The burger’s answer to the Rice Krispie just landed in Atlanta. While Snap, Crackle, and Pop serve as tripped out figments of my imagination, Buckhead’s Smashburger insists that we are all witness to smash, sizzle, and savor their flat-topped burger offerings.
Already at two metro locations with a third one on the way (though still short of the announced five), Smashburger is an upper echelon fast casual joint with an eye on your waistline. A stylistically predictable brand job (and a logo design eerily similar to that of next-door gamer haven GameStop) is a quintessential example of chi-chi. But there’s more to a restaurant than MEATS the eye!
We are all sheep
It is admittedly a bit of a dumbed down process. Case in point: a sign inquisitions you with the eerily familiar but slightly modified “What’ll It Be?” The follow up to that is a 3-point quasi humorous response of little actual value. This isn’t an attempt to inculcate you; reading it simply serves as an utter waste of time. I *do wish* that restaurants would realize by now that if a sandwich board menu is available in addition to a handheld option, that people are going to figure out how to proceed through a queue line, place an order and go from there.
I walked to the counter and ordered from a very friendly woman who was ultimately buttressed by a group of equally as pleasant employees. Their collective warmth and some humorous undertones made it easier to simply blow past the intermittent assertions of Smashburger’s greatness in all walks of life.
The menu is a fairly easy to consume array of options. A few pre-designed burgers (all made from lovingly murdered “ethical” meat or from a veggie patty) and chicken sandwiches can all be customized to your heart’s content. There are hot dogs, various fry options, additional sides and some salads to provide something for everyone. Though there may be only marginally fewer choices to be had on this menu than at Yeah Burger, the process is far less cumbersome at Smashburger.
The few corporate missteps mentioned throughout this post are all forgiven because of SB’s one very smart decision: a market specific burger. They fuck it up by saying each menu is “specially crafted to reflect the tastes and flavors of your city or state. Explore the items that make yours unique.” In reality, it appears that there is only one unique item per menu. So while I detest the bullshit dressing up, I do love the fact that there is a tinge of specialty to each menu. In the case of Nebraska (the husker burger), you get A.1. Steak Sauce, haystack onions, garlic sautéed mushrooms, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo on an egg bun. In Atlanta, you have peach BBQ sauce, Wicked Pimina Cheese, grilled jalapeños and Vidalia coleslaw on an egg bun.
Burger time and the weather’s easy
And this brings us to my order. I’ve gotten to the point where ordering as a stand alone diner is often a struggle. Without fail, I debate what to get solely in terms of how it affects my impending write-up. This is perhaps no more evident than in the ordering of a burger. Do I go for what I like? That being a burger snob pure classic rendition with nothing more than meat, cheese, ketchup + mustard, onions and pickles and thus giving me the best chance to evaluate the critical components. (Truth be told, I don’t even think ketchup belongs in that mix) Or, do I go for something proudly looked at as a “restaurant specialty” (aka the Atlanta burger)? Better yet, do I go off the reservation and see how they handle something custom built?
Ultimately the decision seems to change with every solitary meal. In this case, I went with a single patty ($3.29 to start – I believe they call it a smash size) topped with cheddar cheese ($.75), grilled onions, Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo sauce, and Applewood smoked bacon ($1.50) on their staple bun made from egg. I also went with some smashfries, thinly sliced potatoes seasoned with rosemary, olive oil, and garlic. The total bill came in at a reasonable $6+. I took my slightly comical but ultimately desperate receipt (that every single retailer uses!), the number stand, and my water cup and found my way to a table. As a quick note, I believe the retailer said that if you actually filled out a survey somewhere, next time you come in, they give you some free fries in exchange for proof of your work. I don’t remember the details, but if that’s even remotely true than I thank corporate for again making a wise decision.
In lieu of the mysterious “we’re not gonna ask you anything or give you anything to mark your table” system used by Taqueria Del Sol, Smashburger relies on large, plastic table numbers. Didn’t seem to help the food runners though. It’s okay, food got to me just fine in a lineless but filled to table capacity environment.
My burger arrived in a wire frame pannier accented with multifunctional and logo laden paper. In the world of burgers and buns, this is a rather chi-chi presentation. Nice, but ultimately a non-factor. But more importantly, here is where the review takes a sudden turn. This isn’t the place where I want to dissect every aspect of what I’m eating (though with no company in hand, I do). Rather, it’s a place that I hope to be able to get in and get out of without any terrible swing of emotion. Smashburger succeeded in that regards.
Still, for dissections purposes, the great crust (Maillard reaction) that Jimmy was privy to wasn’t really evident in my burger. Ultimately, the patty was a little under seasoned, but even if this is par for the course, the burger shouldn’t really mistreat you. The fries I had were a mistake in every way, and I put my decision to order them in that basket. Topped with rosemary, olive oil, and garlic – the rosemary was so impactful that I swear I could smell it everywhere in a 4 foot radius. The thinly sliced taters were without garlic either but their second worst flaw (rosemary being the first) was that they were way over done. Everything else did its job just fine, so I really didn’t feel that bad about any of the annoyances or the bad smashfries. I put a few bucks on the table (PEOPLE: TIP THE DAMN FOOD RUNNERS!!!), smiled and bid the friendly folk adieu.
Will someone out there love this burger? Sure as the sun will rise. Will someone out there detest this thing for reasons they may not fully understand? Just as the sun will fall. But ultimately I walked out of burger having consumed a lunch that will no doubt fall into backlogged annals of my ever growing library of food experiences. Frankly, that’s just what I wanted.