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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.