Five Guys, you better watch your back. Smash Brothers are coming to jump on you like a goomba. Smash Burger is a chain that harkens back to the smashed sliders of classic joints like the White Man(n)a, serving up burgers smashed flat on the grill using a special clover-shaped press. I got a taste of it Wednesday night with Firecracker, after winning a free dinner by replying to @SmashBurgerNNJ on twitter.
They offer 1/3 and 1/2 pound 100% Angus beef burgers, chicken, and hot dogs on their menu. We opted for the Classic Smash Burger and the New Jersey Burger, which has bacon, blue cheese, and onion strings. I got a side of their rosemary & olive oil smash fries, and Firecracker being the Southern belle she is, jumped on the fried pickles. They serve floats and shakes, but I grabbed a Stewart's Black Cherry soda. They offer an egg bun, a whole grain, or an onion, and several toppings and dressings and cheeses. They didn't ask how we wanted them cooked, but they came out juicy.
We got our burgers mighty quickly for it being so packed; we weren't the only ones who won a free dinner. Families with toddlers eating torn up bun-less burgers, couples sharing shakes. Their Montclair location is roomy and has good parking, in the strip mall that replaced the Ford dealership on Bloomfield Ave. The atmosphere is bright and lively with roomy booths, giving a diner feel without going retro. But enough about that crap. On to the burgers!
Boy were they juicy. Mine had American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion & pickle with ketchup & smash sauce on an egg bun. That's the classic Smash Burger, and it's a winner. Soft bun, juicy burger with lots of flavor, and not too many toppings to smother it. I wish I'd gotten some smash sauce on the side to discern what it actually was, but these are nearly as good as higher end franchises like HB Burger, and definitely on par with the best Five Guys burgers I've had. They lack a seared crust, but get steamed under that press and swap in lots of juicy flavor. It's a different kind of burger, but equally delicious.
Sarah got the New Jersey, which has thin slices of tasty, crispy Applewood smoked bacon; blue cheese crumbles (she swapped in cheddar); haystack onion strings AND grilled onions, lettuce, tomato and mayo on an onion bun. What's so Jersey about that? It ought to have Taylor Ham on it, no? It was very rich and greasy, requiring lots of napkins, but was still very tasty. I tasted the onion strings and they were lightly battered, and still crispy without being overcooked. I'd make my own New Jersey burger next time to try to make it less messy, though I guess this is a pretty messy state. My grandfather Lou "Abby" Pucci always craved a "sloppy cheeseburger," and this would have satisfied him.
The fried pickles were lightly battered and seasoned, with a light ranch sauce. They were juicy inside and crisp outside, as they should be. And for $1.99, I'd say they are the best side I've encountered for the money at any burger joint. The smash fries- cooked in olive oil with rosemary, garlic and herbs- were better than Elevation Burger's, keeping crisp mostly. Olive oil fries tend to get soggy, but we only had a few in this batch. Everything comes in a stainless wire basket tray with wax paper, but this isn't enough to keep grease off the tables. They might want to use solid trays like Elevation does up the block. Will they compete? I think Elevation's organic grass-fed beef angle and similar prices will attract its own crowd. Their burgers are similar in juiciness, but Elevation wins on flavor. 100% Angus can't compete with the strong beefy flavor of grass-fed. But Smash wins on size- their 1/3 pounder was as filling as a double at the El.
So Smash Burger is a welcome addition to the fresh-made burger franchise battle. They won't win against high-quality beef, but Five Guys and Elevation have a new contender to deal with. And they're hungry. They make great use of social media and have a strong push and a great fast burger. When I return I'll be trying out their fresh jalapenos on a garlic mushroom & Swiss burger. Yep, the place is really good when I'm thinking of my next order already. So if you like juicy burgers, give Smash Burger Brothers a try- the goomba's gonna get you.
Friday, January 15, 2010
disclaimers of legal bull shitte
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