First of all, a big thank-you to Smashburger for inviting me out to their opening party on Tuesday night. I haven't been into cooking these days, so it's especially nice when someone else buys you dinner!
Smashburger is an up & coming chain from the good ol' USA. They started up in 2007 and have been rapidly spreading throughout the States and have recently launched into the international market with locations in the Middle East and Canada. Calgary has their first two locations and the new one in Sherwood Park is the third.
The Smashburger concept is simple: serve up satisfying, fresh, delicious burgers. They've carved out their niche by offering up fresh, never-frozen burgers cooked to order. They start off with a ball of hamburger (no fillers or binders) then smash it onto a hot, buttered grill where it develops a great crust that seals in the juices. They use 100% Angus beef that they import from the States along with a variety of fresh toppings and sauces. Their menu also has a selection of "Smashchicken" sandwiches, dinner-sized salads and sides. They've got shakes, malts, pop and beer available to wash it all down with. One of the things Smashburger is trying to do is 'regionalize' their menus with special recipes chosen to reflect local tastes. When I was checking out their website I decided to see what that meant for the Calgary locations versus the new one in Sherwood Park. I thought it was interesting that there were different offerings, even between the two Calgary stores (for example, one restaurant had deep-fried pickles and the other had mushroom poutine) - I guess you have to visit each location to try it all out! (here's a link to the Edmonton menu)
There were four of us in our party, and we all decided to go with beef burgers - I mean, we were there to try out the 'Smashburger' speciality.
I picked the 'Truffle Mushroom Swiss' burger with a side of 'Haystack Onions'. The first bite of my burger was delicious, with so many wonderful flavours all playing together; the buttery rich egg bun, juicy beef, salty swiss cheese, garlicky mushrooms and a generous spread of truffle-infused mayo. The flavour combo was great, and I could see this one being a really popular burger. I didn't enjoy the haystack onions quite as much - I found them to be overly salty and when eaten alongside the rich truffle burger (which was a bit on the salty side too) it was too much. I could see enjoying the onions more with a different burger, or even a few inside a burger - yum.
Trev ordered the 'BBQ, Bacon & Cheddar' burger with a fried egg on top (one of the 'premium add-ons' options). He seemed to enjoy it and it looked pretty tasty, but I didn't actually try it. He had the 'Smash Fries' as his side: thin-cut fries tossed with rosemary, garlic & olive oil. I really liked them - the additional flavours on the fries were a nice addition, and not overpowering. A much better compliment to my burger than the haystack onions.
One of our friends tried the 'Spicy Baja' and judging from the number of those we saw leaving the kitchen, that was a popular choice. It looked really good with a pile of fresh toppings, and seriously, who can resist guacamole? She had a side of sweet potato fries and we all agreed that they were nice and crispy, but a bit bland on their own. They were also thin-cut and didn't seem to have too much sweet potato taste as a result, so they might have benefitted from some seasoning or a dip. I think our other friend had the 'Edmonton' burger and he liked it too (sorry, I was too engrossed in my own burger). One of the toppings on the Edmonton burger is 'Canadian seasoned grilled onions' - I couldn't help but wonder...how is 'Canadian seasoned' different than any other grilled onions? A mystery for me to puzzle over....
We got to try a few samples of Smashburger's milkshakes (chocolate & Oreo) and they were tasty and creamy. I wish we had got to try the Saskatoon Berry flavour, but none made it to our table :) I had really been looking forward to trying a malt (I haven't had one since I was a kid) but they weren't up for offer that night - guess I'll have to head back for another visit!
Overall, we all agreed that we would return to Smashburger in the future. The food was good - it was delicious and fresh, as promised. The menu had a good variety and I think you would be able to meet a variety of dietary restrictions there too (like gluten-free). My only small quibble was that all the food is imported from the U.S. I realize this is because with only 3 stores in Canada at the present time, they don't have the buying power they do in the U.S., but it would be nice to see 100% Canadian Beef on the menu in the future.
My prediction? It's going to be a busy summer for the folks out at Smashburger! Thanks again for dinner :)