Smashingly Good Burgers From a National Chain
Of all of the various Midtownlunch contributors and personalities, I am probably the most vocal in my outward contempt towards the chainification of New York’s restaurant scene. Not because I’m some flag waiving hippy that’s rallying against ‘the man’, but because I work in financial services and firmly believe that chain restaurants must sacrifice their integrity for the sake of profitability and appeasing shareholders. So it came as an utter surprise to me when I tried NYC’s first Smashburger – a chain over 250 locations strong – and came away as a changed man.
Smashburger aims to please the masses. In addition to a burger and grilled chicken sandwich, on the menu is a veggie burgers, salads, shakes, fries, and onion rings. Burgers can be augmented with an insane combination of ancillaries – toppings (egg, avocado, mushrooms, etc), cheeses, condiments and even buns (brioche, gluten free, multi grain, etc).
This review is for the Classic Smash ($5.99), which was served with an unseasonably ripe tomato, crisp lettuce, and a 5.3 ounce beef patty, all sandwiched between a squishy egg bun. On the bun – it was one of the closest approximations of my ideal burger bun (Martin’s potato roll), which is easy going both in terms of texture and flavor, and serves as an ideal means to a beefy end. I was charmed by the beef patty. It had been thoughtfully formed so that it barely hung together – unlike many fast food burgers that can become dense and grainy – and gushed rivulets of juice and welcome beefiness on each bite. If I were to nitpick, the meat was on the greasy side, and I wish that I could have ordered it medium rare. But at this price point, it was easily the best burger I’ve eaten in NYC since my last encounter with Shake Shack.
I wanted to hate the smashfries ($2.29), which I ordered out of spite. I fully expected to take a few reluctant bites, roll my eyes heavenward, and race towards my computer to bang out a few vindictive and snarky jabs on a public food blog. Instead, I finished the entire order with gusto, and genuinely enjoyed the assertively crisp fries that were pleasantly potato-y and fitfully seasoned with a whiff of rosemary, garlic, and salt. To be fair, like the burger, they were a mite on the greasy side, but there was no question that they had met the fryer within a few minutes of reaching my table. And there was no question that they were one of the better fries that I’ve tried from a chain restaurant, including In-n-Out and Shake Shack.
Smashburger rides the fine line between fast food and fast casual – you order at a counter but waitstaff will deliver your food to you, bus your table, and even offer to refill your fountain drink if you’re eating in. On my visit, the staff checked in more than once, asking “how’s your meal?” My response: “smashing!” Indeed, the food is surprisingly and smashingly good at Smashburger.
Smashburger , 10 W 33rd St (Between 5th Ave and Broadway) ; (646) 652-6450