he'd been a huge Wendy's fan til they changed their burger and fry recipe and at 92, says his time is too short to to sit in the drive through while some kid figures out which of the now apparently 12 different Frostys they want).

It was a hit (Dad, being part Scot saw the "free" toppings and went for it).

This was one happy Dad.

But it's not someplace I'd dine at by myself.  If I need to do fast food because of location or time available, I get a Chick Fil a Spicy Chicken Sandwich, squirt it from the packet of hot sauce and top it with a small side of their coleslaw and have a small lemonade.  It's not the best thing to eat in the truck and I usually arrive where I'm going, looking like Zombie Paula Dean, but I'm happy and full.  I like Chick Fil a. They're always clean and friendly; the food looks as advertised and my server usually isn't sporting 3 pieces of face tackle and dreadlocks. But that's about it for me and fast food, as frankly I'd kiss a wolverine before I'd eat a Big Mac.

But sometimes you just have to have a burger, even if you have to grill one at home in the dark and improvise.
So when I saw Smashburger (and the huge line out the door) one day I said I'd try it.

We went right before noon, it was very busy but there was still seating space. The decor was clean and neat with the red and white theme (sound familiar?) but this one more retro hip than warehouse.You get a menu off a holder on the wall as you come in, order at a counter, get your  drink and seat yourself with a numbered tag that sits at your table. The seating is more private, with dividers giving some areas some space between your table and the neighbors, nice if the place has a lot of kids or a noisy crowd.  They then bring your food to you, in a basket, not a bag that will soak up the fry grease, so once you are seated you can just relax and enjoy some conversation.

There are a lot of items on the menu but burgers are the star. Big balls of fresh Black Angus beef are "smashed"  with this medieval looking cookie cutter thing that looks like it was made out of a dismantled Dalek, on a a grill prepped with melted butter, not oil. As the patty cooks, the melting fat percolates through the small holes in the burger, sending wisps of smoke upwards that make the whole restaurant smell like PETA repellent. mmmmmm.  They then use an extremely sharp edged spatula to scape the specialty seasoned (garlic herb mix of their own) smashed patty off the griddle, a two handed operation and one that leaves an impressive sear on the beef.

Then a double thick piece of cheese is applied.  "No Kraft Single" cheese here, mine was a big thick piece of sharp cheddar (they had six types of cheese). Their systems seems designed so the buttery toasted bun and toppings reach the grill just as the meat is ready to come off. The burger is hot, the cheese is hot and melty and the toppings  are fresh, not limp.

Burger combinations are endless and each regional area has their own "specialty" burger.  The free toppings are many and you can also add (for a paltry amount), applewood smoked bacon, avocado, a fried egg, onion straws, fried pickles, garlic mushrooms, sauteed onion.

The picture above is my small burger.  It's larger than the small Five Guys,1/3 pound to 1/4,  but it is also about a dollar more so the value is about the same.  The large Smashburger is 1/2 pound (a bigger single patty instead of two thinner patties like Five Guys).

I went for simple - sharp cheddar, chipotle mayo and lettuce on the egg bun.  Partner in Grime had  the small burger with Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce, cheese, applewood smoked  bacon and onion straws (oh, that looked good). Both fairly simple so they probably aren't the most impressive, photo wise, but they were indeed very, very good.
We both selected the egg bun. They also have a whole grain and a spicy chipotle bun, all buttered and toasted, as well as a pretzel roll which I've made for my own grilled burgers at home. I would come back for the taste and the texture of the egg bun alone, but the burger was very good.

Moo - I've yet to have a restaurant burger that had the depth of flavor as a home grilled one, enough to stand alone without any topping but cheese,  but this is about as closed as fried can get..  I liked the slightly thicker patty of Five Guys but this patty was much more flavorful and juicy without being overly greasy as the Five Guys patty can be. The nice bit of snap and crunch from the violent smash and grill resulted in the center more juice than grease.  I still prefer my meat a little more rare in the middle.  But  being smashed they will be  pretty much medium, but it was no less juicy for it.

The patty isn't square, it isn't round, it's it's own unique shape, full of inlets and valleys where the condiments can loiter, waiting for that first bite.

The fries I'd say I'd prefer to Five Guys.  They weren't  nearly as greasy, and you can order them tossed with a bit of olive oil, garlic and rosemary which is a really flavorsome combination.  Five Guys has a Cajun seasoned fries as an alternate to plain but they are way too salty for my taste. The Smashburger fries still look as if they were made from frozen but I still preferred that over home cut and cooked but with grease soaking into the bag. (I'm not saying the greasy ones don't taste good, they do, but after a small  F.G. burger and a half of an order of those, I feel like I ate a live hedgehog).

We also tried the onion straws that came with a spicy dipping sauce (pictured below) They were crisp, salty, addicting, but more than enough to share. There are multiple other sides, including  sweet potato fries (with or without the garlic rosemary seasoning and probably really good with some blue cheese dip)  fried pickles with a buttermilk ranch dip, chili or a side salad.  You can get an adult beverage. If you are feeling especially snooty you can order veggie frites – flash fried carrots, green beans, asparagus, with sea salt and black pepper, though I didn't see anyone that ordered that. Lift your little pinky finger, hoist your wine and raise your half pound burger at the first Vegan that walks past the window.

There's chicken sandwiches (fresh chicken breast, not dismantled chicken bits made into a patty), black bean burger options, salads and hot dogs.  We were too full to try anything except their  iced tea bar, but any place that has a Butterfinger Malt (or just a regular shake) made out of Hagan Daz ice cream is OK in my book. Making a shake without soft-serve with all the gums and stabilizers would make for a pretty good, thick treat that would suck, but through a straw in a good way.  Next time, I'll pass on the fries and get a burger and a malt.

