This post is in regards to the Smashburger preview on May 1st prior to their grand opening. I was one of the many food bloggers along with media specialist that had the opportunity to come to learn about Smashburgers’ food, concept and inspiration about this American “better burger” chain. Luckily, I was able to hang with Miss.Foodie and another friend so we could share our burgers and sides together so we can sample a little bit of everything. I did not pay for my meal.
First off, I would like to say that I’m really happy that I went to this event. The reason is because this is the first time I saw the workings of a burger chain that really cares about incorporating local suppliers in it’s menu and going above the call of duty to making sure that the food quality served are set to a high-standard. Details from food sourcing, to prepping, to service is well thought out and is something I appreciate.
I have a tonne of pictures of this event so I’ll do my best to keep this as short and sweet …. and organized.
SMASHBURGER, is an American “Better Burger” chain headquartered in Denver, Colorado. They focus on making burgers sourced from as much local ingredients as possible and ensures that all burgers are freshly made-to-order. Their main goal is to provide a more service-oriented experience where families, couples, buddies, and friends can all come together to enjoy a good wholesome burger, rather than be given a burger and be sent into a seating area to fend for yourself. Here, they put emphasis on service, freshness and basically the experience of enjoying a really good tasting burger back into the market place. In a way, burgers here aren’t just meant to be fast-food but instead be experienced as a casual meal and enjoyed, like any other full-service restaurant but at an affordable price.
Smashburger is located at #4 2770 32nd Avenue NE, the same strip mall as Basil Vietnamese and Maria’s Market. I have to admit, I did think that it is an odd location to debut popular U.S. burger chain but I’m kinda happy that they did because of 2 main reasons, 1) There’s tonnes of free parking, I mean this strip mall was kinda dead before Smashburger. , 2) This area of Calgary’s Northeast quadrant really needs a good burger place for lunch that’s fast, affordable, and that’s good. (I know because I work close by). You have a choice to sit in the restaurant to enjoy your meal or you can choose to do take out, either or you’re food will come out fast and fresh.
To order your meal, you go up to the counter and order what you want and pay. They will then give you a red number stand that you take to your table and someone will come out with your meal and serve you. Also, the service is for the whole duration of your meal, so really when you’re done eating you leave everything on the table and someone will come to pick it up. If you order water or soda, they have a self-serve station where you fill up the cups they give you and it’s basically all-you-can- drink, BUT if you order WINE- they give you wine glass and serve your wine too you like in a full-service restaurant. If you order BEER, they will give you a frosted mug and serve your beer too you. Therefore, THEY SERVE WINE AND BEER FOLKS! At really, really good prices, a glass of wine is $4.99 for a 6.3 oz and a bottle of beer served in a frosted mug is $3.99. You can even get a BUCKET OF BEER for $15.96 which has 4 bottles of beer in it. To me, this is great pricing and really, after a long days work there might be times when I just want a burger and a cold beer and I’m glad that I can minutes from work without going through rush hour traffic.
What about the food?!?! I’m sure a lot of people are wondering if the food is good. My answer is that the food is pretty good. For an American burger chain, they make a pretty good burger.
THE COOKING & THE SMASHING
I want to mention to you that the burgers here are fresh. They are all 100% Angus Beef Chuck, but they come from the U.S. and are NOT Canadian. I stress this because there is a reason why they are not Canadian beef is because of the process that is used to grind the beef. Tom Ryan, the founder of Smashburger was very nice to explain to me why they don’t use Canadian beef and the reason is simply because of the technic they use in processing the meat only exists in the U.S. and unfortunately, Canada doesn’t have a processing plant that can do that.
The technic is known as Bowl Chopping. Meat is bowl chopped when it goes into a rotating bowl that minces the meat by having by a multi-bladed revolving knife positioned at the rear of the bowl which revolves in the vertical plane. It helps the meat blend and emulsify proteins which makes the meat much more tender and juicier when cooked. Tom did say that he’s been approached by local suppliers who are interested in investing in machinery in their facilities so they can do this type ground beef. I kinda think of it as comparing machine grind beef tartar that look like strands to hand chopped beef tartar- two totally different textures and taste and generally, most people prefer the latter.
The beef is delivered to the restaurant in large bags which the kitchen staff then preps the meat into third pound and half pound meatballs that are then later Smashed onto their buttered grill.
You’re probably wondering why there’s paper? Well the paper is placed over the meatball (which is on a buttered grill) and meant to help lock in the juices from the meat while it’s cooking. The process with the paper is only 10 seconds long until they remove it.
After the paper comes off, the patty is seasoned with their special seasoning and cooks on the grill for about 45 seconds until it’s flipped over for the other side to cook for another 30 seconds or so and looks like this.
That sear is freaking AMAZING! Not kidding, this sear is so flavourful and the patty alone is surprisingly juicy. It’s amazing how so little time can make a burger be that tender and juicy and fully cooked.
This was a table favourite, the CLASSIC burger shown here in the Regular Size third pound patty goes for $5.99 (Smashfries not included)
This was our tables other favourite, this is the BBQ, BACON & CHEDDAR burger (shown in regular size/ third pound patty) for $6.99. (The haystack onions not included.)
The third burger we got for our table was the CALGARY burger (shown in third pound/ regular size) for $6.99. On paper, this burger sounded pretty awesome but at our table we found it to be not as flavourful as the other two. I realized afterwards that this burger doesn’t have any vegetables such as tomatoes or lettuce and it could be the reason why it didn’t taste as good. I remember it being more salty than the other two and it could be because there’s nothing to cut the salt such as tomatoes and lettuce. It also could be because we did ask for a multigrain bun instead of the kaiser roll which may have thrown off taste. I will say if you are going to get the burgers, get them as they are. Don’t change them up too much and if you do decide to, just change it to the Egg Bun. The Egg Bun alone is that good.
