As much as I love to cook, some days I just don’t feel like it. Or more specifically, I don’t feel like it because I didn’t have time to make it to the grocery store, and/or because there are still dishes in the sink from the night before, and/or because I’m shuttling the kids from one activity to another from school dismissal to dinnertime. For those days, I rely on engineered leftovers, pizza delivery, and the one “fast casual” restaurant the entire family can agree on: Smashburger.
I’ve been pretty vocal about my love of Smashburger since discovering it last year. Place your order at the counter, take your number to a clean, comfy booth, and in about 5 minutes your food is delivered hot and fresh. With a smile. And a check-back! This is fast food, but not Fast Food.
You can imagine my excitement, then, when Smashburger invited me to a special VIP blogger event recently. (Who says blogging doesn’t pay?) Several local bloggers and I were treated to a behind-the-scenes look at a Smashburger kitchen, and got to sample a number of items from its diverse menu. This was a great opportunity for me, since I rarely have the willpower to stray from my usual order (the “New Jersey Burger,” shown above, with bacon, blue cheese, crispy onions, grilled onions, lettuce and tomato). I only wish I had paced myself during the sampling. By the time the Haagen-Dazs shakes came around, I was almost too full to enjoy them. Almost.
So what makes Smashburgers so good? I learned the secrets during my tour of the kitchen. All Smashburgers start out as a lightly-packed ball of fresh, 100% Angus beef. “Like a fluffly snowball, not a hard-packed snowball,” explained franchise owner Scott Gillman. Then the ball of meat is placed on a hot griddle and “smashed” into a patty for a few seconds to get a good sear. That’s the only time the burger is smashed, so no need to worry about all the juices running out.
The internal temperatures of the burgers are monitored to ensure perfect cooking time, and then the rest of the burger is assembled. As a self-proclaimed foodie, I appreciate the range and freshness of burger topping options – from avocado and jalapeños to applewood smoked bacon and pepper jack cheese. And those crispy haystack onions!
Even though the burgers play the leading role at Smashburger, there are enough other menu options to satisfy everyone in the family – including kids’ meals, “smashed” chicken sandwiches, beef hot dogs, a vegetarian (but not vegan) black bean burger and a number of hearty salads.
The french fries are thin, crisp and delicious – thanks in part to the beef tallow they’re fried in. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that when I first learned about it. Some people feel beef tallow is actually a healthier fat for frying, and that it produces superior fries. I agree that the fries are tasty – especially the rosemary and garlic Smashfries – but feel this information should be disclosed on the menu. (Also, Smashburger – maybe you could stop asking us if it’s our first visit? After a year of regular visits, we feel like we should be on a first-name basis.)
Sensing what several of us must have been thinking after we finished our caloric Smash feast, bubbly and slim franchise co-owner Andrea Gillman suggested that it was possible to customize a Smash meal any way you wanted. She says she regularly orders a plain Smash Chicken with tomatoes, lettuce and avocado. Sounds healthy and Weight Watchers friendly, but I would never ever have the willpower to walk into a Smashburger restaurant and order that. I’m sticking with the New Jersey burger (with barbeque sauce instead of mayo), even if it means a few extra hours of exercise in exchange. Well worth the tradeoff.
Ready to try Smashburger? Post a comment with your favorite burger toppings and you’ll be entered to win a $10 Smashbucks gift card! Two winners will be selected at random on Thursday, May 30, 2013. (Local entries, only please. The gift cards are valid only at the following NJ locations: Clifton, East Hanover, Florham Park, Hackensack, Montclair/Glen Ridge, Morris Plains, Newark Airport Terminal C, New Providence, Paramus, Parsippany, Ramsey and East Brunswick.)
Smashburger is America’s fastest growing, fast casual “better burger” restaurant with 200 corporate and franchise restaurants operating in 29 states and in four international countries. To learn more, visit www.smashburger.com.