Price wise, it was about $20 for the two of us with soft drinks, including tax.  Not a cheap lunch, but I've spent that on the road for "fast casual" for two and not enjoyed it nearly as much.

Dad will always enjoy his Five Guys (and the peanut flinging) and I'll happily eat there with him and the guys if they want to go. 

But I definitely have a new favorite burger joint.


  1. Love the Smash. We have one close to home and The Woman and I go there about once a week...

    The Perfect Child would rather have Smash, but 5 Guys is closer to her apartment, so it becomes her choice by convenience...
    Plus she loves to taunt me with a text when she goes there:
    "Y'know Dad, very few girls can handle 5 guys. :-D"

    My buttons, she knows how to push them.


  2. There's a place called FatBurger here in Spokane. Good burgers. Haven't seen Smash Burger yet. We've been doing half pound burgers here because that's one thing the roomie does excellently! Once every two weeks I do a Spaghetti. They got kinda burned out when I was perfecting my recipes!

  3. The chances of me ever experiencing a Smashburger joint are slim to none, but I enjoyed the Doctor Who reference just the same. :^)

  4. Ya did it again! Your perfect wordsmithing has left me in dire need of a droll bib.

  5. Ah, no Smashburgers here yet, though we do have MooYah, and now In 'n Out. MooYah is better than InO by a long shot, but Smashburger sounds tasty!

    My mom has a Smashburger in her town, so this fall perhaps we will get to sample their offerings.


  6. We are just now getting a 5 Guys in the Tri-Cities this spring. I've eaten there before, and find it quite tasty. No smashburgers yet.

    The place I miss is a little chain in New York called Juicy smashburger, they give you one big burger instead of two thinner patties.

    Now I'm hungry.

  7. Next time I am down in Boise, I'll have to try out Smashburger.

    Since I'll be in Missoula in a couple of weeks, I'll have to stop at Five Guys.


  8. Grumble, now I have to go find one... Sigh... I needs a good burger! NOW! :-)

  9. Personally I don't think any fried burger, no matter how fresh, can equal a burger cooked on a charcoal grill, so I prefer to make my own at home. Five Guys is ok, for fried; our local Five Guys can't cook the fries without burning them, though, so a Big Bag O' Burnt Fries is usually a waste of money.

    We have a Fuddrucker's not too far away, and they make a pretty good burger, even offering a 1-pound monster that I have been known to order occasionally. They bake their own rolls at Fuddrucker's, and this is a nice touch. Their fries tend to be a little large and soft for my taste.

    Used to be a chain called Backyard Burgers here in town, they made good burgers and shakes with real ice cream. They had a run of about ten years and then sort of disappeared. The building that used to be Backyard Burgers is now a Cook-Out, which is a pretty good chain, itself.

  10. The old Kirks on California Avenue in Palo Alto managed to replicate the homemade taste, but that place is long gone. And even before the building was razed in favor of a Starbucks (!), the CA nanny state shut down the barely ventilated, carcinogen-spewing indoor charcoal grill which was the secret to the flavor.

  11. One just up the street! Heard it was good - also a Five Guys here, untried.
    Alas, haven't tried either, yet.
    (Roomie heard rumors it was too fatty)

    Are those fries or onion strings?

    Glad I already ate.


  12. Fuddruckers was like that....then as time went on they lowered the quality and they are now just another burger joint, five guys here in MD is also somewhat less than it used to be.

  13. Another vote for Smashburger over 5 Guys. We have both here in N. Alabama. Even comparing the basic burger and fries, Smashburger's product is a notch or two superior. Add in the seasoning and topping options, and SB comes out even farther ahead IMHO.

  14. Dangit, now I'm craving a burger!!!

    We've got both Smashburger and 5Guys here in the DFW metroplexopolisvilleburg, I've tried both, and I may just be unique, but I don't really have a preference one for the other. We also have a MooYah closer to home, and an In-n-Out just opened up not a mile from our driveway. I put In-n-Out in the fast-food category, but at the top of the list. MooYah is the burger world's Chilis, a sit-down family-style place with decent burgers and unholy amounts of fries. No mustard on the table for the fries, though, which IMO lowers their standings a little bit. 5Guys and Smash are both far enough away to be "treats", and are good.

  15. Would love to see one of those here in Northern Indiana. We have 5 Guys and Red Robin. Red Robin has a shake that is Guinness, chocolate ice cream, and Jamesons. Had to drive last visit so I didn't try it but it is on my list.

  16. There's one near my office. Across the street from Five Guys, actually. I will have to give it a try.

  17. Our local Smashburger closed. I guess the prices were too high. Or the location sucked. I did like the fact that they served beer. Mmmm, beer....

  18. BTW, if you head to Central Florida in the near future (Sun 'n' Fun!), this place is worth the effort/drive for their unique take on fast food. No french frys -- tater tots!

    The last survivor of a 60s/70s chain that couldn't compete with the mega-franchises.

    Sadly, their hours are limited.

    I lived in FL for ... a long time, and never got a chance to go to that place until this past Summer.

  19. We haven't seen/tried the Smash, but now that I know all about it, I am sure we will give it a try when we do find it. :)

  20. @ Bob: There used to be a Backyard Burger down the street from work. Then it just disappeared and Hardie's has the building now. So what happened? They were good burgers.


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