- Hollis Johnson
The vibrant fast-casual better-burger sector is alive and well, with more and more chains offering their twist on the classic burger.
With locations in 32 states and seven countries and continuing expansion plans, Smashburger is easily proving itself in the better-burger arena.
Founded by fast-food visionary and McGriddle inventor Tom Ryan, the chain has scaled rapidly since its inception in 2007 – showing that America’s love affair with the burger has only just begun.
We ventured to Smashburger’s midtown New York City location to see how it stacks up to the rest of the better burger joints.
We arrived at Smashburger’s Midtown location at 33rd Street and Fifth Avenue, right in the shadow of the Empire State Building.
It’s lunchtime so naturally there’s quite a line, but it moves quickly and before we know it, our order is being taken.
Smashburger appears to be like most fast-casual burger joints, such as Shake Shack or BurgerFi, but its menu offers more options.
Its menu offers roughly eight burger options, including a regional burger made with local flavors depending to the location. Its menu also offers a variety of chicken sandwiches, shakes, and sides.
Customers can order to stay or to go. We decide to dine in and choose a spot in the community-seating area, and wait for our food to arrive at the table.
The decor follows the typical fast-casual theme, with dim lighting, metal, and warm wood accents. This Smashburger has a slight New York City vibe to it.
The wait for our order doesn’t take long — no more than seven minutes. The customer service is incredibly attentive and we’re impressed by the friendliness of the staff.
We ordered the “New Yorker” burger, topped with grilled onions, cheddar cheese, spinach, tomato, and peppercorn aioli on a brioche bun, with a side of onion rings …
… and the buffalo and blue-cheese burger with a side of fried pickles. Both burgers were surprisingly cheap for “better burgers” in NYC: Each burger is $7.29.
The fried pickles are little slices of heaven. The pickle is deep fried to crunchy perfection yet the inside is still juicy and crispy. When dipped in Ranch dressing, it’s a sublime snack for a fair $2.99.
The onion rings are more strings than rings, which adds an extra crispy crunch. They’re a little on the greasy side, but we don’t mind. Plus, for a mere $2.49, they’re a great deal.
The onion rings come with a mystery dipping sauce that’s delightfully zesty — we detect horseradish or mustard flavors.
While making burgers is its forte, Smashburger’s hand-spun shakes are delectable. We got an Oreo shake and a strawberry shake. They’re served with the remainder of the shake in the metal blending cup, which is a great touch.
The burgers are served open-face, with a hefty amount of toppings. The grilled onions on the “New Yorker” were still steaming.
When it’s all put together, the burger is slightly on the small side. All burgers are offered as a normal size or the double size. We could have easily gone for the double option.
After taking a bite, we immediately taste the freshness of the ingredients. The baby spinach is a nice touch to a well-constructed burger. Despite all of the toppings, the patty is not greasy and the brioche bun holds up astonishingly well.
Next we have the buffalo and blue-cheese burger. It’s packed with flavor and has a strong heat that’s just enough, but doesn’t overwhelm the burger’s taste.
It’s juicy, not greasy. The entire burger seems freshly prepared — nothing frozen or pre-made.
Smashburger is in 32 states and seven countries and is expanding rapidly. It offers a more adventurous burger experience than Shake Shack, but comparing the two is somewhat unfair. Shake Shack offers the basics — burgers, fries, and shakes — with very high quality, while Smashburger aims for a more complete dining experience.
We’ll definitely be coming back to try the rest of the menu.