We totally wanted to see if our patty had the sear half-way through eating. It totally did as you can see! Yet, at the same time it’s not over cooked at all. It was tender and juicy so we’re quite surprise that they were able to pull off cooking a burger that quickly with such good results.
On a side note, what’s really interesting here too is that they toast all their buns. The reason why is because it helps with keeping the juices and flavours in the patty so you don’t have a soggy burger.
We had a hard time deciding on sides since all their options looked really good, instead we ended up getting all the ones we were really interested in.
This was the first to go on our table and is one of my favorite sides. The beans and carrots are flashed fried in a fryer for 45 seconds. The carrots still had a bit of crunch, but the beans were really really good. Well done, and tasted awesome. The veggies did come with a side of buttermilk ranch dressing. Great for those days if you feel like you’re lacking vegetables in your diet. The Veggie Frites are only $3.99.
This was probably our tables’ favourite side, and all agreed that this is a table winner. They were sooo good. You gotta get the Sweet Potato Fries for $2.99, even as a snack here. They are awesome. They’re crispy on the outside and sweet and soft on the inside. They were a really good size, not too thin and not to thick and not at all greasy. The chipotle mayo had a nice kick, but nothing that’s too overwhelming. If you go, you must order these fries. They will be one of the best tasting Sweet Potato Fries you will ever have.
This is Smashburgers’ signature Smashfries for $2.49. They tasted alright, but not as good as those Sweet Potato Fries. The interesting thing with these fries is that they tasted better cold. Weird right? Well, they held up good after being on the table for awhile. We snacked on these last and they didn’t get soggy at all and still tasted crunchy after they cooled. The rosemary, olive oil and garlic was very mild and quite delicate. If you like good old potato fries, these are good. (but seriously, sweet potato fries- awesome.)
I was excited to get the Haystacked Onions for $2.49, they remind me of one of those onion loafs but instead of being a loaf they were stringy; kinda like onions rings but thinner. They were good too, but the hard thing was eating them since they’re thing cut onion rings it was a little tricky to eat them and dip them in the Horseradish Dip, best to ask for a fork if you’re going to eat this. The Horseradish Dip that was served with this is good, not at all spicy but still had that mellow horseradish/ wasabi like flavour.
What can I say, when I see Deep Fried Pickles for $2.99 on a menu I get an impulse to order them and so did our table. These were my first Deep Fried Pickles and they were salty. Tom was saying that when people order Deep Fried Pickles, they generally do get them for that saltiness. So for those who like a punch of salt, this is for you. :)
Smashburgers’ version of the Canadiana dish, poutine. They’re Traditional Poutine goes for $3.99. You have to admit, us Canadians are very critical of poutine and to be quite honest, unless you go straight east to Quebec, it’s going to be very hard to find the perfect poutine anywhere. I give Smashburger a lot of credit for making their version of this beloved Canadian dish. The Traditional Poutine is Smashfries with gravy and Kingsey Cheese Curds from Quebec (a Saputo owned brand of cheese). I did find it a little on the salty side and the rosemary did throw off the flavour a bit. You may like or you may not, I honestly do think this dish is something they may have to work a bit on. I personally, would probably liked it better if it was just on non-seasoned fries. Hmmm… I wonder if gravy and cheese would be good on those Sweet Potato Fries…. ;)
Did I mention that Smashburger preps all their vegetables in-house? Yeah, they do, and you know what? You can really tell by eating this salad. This Cobb Salad was delicious and was $6.49 (though all their salads are $6.49), they did not skimp on the blue cheese AND it had a fried egg that actually looked like and tasted like a fried egg. Also, we added the chicken for an extra $2.50 and it tasted good. It was grilled just right and had the right amount of seasoning. I would definitely order this salad again just for myself since the portion is huge and is basically a meal on it’s own.
THE SWEET STUFF
They don’t’ have your typical ice cream here or soft serve for that sweet tooth of your after the meal. Instead, they got milkshakes and floats made from MacKay’s Ice Cream from Cochrane. At this event they had server hand out samples of milkshakes. We were able to try two flavours here, the Classic Vanilla and Premium Saskatoon Berry.
All Milkshakes and Floats here cost $4.99. The Classic Vanilla was really rich and creamy, so so good. It had a really good vanilla flavour that you would definitely taste. It didn’t have that icy texture that you would get from other fast food chains, it just tasted like a very good milkshake. Probably, one of the best I’ve ever had. The pictures shown above are the small sample cups we got. The Saskatoon Berry Milkshake had the same consistency as the Vanilla, but didn’t have that berry flavour. We were told that they use frozen berries for this shake, and they’re currently looking into a Saskatoon Berry compote instead. I think that compote idea would be a much better solution since the frozen berries in the milkshake didn’t have much flavour, all I tasted was the vanilla ice cream in that shake.
Overall, I’ll be coming back to this place to enjoy a good burger for lunch or afterwork. I think they have a great concept of locally sourcing as much ingredients as possible and I like the idea of having the service element go a little further. From what I know, they’re already planning their second location in the N.W. of Calgary. I say try it! I’m sure there’s something here for everyone to like.
- My recommendations:
Burgers – Classic Burger and BBQ, Bacon & Cheddar Burger (don’t change the buns)
Sides– Veggie Frites and Sweet Potato Fries
Milkshakes– Classic Vanilla
- For the salad, I only tried the Cobb Salad but I would still recommend to get it even though I didn’t try any of the other ones. Dressing was on the salad, if you like dressing on the side I recommend you mention that to the cashier when you place your order.
- Free Parking and lots of spaces available
- In the Northeast
- Much more service oriented than other fast food chains.
- Serves Wine and Beer