Is this the awesome brainchild of an industry veteran or a cynical attempt to cash in on the new wave of burger joints?
You probably wouldn’t put the commercial district of Downtown Brooklyn on your ‘must visit in New York’ list. Why would you unless you were a Federal Courthouse enthusiast? Some will skirt the edges if walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, before scurrying back into Manhattan, but probably not give it a second thought. With the investment being pumped into the area, and the new home of Jay-Z’s Brooklyn Nets right slap bang in the middle of it, that’ll probably change in time. But for burger nerds like us right now, it’s practically obligatory.
Why? Because three of the most talked about, and fastest expanding, US fast food burger properties are within stumbling distance of each other. You’ve got Shake Shack on Fulton Street and half a mile away, at the other end of Fulton Mall, there is Five Guys, and its close neighbour. Like really close, you can actually see Five Guys from the corner it’s on.
That neighbour is Smashburger.
This chain has some pretty hefty credentials. Its founder is the guy that created the stuffed crust pizza and McFlurrys, which simultaneously provokes both awe and dread (and an expectation to see him show up in various documentaries about how fat we all are). Is this the awesome brainchild of an industry veteran or a cynical attempt to cash in on the new wave of burger joints? We shall see. Nevertheless, the chain is growing. Fast.
It’s an aggressive expansion to match Alexander the Great. Yes, there’s even a branch in Kuwait. Plus, they are looking to double the number of stores in 2012 alone, so no doubt it won’t be long before there will be more locations that join this lone pioneer in New York.
Inside, Smashburger endeavours to cover a whole bunch of bases: you order like you’re at a fast food joint, but the food is brought to you like in a diner; the style of which is echoed in the decor, but with a seating variety resembling Starbucks - it is the physical representation of SB’s ‘fast-casual’ adage - you can take away, hastily chomp it down perched on a stool, or grab a table and have a few beers. And it works, as we saw patrons piling away a quick burger, and others chilling and chatting with their food. Someone had done their homework.
The All-American came laid out open, and felt like it was going to catch a chill it looked so exposed. It did however showcase the phenomenal sheen of the brilliantly melted cheese, seeped into the craggy surface of the patty. The egg bun was flawlessly toasted, the eggy addition lending to it an almost French toasty surface. This was going to be good.
And it fucking was. The egg bun leaned toward the savoury side of the brioche spectrum, with a perfect squishy texture in the hand and the mouth. As the name of the place implies, the patty is smashed, and this was a pretty good example having a bumpy, salty, crisp shell which easily broke into the body of beef. Finished with a ring of red onion and a trio of pickles for some crunch, and that gummy American cheese, it was a simple, comforting flavour. If there was an inkling of an issue it was that they had been a bit heavy handed with the classic condiments, being over-keen with the mustard bottle. This was still a great take on the staple American burger.
If I’ve had the space I would have tried the Classic, the store-signature Brooklyn, I could go on, I mean, the other potential bun and topping options (spicy chipotle bun, aged Swiss cheese etc.) just beg to be sampled. So it’s most definitely worth going down there. But don’t limit yourself, make it a patty pilgrimage: go all three places in Downtown, buy all of them, go sit in Fort Greene Park and have the meaty time of your fucking life.
Oh and the McFlurry guy? Well, yes. He’s making amends.