Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list

Post
EdSails
Filet Mignon
2013/02/15 13:19:13
Here on Roadfood, there are constant discussions what constitutes a Roadfood place. Nowhere is this discussion more heated then on the subject of hamburgers. Besides the independent one and two location burger places, In-n-Out and Five Guys are usually included here because of their philosophy towards burgers and their quality. To this list, I need to add another strong contender, Smashburger. It is a national franchised chain with a local feel. All the meat is fresh, not frozen, 100% Certified Angus beef. Rather than having a menu that is 100% the same for every location, each area is allowed to come up with a few of their own, original burgers that reflect the area that they are in. They also have a unique way of making and cooking the burgers that makes them extremely tasty. Come join me so you can see what Smashburger has to offer. I think you'll agree they are a worthy burger to be included in the Roadfood annals. I have been to two locations and have been impressed with the hand-on owner, not only greeting people but creating his own individual combos for the area. He can often be found cooking on the line himself. To me, that is a sign of excellent Roadfood.

 
First, the most important part, the burger. Each Smashburger starts as a “meatball” of beef. The smasher (Smashmaster? Smashista?) takes a “meatball” of fresh beef and puts it on the flat top. They then proceed to use their own special tool to smash the meatball down into a patty. As soon as that it done, the top is seasoned. By using the smashing technique, the burger gets that nice caramelized crust that adds depth of flavor to a burger.
When it is nice and crusty, it is flipped over to the other side of the burger on the other side of the flattop where another cook adds cheese if requested. Meanwhile, fresh onions are grilling on another part of the flattop for those who want them.
Finally, the burger is assembled on a house baked artisan bun. There are four types of buns, including classic egg buns, black and white sesame buns, telera buns and multi-grain buns. Like In-n-Out, there is also a lettuce wrap available instead of a bun. It is topped with whatever you want and brought to your table open faced, fresh and hot.
 
Part of the concept with Smashburger is being able to top it any way you want. This is much more like the small independent place rather then the chains where you get it their way or not at all. Toppings come in three categories. Free toppings includes standards such as ketchup, mustard, grilled onions, kosher pickles, tomato, mayo and red onion. Some of the more unique toppings are truffle mayo, Japanese steakhouse ginger dressing, jalapenos, baby arugula and “smash sauce”, their own creation similar to 1000 Island dressing except with mustard instead of the ketchup. Cheeses include American, Swiss, blue, sharp cheddar, pepper jack and goat cheese. Finally, some premium add-ons are available such as chili, applewood smoked bacon, fried egg, guacamole and garlic mushrooms. For those who want simple choices, there are several burgers they have designed with toppings already chosen such as the OC Burger, the Classic Burger, the LA and the Fresh Mex burger. In other areas they have some other choices. Las Vegas' signature burger is the Sin City burger and someone in the SF bay area created the Bay City burger. New Orleans has the NOLA Burger as their nod to the Big Easy. Even Alabama has a location, featuring a burger and a chicken sandwich made with a white barbecue sauce. They are definitely paying attention to regional styles and places like Big Bob Gibson's. Some locations have items such as fried pickles on the side menu. This is one way they add regional flavors to each area's Smashburger locations.
 
Some of the burgers I've had include my own creation, with baby arugula, grilled onions, red onions and the smash sauce. I think it's a winner, with the sweetness of the grilled onions accented by the slight pepperiness of the arugula.I ordered it with the sweet potato fries.

As you can see, the burger is nicely caramelized with those great grilled onions on it. This is definitely a hand made burger.
 
One of the burgers on their list that the owner himself designed is the OC Burger. Both grilled onions and grilled mushrooms make an appearance here, with truffle mayo and aged Swiss cheese. This was a really delicious burger.

 
One thing I have noticed is the restraint used with the toppings. This is all about the burger. Just enough toppings are used to complement the flavor of the burger and not overpower it. Even the chili, which usually hides the flavor of the meat, still allows the flavor of the meat to shine through as the dominant flavor.
 
