SmashBurger is no dainty, keep-your-fingers-clean restaurant where one would go to make a well-mannered impression on a first date. It is more of a hit-the-spot, culinary adventure; a sort of elevated fast food that will pique your curiosity and tempt your taste buds.
SmashBurger features deluxe burgers such as the Spicy Baja, Mushroom Swiss, and BBQ Bacon and Cheese, as well as avant-garde sides like fried pickles with ranch, fried green chilies with chipotle sauce and veggie-frites. Exciting add-ons are an option and include beefy chili and a fried egg.
But the menu is not excessively adventurous enough to scare off a classic burger lover. It dutifully serves up smashed Classic and All-American Burgers, french fries, seasoned SmashFries, sweet-potato SmashFries and thinly-sliced “Haystack Onions” onion rings. It also includes SmashDogs, a SmashChicken Sandwich and Smash-Salads.
Tom Ryan, who founded SmashBurger in 2007, explains the distinctive effect smashing has on a burger.
“We start with a half-pound ball of certified fresh Angus beef” Ryan said. From there, the beef gets smashed for ten seconds, “metal-on-metal,” on a searing hot grill, Ryan said. This caramelizes the beef, creating a shell on the bottom so “the juices go up instead of out,” Ryan said.
Ryan calls himself “a restaurant concept guy.” In 2002 he was named head of marketing for McDonald’s. When asked about the difference between SmashBurger and McDonald’s, Ryan said he recognizes the difference between fast food burgers and sit-down restaurant burgers.
In founding SmashBurger, Ryan said he hoped to create a modern place that serves higher quality food at a faster pace. Somewhat of a chain, SmashBurger has custom burgers for each of its locations — the Boulder Burger being a smashed black bean patty.
“We like to think of it as the burger place for the next 30 years,” Ryan said. “Not the last 30 years.”
SmashBurger’s interior has a contemporary feel, with red and stainless steel seats and booths, wavy track lights, red lamps and large, red-lettered words on the walls reading, “Smash,” “Sizzle” and “Savor.” It is an order and pay ahead of time system, not unlike that of Noodles & Co., where a number is taken and the food is brought to the table.
I ordered the Boulder Burger, along with a vanilla malt and fried pickles, just out of curiosity. Although initially the cashier misheard my order and I was brought a Classic Burger instead, there were no hard feelings and my order was restored in five minutes or less.
While I waited, I sipped my refreshing vanilla malt. Refreshing is an odd word to associate with a shake, which at the same time was creamy and thick. But it was not heavy. It was refreshing in that it tasted like real milk and ice cream, not Wendy’s frosty base that somehow never melts. The vanilla and malt flavors were at a perfect balance.
When my meal arrived, I was impressed by the presentation. The black bean burger was topped with pepper-jack cheese, served on an open chipotle bun with chipotle mayo and layered with lettuce, tomato and onion. It was topped off with fresh jalapeños and a dollop of guacamole in which were stuck two tortilla chips, which were a delightful surprise.
The pickles, which I had anticipated with a mixed sense of excitement and unease, proved to be less-than-incredible. I thought they’d either be fabulous or awful, but they were neither extreme. They had a crisp breading on the outside, thinner but similar to that on chicken tenders, which was good to until I bit down into the thicker, warm, dill, pickle-textured part. I feel like they could have been better if they were sliced thinner and not breaded, and the vegetable itself was crispy. I’m also curious if sweet pickles would be better fried, served with a honey-mustard sauce.
I wasn’t crazy about the sweet potato fries either, which I tried some of. I prefer sweet potato fries to be thick and hearty, and baked—not fried and bubbly shoestring size. The rosemary seasoning was also a bit over-powering for their subtle flavor.
The burger, however, made up for the pickles, the sweet-potato fries and then some. The chipotle bun was a tasty alternative to the all-too-common bland bun, which sometimes seems to serve no other purpose than to hold the burger together. The jalapenos’ spice complemented the cool guacamole, and the texture of the black bean burger really blew me away.
Although it wasn’t creamy per se, the patty had a creamed, comforting taste and a gratifying texture, especially for being meatless. The protruding edges crumbled slightly, but that didn’t bother me; I simply picked them up with my fingers, dipped them in ketchup and scarfed them down. The body of the burger stayed together fine, even with repeated ketchup-dunks.
I will absolutely visit Smashburger again, though I’ll probably stick to traditional fries or give the veggie-frites a try.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ana McIntosh Anna.firstname.lastname@example.org.