By: Frank Ranu; Ranu’s Reviews
I got invited to a free media lunch at the new Smashburger in Montclair, NJ. This is the Colorado-based franchises first restaurant in an already crowded, burger-happy state. Being the thorough reviewer that I amI also went back to Smashburger on my own dime just to see if the experience was any different from the media lunch.
Can I Trade in My Games for a Burger?
As I entered the parking lot, I took a quick glance and did not see Smashburger. There was Panera, 7-11 and GameStop. I saw the sign on the left and there was Smashburgers oval logo, but no building? I looked closer at GameStop and realized that it was Smashburger. You take the text out of the logo and it is frigging identical to GameStop. Definitely not a bad thing because Im sure the majority of the burger-eating population in NJ plays video games.
WTF is a smashburger?
Before I get into my review, Im sure most of you are wondering what the hell makes a burger a smashburger. I had the pleasure of spending about 20 minutes or so with Dave Prokupek, the chairman of Smashburger. He gave me an overview of the company, what goes into the burgers and then invited me to go check out the kitchen for myself to see how they are made.
Of course I just had to go into the kitchen to check this out. They take 100% Angus beef and make a meat ball about the size of an adult-size fist. Next, a piece of waxed paper is gently placed on top of the beef ball and then smashed with this custom-made hamburger press. This press looked like it weighed about 10 pounds and the dude smashing the burger was pressing down with all his might. If you are looking for a good way to work out and get paidthen a burger smasher just might be the job for you!
The burger is smashed for 10 seconds which sears and caramelizes the meat. Then the burger is flipped over with a custom spatula that is sharpened daily. It has to be sharp so the burger doesnt lose any of that delicious sear and is then smashed again to lock in all the juices.
Time to Get Smashed
The menu is a bit intimidating at first glance since there are so many excellent options, so check it out online before you go in for the first time. Here is the NJ menu. You place your order at the counter and then the meal is brought to your table literally like five to eight minutes later. No jokethe food comes out in less than 10 minutes and that is something that Smashburger should play up a bit more–especially if I was on their Marketing team.
The one bad thing about the menu is that everything is a la carte except for the kids menu. This was done by design according to Smashburgers Chairman. He believes that ordering food by numbers is a fast-food thing and I agree with him to a pointbut Id still like to feel that Im getting a bargain when ordering my meal. However, the food is very competitively priced so it didnt really bother me that much. And after I ate the burgerit bothered me even less!
The burgers come in two sizes: 1/3 or 1/2 pound. There are quite a few pre-made compilations of burgers to choose from or you can make your very own creation by choosing the bun, cheese, sauces and toppings. You can also add on a fried egg, chili, fried pickles and a few other items for a small price.
When I attended the media lunch, I had a 1/2 lb. Smashburger classic. I always like to try the most basic menu item when trying a new place because if they cant get the basics right then there is no need to even bother with something more elaborate on the menu. The bun could not contain the 1/2 pound of hamburger and juicy goodness surrounded the bun like the rings of Saturn. It was quite obvious to me that I was going to need to work on my biceps if I want to come back here because this burger was frigging heavy! Not only was it big and heavyit was pretty damn good.
When I bit into that burger it felt like my taste buds won the Super Bowl. They were doing end-zone celebrations with every single bite. The burger was juicy as promised, but not at all greasy. I would say that it was comparable to Bobby Flays, but you get more for your money at Smashburger. There is a new burger king in NJall hail Smashburger!
I didnt really pick up on this the first time I was at Smashburger, but there are fries and smashfries, which are tossed with rosemary, olive oil and garlic. There are also cheese fries, chili fries and chili-cheese fries (all are made with smashfries). The smashfries had a pleasant and unique taste to them, but the rosemary was dominatingso if you are not a fan of rosemary, Id go with the plain fries.
I had the cheese fries with my meal and they were pretty good. They didnt taste like the cheese fries that Ive become accustomed to, but they were a nice compliment to the burger. The cheddar cheese was pretty sharp and it played nicely with the rosemary on the fries.
I also sampled the fried pickles and vegetable frites (both came with buttermilk ranch dressing). The fried dill pickles were a bit salty, but I liked them. They are great to share and I wouldnt suggest eating the entire side by yourself.
The vegetable frites consisted of flash-fried asparagus, carrots and green beans. I didnt receive any green beans with my order, but that was fine with me because this was the least favorite item I had all day.
Its Better Than Yours
My milkshake may bring all the boys to the yard, but the shakes at Smashburger will bring you back for more. I got to sample the chocolate, strawberry and blueberry milkshakes. The strawberry was my favorite and the chocolate one wasnt bad, but to be fair Im not a fan of chocolate milkshakes. Smashburgers blueberry milkshake is only available in NJ and this is one exclusive I wish they wouldve left back in Colorado. They do come in a decent-sized glass and like Red Robinyou get the entire silver canister that the shake was made in, so it is like getting a shake and a half for the price of one.
My Return Trip
When I went back to Smashburger a few days later I tried the Mushroom Swiss burger and it was fantastic. However, I got a 1/2 pound burger and it was noticeably smaller than the monster 1/2 pounder I received at the media lunch. I also tried the plain fries and they were absolutely amazingthe smashfries were good, but the plain fries were much better. In addition to the plain fries, I got to sample the chili-cheese fries as well. The chili had a nice flavor to it and it was not too spicy. Im sure the chili would go nicely on a burger, so I think that will be my next meal at Smashburger.
Other Menu Items
There are a few other items on the menu worth mentioning that I didnt get to try because I was too damn full. They also have a smashchicken sandwich that looked really good. The chicken breast was smashed nice and thinso there is no need to worry about any undercooked chicken in this joint!
There are also a few varieties of hot dogs called smashdogs. They seem to be very proud to be carrying NJs own Best brand hot dogs, but if I was them I would lose the brand name because they definitely arent the best hot dogs. Thumanns or Sabretts hot dogs are worthy of name droppingnot Best.
The salads come in a cool-looking bowl and are pretty big for under seven bucks. There are a few kids meals for $3.99 that come with a burger, dog, grilled cheese or chicken stripsplus fries and a drink. They also have bottles of Stewarts sodas on ice that you get can get served in a frosty mug.
The End Result
Ive had my fair share of burgers here in the Garden State and I would have to say that Smashburger is the tastiest and least greasy. You get a great-tasting burger that fills you up at a fair price. I enjoyed the experience both times I visited Smashburger and wouldnt hesitate to go back there again.
For more info, visit Smashburger.
15 Bloomfield Ave
Montclair, New Jersey 07042
10 AM – 10 PM Daily