Behind The Menu: Gettin’ Smashed

By: Behind The Menu

When my partner in crime, Scott Nicholson, and I first discussed the concept that would become Behind the Menu, we labored over the issue of how to treat chain restaurants when talking about the Treasure Valley culinary scene. We didn’t want to be purists (i.e., snobs) about it…and if you’ve driven down Eagle Road lately, you have to acknowledge that chain concepts are becoming a increasing part of the restaurant landscape.

At the same time, it’s hard to represent yourself as “celebrating the Treasure Valley’s culinary scene from pitchfork to plate” if you focus on concepts you could find in any city. It reminds me of the bumper sticker adage, “You’re Unique…Just Like Everybody Else”.

It’s taken us months to come to where we are on the issue, but we’ve arrived at the conclusion that if a chain brings a buzz worthy concept to our local scene, we’re going to talk about it…if for no other reason than the fact that our followers (that’s you guys) probably will as well. When it comes to membership in our soon-to-be-launched social media association, however, we plan to apply the “locally owned standard”. We think this strikes a good balance, but as time goes by we’ll look to our followers for continued guidance.

Which brings me to the subject of Smashburger’s opening this week in Meridian. If you happened to catch my blog, “Chain, Chain, Chain”, in the Idaho Business Review (www.idahobusiness.net), you’ll recall that I wrote about the “local vs. chain” issue in relation to a new hamburger place that opened on Eagle Road on August 19. My wife and I attended an “invitation only” soft opening of Smashburger the night before (yes, I am part of the in-crowd in this town), courtesy of my friend Patti Murphy of Murphy Media Services.

We were really impressed with Smashburger’s take on our beloved slice of culinary Americana. Smashburger’s concept is based on their conviction that a gap exists between fast food burgers (no names mentioned) and pricier offerings at places like Red Robin. I have to admit that while there are a few local stands we know and love in this town, our expectations of what constitutes a great burger have been considerably dumbed down over the years, thanks to the mega-chains. Smashburger definitely resets the bar…and bully for them!

What I really liked was the choice we had in our burger selection. My wife went for a mushroom and swiss, while I customized mine with a wholegrain bun, fresh lettuce, tomato, red onion, and a slice of sharp cheddar.

You can choose between a 1/3 and 1/2 pound hunk of ground beef, “smash” grilled. The burgers were a bit on the greasy side (to which many might remark, “your point being…?”), but the taste was right up there with the best burgers I’ve had anywhere. We were also greatly impressed with the fries. Smashburger’s namesake fries are tossed with olive oil, garlic salt, rosemary, and other herbs, and I can honestly say that next to the Boise Fry Company, they are the best fries I’ve tasted in Boise. That’s high praise. Throw in a Haagen-Dazs shake, and you’ve got a meal that definitely challenges any locally-owned burger joint to stay on their toes…which as I pointed out in my IBR blog, is one of the benefits of having a great chain concept come to town.

If you’re interested in checking out Smashburger, tomorrow (Saturday, August 22) would be a great time, since local Boise band, The Lightning Clouds, will be rockin’ out from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Smashburger’s first Idaho location, 3223 E. Louise Drive in Meridian (directly north of St. Luke’s Medical Center on Eagle Road). To quote Ms. Murphy, “The public is invited to come by and enjoy some smashin’ good food and free entertainment.”

Let us know what you think of Smashburger!