Sides include a variety of fries. Chili cheese fries are an old standby. I really enjoyed the sweet potato fries, nicely crisped and very flavorful.
The signature fries are called Smashfries. They take fresh shoestring cut fries and toss them with rosemary, olive oil and garlic. It is a great way to step up the flavor of the fries, while still keeping their crispness.

 
Chicken sandwiches are also available. My favorite was the Buffalo Chicken breast, perfectly deep fried and then dipped in buffalo sauce. The sandwich comes topped with a generous portion of blue cheese chunks.

 
The Fresh Mex is available as either a burger or a chicken sandwich. The marinated chicken sandwich was really good, with avocado, pepper jack cheese, spicy chipotle mayo, lettuce, onions, cilantro and sour cream. A nice touch was a fresh slice of lime with it to squeeze on the sandwich just before you bite into it.

 
Being a hot dog aficionado, I had to try the chili cheese dog. It was really good, a split and grilled all beef dog specially made for them. Topped with chili, cheese and sliced jalapenos, it was a flavorful dog. Again, they seem to know the exact amount of toppings to put on to achieve a nice balance and allow the flavor of the dog to shine through.

 
One thing I could not resist was the salted caramel milk shake. Fresh made, coming in the requisite fountain glass with the side container of the rest of the shake, it had that perfect touch of saltiness to really bring out the flavor of the caramel. I was too full to finish but it was so good I finished it anyways.

 
Beer and wine are available to have with your sandwiches. Again, with a hands on owner, he picks the beers to match the burgers. Beers such as Bikini Blonde and Arrogant Bastard Ale are great choices, and definitely not something you find at In-n-Out or Five Guys. This is a place where you are encouraged to stay, relax, have a beer and enjoy yourself. It is not the type of burger place where you eat it quickly and run.
 
There are a few hundred Smashburgers scattered around the US. The menus are similar, but due to the encouragement of the management, each area is given the opportunity to create their own burgers and bring their own regional flavors and local products to each area. I had a nice talk with Stephen, the owner of the two locations here in Orange County, CA. He really has the same attitude that I look for in a small place----he's hands on, still cooks in the restaurant, makes sure the customers are happy and works hard to go the extra mile to accommodate everyone's needs. He's constantly tasting the food to make sure it is seasoned correctly and enjoys creating new dishes with a local feel. He feels that the flattop is the only way to get that crust and caramelization that gives the extra flavor to the burger, while keeping it still juicy. One of the ways I judge a burger is how it stands by itself. The Smashburger has enough taste and juiciness that it stands up well, even if you were to not use any toppings at all. Indeed, For me, it's now replaced In-n-Out as my favorite of the small burger chains. But most importantly, when I go in, I don't feel like I'm going into a chain restaurant, but rather a local place where the owner cares about his food.
 
www.smashburger.com
 
 
post edited by EdSails - 2013/02/15 13:20:55
pnwchef
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/15 13:55:12
Wow Ed, great report, you talked me into it.....I was all set up to go animal style and now I'm going to have a Smashing day...........I'll be in Santa Barbara and Phoenix in a few weeks. I see that Phoenix/ Scottsdale have a few stores............Thanks for the info, it looks real good.................By the way, its great to see you back.............Bill
kland01s
Filet Mignon
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/15 14:20:47
We have had a Smashburger here for about 2 years. I went 3 times and never again. Way too salty and greasy. Your photos wax poetic Ed but they sure don't represent taste to me. The only thing we really liked was the flash fried veggies. We have a local chain, Tom and Eddies started by two retired McDonald's Exec's that is far better and less salty. I also don't like the layout of SmashB, way too tight.We have so many nice small pubs that have much better burgers for when I have a need for one.
 
http://www.tomandeddies.com/index.php
kennyb
Cheeseburger
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/15 14:27:39
wasn't that impressed with it.
pnwchef
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/15 15:41:22
kland01s

