I am a horrible cook. One day, with plenty of practice, I will be able to make passable meals and not microwave soup for every meal (except for breakfast which is toast). But until then, HamburgerPants is both my hobby and my way to eat palatable food. Mama Woo was out of town, so Pops and I went to get some great aterey-clo
gging food at Smashburger. I will admit that Smashburger, like Five Guys, is a US based chain and doesn’t fit my criteria for burger reviews, but this place was so good it needs to be mentioned.
A quick note on chain restaurants: there is nothing wrong with them. I don’t discriminate, in fact, whenever I go travelling to far off lands, I always stop into a McDonald’s, because there’s something so familiar, yet so different, about each country’s take on the fast food giant. In India, I enjoyed a Chicken Maharaja Mac, Venezuelan McDonald’s is super expensive, and not nearly as good as the food you can buy on the street for half the price. Chain restaurants are popular for a reason. And so I went to Smashburger to see what their reason for being popular was.
Smashburger gets its
name from the way they prepare their burgers, literally smashing them onto the grill to sear in the flavor. Originating in Denver Colorado, Smashburger locations are scattered across the United States like
sesame seeds on a bun. So far, Calgary boasts the only two Smashburger locations in Canada, but the way they’ve started, I would expect other franchises to pop up soon.
The restaurant is decorated in a modern-style, clean and open. You grab a menu upon entry, and use your time in line to decide what you will dine on during your visit. I selected, like any good Calgarian, the Calgary Burger and added a fried egg (because I love eggs on burgers). Papa Woo opted for the American burger. We got a side of chili cheese fries to share and a drink each. Upon finishing our order, we were given a number card to put on our table so that a staff member would deliver us our burgers when ready. The placards have a “fun fact” on them, but this does not make for interesting reading. It’s more a ploy by Smashburger to get you to buy more stuff. Kudos on maximizing your promotion space Smashburger, but keep your advertising away from my burger experience please.
When I think about why I liked Smashburger, it’s the little things. It’s the serve-yourself pop, allowing me to revert back to childhood days and create dastardly mixes of all the types of drinks in the soda fountain. However, I am an adult, and my tastes have matured, so I’ll just do a half-Frutopia half-water (cutting back on sugar rationalizes the sodium bomb I’m about to ingest, am I right?). It’s the waiter serving my food, so that I’m not straining to hear my name called when my food is ready. It’s the free Wifi, which my dad was a huge fan of, since that means he doesn’t have to be charged on his data plan. Way to go Smashburger!
Onto the food. Service was quick and our burgers were hot. Off to a good start. The seared burger was absolutely delicious, the searing method had sealed in all the juices, and there was a crispy outer layer around the burger, which provided a unique texture that I don’t often see. The patty differs from most that I have seen in Calgary: it’s thin. The best burgers I have had are often not the thickest patties, but the best tasting meat. The flavor shone through at Smashburger, like a beam of heavenly light shining out of the bun and onto my tastebuds. YUM.
If you’ve read my Alley Burger post, you know that Papa Woo is short of words. He said the burger was “very good and he would have it again”. Which I already knew, as Pop pop goes to Smashburger for occasional lunch breaks on work days. He claims no favourite…yet. So work hard for his love Smashburger!
The burger was so good I wanted to devour it all at once but I paused in my demolishing of the Calgary Burger to sample our chili cheese fries. For those who like to share sides out there, be warned: the sides at Smashburger are not designed for sharing. I think the best chili cheese fries don’t always need the best ingredients, because the best ones I’ve ever had were at the Calgary Vipers baseball game, a heart-stopping plate of hot, greasy, salty fries, swimming in space age chili and nacho cheese, the kind that you can store at room temperature throughout the off season and consume in the summer. I went to Local 002 once and got some, it was rich, meaty, beefy chili with shredded fancy white cheddar on top. ALL WRONG. Smashburger is between my Vipers awesome fries and the Local 002 disaster. The Smashburger fries were actually stale and hard, not crispy, hard. The chili was pretty spicy, overpowering the rest of the ingredients and the cheese was sparse, which is never good. It was topped with fresh jalepenos which neither I nor my dad liked. In short, the chili cheese fries were a disappointment. My search for a suitable Vipers replacement continues.
I am surprised how much I liked Smashburger, considering it’s a chain. I always thought that my favourite burger joint should be a small, unknown local dive, but I’ve realized that places as successful as Smashburger, they do have a solid product to justify all the hype. That is something that all burger connoisseurs should keep in mind: Liking the big chain restaurants doesn’t take away from your credibility as a burger critic. If the masses like it, there’s no shame in agreeing with them that it’s pretty damn good.