Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Smashing Success

Happy 2013!  I hope everyone had a fabulous New Year and enjoyed whichever winter holiday you choose to celebrate!  For me, that entailed a fabulous Christmas, complete with a much-needed, lengthy trip home, a beer tasting with friends I don't see nearly often enough, and a quiet New Year's Eve celebration with an old friend.

But well before I headed north for Christmas, I had the pleasure of going to the preview party for the brand new Smashburger on Devine Street.  Since I'm always on the lookout for a good burger, I was pretty excited when the invitation showed up in my email.  The only part of my that was skeptical, was the part with a natural aversion to chain restaurants.  Thankfully, my skepticism was unfounded.

On the day of the event, The April Blake and I carpooled over to the restaurant, where we met R (who had agreed to be my plus one), Elizabeth (from Gastronomy by a Wanna-Be Chef), and a handful of Columbia's best bloggers.  When we walked in, we had the chance to talk to the local owners of the restaurant, and also to Smashburger founder, Tom Ryan.

As we wandered up to the counter to place our order, Tom was urging us to order anything and everything that might strike our fancy.  I was a bit uncomfortable with that because I'm not really one to waste food, but then I realized that I could get a to go box, and so I went to town.  First, I decided to make my own burger - with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, mushrooms, bacon, and cheddar cheese on a chipotle bun.

My burger creation.

Then I ordered the avocado club - avocado, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and ranch on a multi-grain bun.  And, because no good burger is complete without the perfect side item, I decided to try the Smash fries, made with rosemary, olive oil, and garlic.  And a strawberry milkshake.

The avocado club - such creamy avocado.

Because it's actually impossible to go wrong with a strawberry milkshake.
R and I had decided to share whatever we ordered, so he got the Spicy Baja Black Bean Burger and the Carolina Chili burger, complete with a side of fried pickles.  One of the cool thing about Smashburger, is that even though it is a chain, each location offers an item with a bit of local flair.  In this case, that is the Carolina Chili burger, which was awesome.

Carolina chili burger and fried pickles

Spicy black bean burger - look how fresh (not pickled!) those jalapeños are!

You know what else was awesome?  The food.  The ingredients were fresh and flavorful, and the meat itself stood alone.  The portions are big - even without having ordered so much food, I would have had leftovers - and the prices are more than reasonable.  And the Smash fries.  I would go back to Smashburger just for the fries.  They were outstanding.  And that's just the food R and I had.  Since we were sitting with them, we also traded food with Elizabeth and April, so we got to try a classic hamburger and the buffalo chicken sandwich, as well as the Veggie Frites, which are flash-fried and seasoned carrots and green beans.  The Veggie Frites were super tasty, and a wonderful alternative to regular fries.

Veggie frites.  Look at the color!  And they were crunchy too.
And then, we got to learn the secret of Smashburger.  Tom took us back into the kitchen in small groups to show us how it's done.  The special smashing technique they use really locks in the flavor to the meat.  We got to try a burger patty that was straight off the grill, before it was topped or put on a bun, and it was almost like eating a well-seasoned steak.  It had that same kind of juicy steak flavor but with the meatiness of a portabella mushroom.  Like Elizabeth said, the key to a good burger is that it can stand alone, and these certainly stood up to the challenge.

Apparently I'm not the only one to think so either. Smashburger has been open for about a month now, and by all accounts has been jam packed.  R said he's tried to go 4 times, and he's never made it back because the line is always out the door.  Definitely a good sign for people looking for a good burger at a good price.  They also have salads, food for the kids, an assortment of sides, and beer.  So you could even make Smashburger a family outing.  Enjoy it when you go!

You can find Smashburger on Twitter or on the web.

Smashburger on Urbanspoon

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