We have had a Smashburger here for about 2 years. I went 3 times and never again. Way too salty and greasy. Your photos wax poetic Ed but they sure don't represent taste to me. The only thing we really liked was the flash fried veggies. We have a local chain, Tom and Eddies started by two retired McDonald's Exec's that is far better and less salty. I also don't like the layout of SmashB, way too tight.We have so many nice small pubs that have much better burgers for when I have a need for one.

http://www.tomandeddies.com/index.php

If you go to Smashburger or any other restaurant and they are heavy on the salt, tell them to hold the salt. These cooks don't really know when to say when. Salt and pepper the burger at the table. If it to greasy tell them to get some of the grease off the burger before it gets on the bun. These are fast service places, I feel its important to control your own meal, don't take it for granted that the person behind the grill knows a whole hell of a lot. If your at a Chef run kitchen, things should be better, a Chef know how much to season. I have been in this business for over 35 yrs, I never got upset at anyone for asking me how they want they food seasoned................Control them, don't let them control how you like your food...............pnwc
kland01s
Filet Mignon
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/15 17:58:45
Nah, not worth the trouble, This is a corporate place with kids doing the cooking. I take control by not going there.
plb
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/15 18:17:31
I've been to one and don't remember anything specific good or bad about the burger.  But I'll try it again for that chili cheese dog.
MetroplexJim
Filet Mignon
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/15 18:33:57
v. Five Guys:  SmashBurger serves a very good burger and their 'presentation' in that little metal basket is sooooo much better than Five Guys.  That said, I prefer Five Guys for their fries and provision of malt vinegar.
 
v. In-N-Out:  I agree:  SmashBurger has the "upper hand". 
 
 
EdSails
Filet Mignon
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/17 00:55:24
Kland01s and kennyb 
I agree that sometimes you have kids cooking who don't care and oversalt. In the tywo locations I have been to, as I mentioned in my report, the owner keeps pretty tight rein over the training and emphasizes constant tasting to keep from being too salty or overseasoned. Like any other chain/franchise though, each group/area can be different. My suggestion would be to try one some time when you are in a different state etc. 
 
metroplex jim
Well said.
 
plb
I really was pleasantly surprised at the chili cheese dog. Good dog, the dog itself having nice flavor.
 
pnwchef
It never fails to amaze me how well you can describe the answers to situations and basic common sense responses to problems. If all of us could do it as well as you can I would hope that more restraunteurs would listen and we'd all have better dining experiences. 
Now if you could only resolve the issue of something coming up every time we have tried to get together on one of your SoCal trips then you would really solve miracles!
MetroplexJim
Filet Mignon
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/17 10:38:44
Ed,  here's a thread I started on Smashburger when I first "discovered" them in December, 2011; enjoy:
 
http://www.roadfood.com/Forums/tm.aspx?m=678391&high
MetroplexJim
Filet Mignon
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/17 11:04:47
FYI:  In the DFW Metroplex we now have 18 In-n-Outs, 18 Five Guys, and 13 SmashBurgers
 
In addition, we have 20 Mooyah's ( http://www.mooyah.com/ ) which were started locally here in Dallas as a direct rip-off of Five Guys before the Guys opened their first Texas store.  Their bald-faced theft of intellectual property reminded me of John Amos' character operating his "McDougall's" in the Eddie Murphy movie Coming to America; they have now metastasized into a multi-state franchise.
EdSails
Filet Mignon
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/17 11:44:38
Thank's MetroplexJim I will look at your review. I just think it's healthy for the industry and lucky for us that we now have several chains that we can actually talk about enjoying.
kennyb
Cheeseburger
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/17 12:13:22
didn't know they had in-out in dfw. will try one in April when we work the  nascar race.
MetroplexJim
Filet Mignon
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/17 14:18:09
kennyb

didn't know they had in-out in dfw. will try one in April when we work the  nascar race.

