Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Smashing Burgers

If you live on the east side of Columbia, you know about all the buzz and excitement surrounding the new Whole Foods and all the change and growth around that corner of Jackson Blvd and Devine Street.  You may have noticed the facelift that even Applebee's gave itself.  And, you probably also noticed the new building going up next door with a sign for both Moe's and something called Smashburger. I've been watching that building being built and wondering what in the world Smashburger is.  Well, now I know.

Along with other local bloggers, I attended a preview yesterday of the new restaurant, which opened today.  We were invited in to try out the menu, learn about the restaurant's concept and give the staff & kitchen a run-through.  The founder of the company, Tom Ryan, was there to talk to us, explain how he came up with this idea and then to demonstrate the true burger smashing technique for us in the kitchen.  It was fascinating to learn how they make these delicious burgers so delicious and of course, being able to order a gazillion items off the menu to try was quite fun indeed.

Tom Ryan is a super cool guy who was a genuine host and spent a lot of time with all of us asking for our opinions.  You should see this man's bio...I don't think I've ever met someone with so many degrees in food science.  You can read about it here.

Me and founder Tom Ryan

I was the first to arrive and was able to have about 10 minutes with Tom; he showed me around the restaurant and then took me up to the front counter to go over the menu with me.  

 Now you guys know all about my coupon addiction and thrifty nature.  It was really tough for me to actually follow his instructions and order multiple items from the menu.  He told me several times not to worry about wasting, order anything that sounded interesting and try it all.  That's what we were there for.  It was still hard as hell to order all that food, but I did it.  My buddies TheAprilBlake & TheHungryLady experienced the same hesitation, but together, we made it through and got over it.

Laura, April & Me

So, let's cut to the chase, shall we?  In a nutshell, I love this place.  It's characterized as "fast casual" which means you order & pay at the counter but your order is delivered to your table.  The decor is clean, crisp, hip and conducive to a date, dinner with the girls, family supper or just hanging out with friends.  Smashburger franchisees feature classic Smashburger menu items, but include a "regional" item to appeal to its market.  For instance, here in the glorious South (especially Columbia), our Smashburger features the "Carolina Chili" burger: American cheese, beef chili, chopped onion, coleslaw and Duke's mayo on a pretzel bun.  You see, nobody in Seattle, Newark or Chicago knows what Duke's is. I chose to try the "Classic" because I wanted to make sure I could really appreciate the burger and not just the toppings.  Then, I ordered the "Spicy Baja" to preview it for Neil and the "Buffalo Smashchicken."  As sides, I chose the "Smash Fries", fried pickles and fried onions.  

I tried the Classic first and with the first bite, I just looked at April and Laura and exclaimed something like 'oh my God, that's a good hamburger."  The meat was simply delicious.  

Holy Classic Smashburger, Batman! And Smashfries too.
Too often I think hamburgers really only taste like whatever is put on them.  This was a juicy, well-seasoned and high quality tasting burger. The fact that it's seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic reminds me of how my dad's steaks and burgers always taste, which is perfect.  The smashfries are madness:  rosemary, garlic, olive oil.  It's like the nectar of the gods, it is. Next, I tried out the Baja.  

Spicy Baja Burger with fried pickles
Neil will love this one, for sure!  Pepper jack, guac, lettuce, tomato, onion, fresh jalapeno (fresh, not pickled is a biggie for Mr. Jalapeno Connoisseur), spicy chipotle mayo and a chipotle bun.  Nice and spicy indeed.  I also really liked the Buffalo chicken sandwich.  I order this type of sandwich pretty frequently in casual restaurants.  

Buffalo chicken with haystack onions & yummy dipping sauce
At Smashburger, you can get your chicken fried or grilled.  At Tom's suggestion, I got it fried.  It was very crispy & light, despite being fried, and the chicken was an even thickness and therefore, well cooked and juicy.  The haystack onions are a great side order...thinly sliced onion rings with a spicy/horseradishy sauce.  I'm a sucker for fried pickles and theirs are excellent.  I also tried April's "Veggie Frites" which are non-battered flash-fried carrots & green beans.  They end up kind of blistered, like when you saute them and get them just this side of charred.  Excellent choice of side!  

April's Spicy Baja black bean burger, fried pickles & "veggie frites"
Laura's friend "R" (as we'll call him) went crazy over the black bean burger. (He's a carnivore but loved the black bean nonetheless.)  In fact, he said he just couldn't put it down.  Now I have to try that one next time! "R" also got the "Carolina Chili" and was diggin' that one too! Then, Tom came over with the Cobb salad.  Wow!  What a beautiful salad...classic Cobb ingredients, beautifully grilled chicken and instead of icky hard boiled egg, this one comes with a fried egg. 

Tom says: Try this beautiful salad, you'll like it!  He's right.

The smashing is really interesting.  They use chopped Angus beef, as opposed to ground, and it's shaped into a loose 5 oz. meatball.  The meat is placed on a buttered spot on the flat top and pressed (smashed) with a patented press that sears the meat without allowing the juices to escape the burger by running willy-nilly all over the grill. Once flipped, the burger has a nice crisp crust and that seared steak flavor.  We all tried it right off the grill and I swear it tasted like a fresh steak. 

What I think is going to make this restaurant a success here is that it's not just a burger joint.  It's a better quality product than what we're used to here in Columbia as far as casual dining is concerned.  Yes, we have burger restaurants that we all love, and you know who I mean, but on a recent visit, I was startled to learn that one of these favorite hangouts has hit a minimum of $10 for a hamburger. And, it's not as flavorful as this new place, folks.  Promise. And, if you want to take your kids out for burgers, this is about the only place I know of where you can get a real salad that isn't a rip off...

Check out the menu, stop by 4601 Devine St. and give it a try.  I can't wait to take Neil and Vivian to see what they think!
Smashburger on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Elizabeth thanks for the review! SMashburger sounds great, I cannot wait for my family and I to try this new restaurant!



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