Here are a few photos from Smashburger, which opened a few hours ago off Sidney Marcus and Piedmont, in the former Fat Burger location. I attended a complimentary pre-opening, because I’m sort of a big deal. You know what really grinds my gears? When bloggers and other media types don’t tip at media events, especially when there are free beers. Throw the people that work there some love. You’re getting free shit.
I already talked about the smash concept the other day, so read up there for some background.
It’s a fast and affordable concept, order at the counter and your food is brought out a few minutes later. The menu is mostly burgers, chicken sandwiches, and hot dogs. They have a large number of side and shakes too.
Founder Tom Ryan was there for the opening. He’s an interesting, fast-paced guy. Check his background (from their website):
Previously, Tom was the President of the Ventures group, Chief Marketing Officer, and Branding Officer at Quiznos. Prior to that he was EVP, Worldwide Chief Concept Officer for McDonald’s Corporation, and held the titles of US Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President of Menu Management at McDonald’s. Prior to McDonald’s, Tom was Senior Vice President of Business Development at Long John Silver’s. He started his restaurant career at Pizza Hut and was an officer in the Marketing, Research & Development and Business Development areas.
Tom is known for developing business building concepts, products and marketing programs throughout his career, including Stuffed Crust Pizza and Lovers™ line at Pizza Hut, McGriddles, Big ‘n Tasty, Dollar Menu, and Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits at McDonald’s and Steakhouse Beef Dip, Prime Rib and Sammies at Quiznos.
Tom received his Ph.D. in Flavor and Fragrance Chemistry, his Masters in Lipid Toxicology and his undergraduate degree in Food Science, all from Michigan State University
I hear he’s also extensively involved in the Slow Food Movement.
I got the 1/3# double cheese burger, which had the standard toppings, but with the addition of onion rings (“haystack onions”) – $5.99.
The burger is extremely well done overall, particularly for this style of restaurant. Look at that crust! How do they do it you ask? I’ll get to that in a minute.
The egg bun was soft and well proportioned, and after I started eating, the large dose of cheese began to melt into the nooks and crannies of the loosely packed beef. A thing of beauty.
The onion rings were really nice. Thin, not overly greasy, and they stayed crunchy through my meal. (Same went for the excellent fries too – they were crispy 30 minutes later).
I tried the Atlanta dog too. I liked the hot dog itself, as well as the poppy bun, but was not a fan of the sweet slaw. I like my cole slaw to have a vinegar punch, but I was told the sweet was to offset the jalapenos.
So here’s how they get their wonderful crust. Step one, lay a fine sheen of butter down on the griddle.
Step 2: cover the loosely formed ball of beef with parchment, then smash for twenty seconds.
Step 3: When the juice and fat begun to bubble up back through the burger (note the small holes), it’s time to flip
Step 4: They gently work around the burger with the spatula to allow them to flip it without leaving the delicious crust on the griddle
I think it’s a hell of a satisfying burger, especially for a casual, moderately low price point chain. Pricing is similar to Grindhouse, and the better burger may be a toss-up to many, but I love that tasty Maillard-rich crust, and the Smashburger sides are better. I’ve had inconsistent experiences at Grindhouse too, and chains like Smashburger don’t grow and succeed without nailing down consistency.