 
Yes.  It was "big news" around here when they opened a regional distribution center here a few years back and started building in this market.  The one near us in Allen was one of the first and it was a mad-house - 45 minute waits and cops to control the traffic.  That place did $100,000+ a week if it did a penny!  Now, though busy, you can easily get "in & out" in a few minutes.
 
There are outlets of all the franchises I mentioned above near TMS, so enjoy!
 
Also, here are a few local 'chains' that serve a good burger:  Scotty P's ( http://www.scottyps.com/WebSite/HomePage.aspx ) and my favorite of all the limited-service burger joints, The Twisted Root Burger Company ( http://twistedrootburgerco.com/wordpress/ ). 
 
Twisted Root has a store in Roanoke, near TMS.  And Roanoke also has the original location of the wonderful Babe's Chicken Dinner House.  So there's your lunch and dinner all planned for lucky you!
 
Enjoy the races at our little track!

kennyb
Cheeseburger
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/17 17:42:28
Jim, i will try those places, they look good, my kinda place. not really a fast food chain guy but i would try in & out just cause i've heard of it.
MetroplexJim
Filet Mignon
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/17 18:48:35
kennyb

Jim, i will try those places, they look good, my kinda place. not really a fast food chain guy but i would try in & out just cause i've heard of it.


Yes.  In-n-Out is definitely a "must try". 
 
Here is something I posted here soon after they opened in this market:  http://www.roadfood.com/Forums/Finally-West-quotmeatsquot-East-in-Dallas-InNOut-vs-Five-Guys-m652360.aspx .
leethebard
Sirloin
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/18 16:54:26
Five guys much better...those malt vinegared fries....and still like an in N out animal style!!!!!
kland01s
Filet Mignon
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/18 17:00:02
If any of these had good fries, they might hook me but we have a local pub that double fries their fries and a has awesome tater tots. That plus if you ask for a medium rare burger, you get that!
Michael Hoffman
Double-chop Porterhouse
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/18 17:37:42
Terrific report Ed. They're opening a Smahburger here in Gahanna next month. I'm looking forward to it.
kennyb
Cheeseburger
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/18 18:25:43
i don't eat potatoes so fries are no big deal to me. i have never eat'n them since i was born.   i like good onion rings though.
Bonk
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/02/22 18:15:01
We have both w/i 10 minutes of here and I like both about equally.
 
I like Smashburger's fries a little better with the rosemary thing, and their mushroom and swiss melts in my mouth, and I love the way Five Guys melts the cheese thoroughly so all the flavors blend together.
 
Those pictures make me want to try some of the other items on Smashburger's menu. I haven't gotten past the burger. 
harleytexas
Cheeseburger
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/03/10 22:11:42
I went to Smashburger once, over-priced and smashed all the flavor out.
carlton pierre
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/03/12 08:09:43
I have to say I went to a Smashburger last week in Louisville and I decided to try just to see all the fuss.  I got an Old Fashioned Cheeseburger, no fries and no drink.  I thought it to be one of the best burgers I've ever had.  I even hated that it was a chain, but I could not help myself, it was really good.
ken8038
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/03/16 16:21:57
My wife & I went to Smashburger a couple of times when one opened in Montclair NJ a couple of years ago. The first time it was great, the second time, a few months later, was not so good. The burger was noticeably greasier and less tasty than the first time, like they were using a cheaper grade of meat. That was that.
 
Until today. They recently opened a branch a lot closer, in Springfield/New Providence, only about 10 minutes away. We went for lunch . This time is was sort of in the middle, OK, but not as good as Five Guys, which we can practically walk to.
 
