Who would have thought it…a near-lifetime vegetarian raving about a restaurant based on meat? But it’s true. No, I did not cross over to the dark side. Let me explain.
Yesterday I had the privilege to attend a press preview for the newest location for Smashburger, a Colorado-based chain that’s opening its 202nd location at 9900 S. IH 35 in Austin today. Company founder and head cheerleader Tom Ryan was on hand to treat us to samples the restaurant’s signature burgers, chicken sandwiches, and (dear to my vegetarian heart!), in–house made black bean veggie burgers (yeah now you see where my enthusiasm comes from!)
Well, that and the piles of fragrant rosemary and olive oil fries, the crispy fried jalapeno pepper slices and the super-thin crispy onion rings with a truly addictive dipping sauce.
In a world (and city) filled with fast-food burger joints, what makes Smashburger different? We found out as sample after sample came out from the kitchen.
Great big burgers topped with bar-b-que sauce, bacon and cheddar. Chicken sandwiches crispy in a chicken-friend-steak style coating. A cilantro-and-blue-corn-tortilla infused black bean burger (mine was topped with fresh slices of jalapeno and a spicy chipotle mayo on a spicy chipotle bun — I love my spice!) A grilled chicken sandwich topped with slices of locally-sourced goat cheese and crisp cucumber. Salads and hot dogs, too. The food kept coming, and the reviewers kept eating.
“It’s too good to stop”, one food blogger said. Another added that Smashburger’s chicken sandwiches were the first chicken sandwiches he’d had that actually had flavor. And when we headed into the kitchen to watch the unique “smashing” process in action, another reviewer said the burger tasted more like steak than ordinary hamburger. And (and this is a shocker!) in a city so well-known for its bar-b-que, several reviewers rated the Smashburger BBQ, Bacon and Cheddar Burger the best they’d ever had.
For those who can’t image a burger without a tall frosty beer, they have you covered.
And for those who crave an ice-cold sweet old-fashioned shake or malt with their meal, yup, they’ve got you covered, too.
As a vegetarian, I’ll admit there was a lot I didn’t taste. But as a foodie, I appreciated the incredible attention to detail in everything they do. The buns are toasted on the inside to prevent the juices from making them soggy. The menu in each of their 200+ locations is adjusted to match the tastes and food sources in the local market. The burgers are made from prime Angus beef, and the veggie burger is crafted in-house. Nothing is frozen and thawed.
Tom Ryan, who’s prior food masterpieces include the Pizza Hut Stuffed Crust Pizza and the McDonald’s Fruit and Yogurt Parfait seems to have done it again.
Smashburger is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. They have a kids menu and a pet-friendly patio at their I-35 location. More Austin locations are planned, but for now only the Slaughter Lane and New Braunfels locations are open.
(My personal meat-eating partner couldn’t join me yesterday, so thank you to all my fellow reviewers for sharing your experiences with the meat!)