New Burger Chain Doing Smashingly

By: Scott Cherry; Tulsa World

I didn’t know what to expect when we headed out to Tulsa Hills Shopping Center to visit Smashburger, a new hamburger chain based in Denver.

I pictured something like a McDonald’s or Wendy’s, or perhaps something more spacious, such as Red Robin or Fuddruckers.

It turned out to be almost nothing like any of those but closer in function to a Pei Wei or Tin Star in that diners order at a counter and servers bring food to the table.

The rectangle-shaped room had seating for only 50 to 60, and it was packed. I wondered as I stood in a line that ran halfway down the room how on Earth there would be some place for four of us to sit after we placed our orders.

But a booth magically emptied as we made our way to the tables, and I noticed throughout the evening no one ever was left standing waiting for a seat. A few customers chose to dine on the patio, but it was a hot evening and most stayed inside.

Our group represented three generations of our family (and that’s skipping one generation in the middle), so the difference in ages from the youngest to the oldest was about 70 years. It was interesting to see who chose what.

Diners may select one of the seven preset varieties of hamburgers and chicken sandwiches, most interchangeable with either meat, or build their own from a list of buns, cheese, sauces, dressings and toppings. A list of extra-charge add-ons also is available, and sides are extra.

Salads and hot dogs round out the food menu. Shakes, malts and root beer floats are made with Haagen-Dazs ice cream. A few beers, including Oklahoma-made Choc, are among the beverages, and wines by the glass will be available soon.

The youngest in our group chose to build her own third-pound burger ($4.99) with an egg bun, sharp cheddar cheese, ketchup and grilled onions, while the family matriarch went for a third-pound All American ($4.99), a traditional style burger with American cheese, ketchup, mustard, onion and pickle on an egg bun.

The middle generation selected a half-pound mushroom-Swiss burger ($6.99) with garlic sauteed mushrooms, Swiss cheese and mayo on an egg bun, and the half-pound OK Smashburger ($6.99). That latter big boy was mine, and it included a heart-thumping mix of fried pickles, pepper jack cheese, haystack onions, lettuce, tomato and buttermilk ranch dressing on an egg bun. The flavors melded surprisingly well. The only thing that could have made it better was a fried egg (99 cents), but I failed to notice it in time among the possible add-ons.

When a burger order comes in at Smashburger, cooks take a third- or half-pound round of Angus ground beef and flatten it on the grill. The edges come out jagged, as they should, and the burgers have good flavor.

We were particularly happy with the sliced mushrooms in the mushroom-Swiss burger. They were large, fresh, sauteed perfectly and there were plenty of them.

Side dishes are $1 less when purchased in combination with a sandwich or burger. We had crunchy fried pickles ($1.99), lightly seasoned shoestring fries ($1.79) and haystack onions ($1.99), tiny onion rings that had been battered and fried, and came with a zippy horseradish dip.

From the beverage menu we also had a root beer float ($3.99) and a strawberry shake ($3.99), and both were excellent. The shake came in an ice cream soda glass, along with the stainless mixing container that held leftover shake. The float came in a frosted root beer mug.

Diners pick up utensils and soft drinks at the beverage station. Servers fly around (orders come out in five to six minutes) delivering food in wire baskets, taking any extra drink or food orders and handling customer requests in rapid-fire fashion. Customers moving about and servers swarming the two long, narrow aisles make for a frenzied scene when the restaurant is full.

The room has a mix of booths and tables, plus one long bench seat with movable tables in front of it to accommodate different sized groups. The color scheme is silver-gray and rust-red. Words such as smash, savor and sizzle are painted in large letters on the walls, and lighting is provided by drum-shade fixtures and curvy track lights.

A second Smashburger

A second Smashburger in the Tulsa area — and the second in Oklahoma — opened this week at 10830 E. 71st St., near the Cinemark Tulsa movie theater.

It will have the same hours and manner of operation as the one in the Tulsa Hills Shopping Center.

“The only difference is the one on 71st Street is just a little smaller, and it won’t have a patio area for a few more months,” said general manager Jason Ferguson.

Ferguson said the 2-year-old Smashburger chain includes 27 restaurants scattered across six states.

“We plan to be nationwide with 400 to 500 stores in the next five years,” he said.

For those unfamiliar with Tulsa Hills Shopping Center, it is located east of the 71st Street exit off U.S. 75. Customers east of the Arkansas River also can get there just by driving west across the river on 71st Street.