And the noise level was as loud as I think I have ever heard it in a restuarant. OK, it was wetly snowing, and many Moms and/or Dads needed to get thier kids out of the house. I get it, we raised two noisy kids ourselves, and usually noise level doesn't bother us. But the accoustics were just awful, it seemed to raise the decibel level rather than quiet it. We decided that was the idea, to get everyone in and out as quickly as possible. It worked, except we're never going back.
Russ Jackson
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/03/20 07:57:29
If anyone is looking for a Buy One Get One Free Coupon to Smash Burger you can find a printable one here good until 3/31/13
http://smashburger.fbmta....614_20130315303925.jpg
 
My Wife and I went to Smash Burger in Dayton Ohio last weekend. We each ordered:
 
SPICY BAJA
Fresh jalapenos, guacamole, pepper jack, lettuce, tomato, onion and chipotle mayo on a spicy chipotle bun.

It was an excellent burger cooked just over the medium state. About what I expected. Great bun and it was assembled very well. Place is spotlessly clean and plenty of help moving about. We also opted to share some:
SMASHFRIES
Tossed with rosemary, olive oil and garlic.

1.99


 They serve some top notch fries.
The bill for the two of us with drinks was $19 which in my opinion is pretty high for two burgers. But I would not hesitate to go back. 
Comparing them to 5 Guys I would say the 5 Guy burger is a better deal when you consider the amount of fries, free toppings for the burger. 5 guys usually has a juicer burger but they can be inconsistent. Also 5 guys can be a loud unruly mess at times. Tables get neglected and are not clean plus they cram the burgers into bags and end up smashed. Smash Burger is clean, well assembled, and better suited to sit down eating. If I was taking it to go it would be 5 Guys because I think the Burger is slightly better and quicker....Russ 

 
 
slammin
Cheeseburger
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/03/28 09:22:05
Three Smashburgers open in the Grand Junction, CO area about 3 years ago. Within 18 months all 3 were closed. I tried their food. It was decent. I felt they missed the mark charging Red Robin prices with McDonalds atmosphere. 
kland01s
Filet Mignon
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/03/28 11:43:38
slammin

Three Smashburgers open in the Grand Junction, CO area about 3 years ago. Within 18 months all 3 were closed. I tried their food. It was decent. I felt they missed the mark charging Red Robin prices with McDonalds atmosphere. 

 
Not quite Mc Donalds, some of them have personality. I think Smashburger is too cold and industrial.
lleechef
Sirloin
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/03/28 12:50:48
We did try Smashburger awhile ago and found it to be one step above McDonald's.  The burgers were well done, condiments were OK but Michael's bun fell apart.  We did see some flecks of "green" in the fries but could not discern that it actually was rosemary and there was no trace of olive oil or garlic.  Next time we want to get a burger out we'll go to our old stand-by, The Gahanna Grill, not for a Beanie Burger, but their regular cheeseburgers are great. 
Niagara
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/03/31 23:33:53
Smashburger opened a store in Lawrence, KS, and we tried it once. I thought it was good, but nowhere newa In-N-Out. It closed after less than a year, and now they only have a 5 Guys & a Culver's in Lawrence, bwesides the usual burger chains.
carlton pierre
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/04/01 06:41:03
I stopped at a Cook Out the other day on  one of my trip and got a cheeseburger.  I thought it may have topped Smashburger as one of the best around.  Very impressed with Cook Out.
mayor al
Fire Safety Admin
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/04/01 11:21:17
Ed,
Next time you have the opportunity, do a comparison of your favorite combo SmashBurger with a Farmer Boys (another mini-chain in SoCal) either the "FarmerBurger" or the Bacon Double-Cheeseburger.  I used to really enjoy Farmer Boys, epecially the O R and Zucchini Spears as side dishes. 
Anyway I am curious to see which burger does hit your fancy ???
AL
lleechef
Sirloin
Re:Smashburger--the new kid replaces In-n-Out in my list 2013/04/01 11:45:02
For those of you in the Pittsburgh area a really great burger can be had at Burgatory.  You can order off of the menu or use the printed sheets on the tables to create your own concoction; many choices of buns, condiments, toppings, cheeses.  Our burgers came out a perfect medium rare.  We found it far superior to Smashburger. 
http://www.burgatorybar.com/ 
post edited by lleechef - 2013/04/01 12:05:29