Junior's has a new neighbor. Last Thursday, Denver-based Smashburger made its New York premiere in Fort Greene, Brooklyn—just three days before the fourth anniversary of its debut in the Mile High City.
What's different about this burger chain? For one thing, it's a national enterprise with local influences. This store, for example, serves a Brooklyn smashburger, a Brooklyn Dog, and local beer from Brooklyn Brewery. What else is different? Tom Ryan, the company's founder and chief concept officer, explains:
Tom Ryan discusses the new Smashburger in Brooklyn
Get ready …
Get set …
I had to order the Brooklyn ($5.99, ⅓ lb "smash"/$6.99, ½ lb "big smash"), a 100% Certified Angus Beef burger surmounted by grilled pastrami, Kraft Swiss cheese, pickles, onion, and yellow mustard on a pretzel bun. Individually, the burger's components may seem at home in Brooklyn, but, not fuh nuttin, most Brooklynites would never add cheese to their pastrami. Nevertheless, this savory combination of flavors was quite delicious and incredibly juicy! It's a burger fit for Kings. (County, that is.)
To accompany my Brooklyn smashburger, I ordered the healthful-sounding Veggie Frites ($2.99)—asparagus spears, carrot sticks, and green beans, flash-fried for 45 seconds, and seasoned with salt and pepper. Inspired by Chinese stir-fry, these veggies are a welcome departure from the usual burger-related sides.
My next taste was of a hamburger I shared with a fellow writer. The Las Vegas-inspired Sin City smashburger lived up to its moniker. Served on an egg bun, its sinful toppings comprised fried egg, applewood smoked bacon, melted American cheese, grilled and haystack onions, and smash sauce (a blend of mayo, mustard, sweet relish, and a little lemon juice). I confess, this was a sinfully tasty burger.
While the burgers may be a smash, how does that name figure into their preparation? Tom Ryan explains:
Tom Ryan explains the smashburger name
Owing to their cooking method ("ten seconds, metal-to-metal"), as well as possible health concerns, smashburgers are served somewhere between medium and medium-well, but can be ordered well-done. I prefer my burgers rare, but, alas, that option is not available.
As if those sizable burgers hadn't been enough, I also tried the grilled Spicy Baja chicken sandwich ($6.99). (The grilled option sounded a bit more healthful than the crispy alternative.) Served with pepper jack cheese, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, onion, spicy chipotle mayo, and fresh jalapeños within a spicy chipotle bun, this was a genuinely spicy sandwich. I especially enjoyed the way the guacamole complemented the heat of the other ingredients. Inasmuch as I liked the chicken, however, I preferred the burgers.
To end on a sweet note, I slurped a Häagen-Dazs milkshake. Though available in the usual flavors—vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry—these shakes become veritable desserts when Oreos, Butterfinger, or Nutter Butter bars are added. My Oreo milkshake was creamy and smooth, an indulgent means by which to exceed my calorie quota. While I normally avoid such rich treats, I finished this one with far greater gusto than I care to admit.
As Tom Ryan told me, "our goal is to put great tasting burgers back in people's lives." Has he succeeded? Let's just say the mere thought of a smashburger makes me salivate.
80 Dekalb Avenue (SW corner Rockwell Pl),
Fort Greene, Brooklyn (map)
By bus: B25, B26, B38, B41, B45, B52, B67, B103