By Jon Christensen Thursday March 28, 2013 9:44 AM
Smashburger, a brand-new burger place in Gahanna, is the first central Ohio location for the Denver chain.
The idea behind the name is that a sphere of ground beef (which Smashburger says is made of 100 percent Angus meat) is pressed onto a flat grill for 10 seconds, searing the meat and flattening it into a patty. Although it’s larger than those of days gone by, the fried patty resembles a burger of the 1950s and ’60s.
The best test is to order the “classic” ($4.99) — which has all the flavors of the era, from the well-fried beef to the accompanying American cheese, ketchup, mustard, pickles and onions.
The ingredients are served between what Smashburger calls an egg bun. It’s substantial, with no hints of the airy, soft and tasteless buns made with only price in mind.
Almost all of the Smashburger options are available for the chicken lineup, which uses a flat piece of white meat that seems to be marinated ahead of time.
It’s available breaded and deep-fried, but the best bet is the uncoated grilled version.
Like all of the sandwiches, the spicy Baja chicken ($6.99) is presented open-faced. The attractive dish has slices of jalapeno decorating the top of the heap, which also includes pepper-jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, guacamole and a smear of chipotle mayonnaise.
The mayo is more of a dipping sauce and should be ordered on the side. Its absence doesn’t mean lack of flavor: The Baja chicken is spicy without the chipotle mayo, even if the jalapeno slices are removed.
It’s more than just heat, however, with flavor contributions coming from the fresh-tasting guacamole and the marinated chicken.
The “Chicago dog” ($4.99) really isn’t Chicago-style. The good-quality beef hot dog is served with decent chili in the bun. It’s topped with a few slices of fresh jalapeno pepper, which is as close as this gets to a true Chicago-style hot dog.
Vegetarians can order the spicy Baja black-bean burger ($5.99). It can be configured differently from the “spicy Baja” mix available on chicken and hamburgers. Here’s a suggestion: Try the spinach-and-goat-cheese topping, which also includes cucumbers, tomato and onion. To spice up the mild-tasting black-bean patty, ask for some of the chipotle mayonnaise on the side.
Sides include “smashfries” ($1.99), shoestring in size and given a dose of olive oil and minced rosemary (and a hint of garlic) after cooking. The serving is probably enough for two people.
An unusual side is made with carrot sticks and green beans that are briefly deep-fried without breading or batter. The mild, crunchy veggies pick up less oil than coated vegetables often do (veggie frites, $2.99).
The huge harvest salad ($5.99) is served with marinated tomato slices decoratively arranged atop the salad, which features a variety of greens served with a tart balsamic dressing. Also provided are sunflower and pumpkin seeds, blue cheese and dried cranberries.
The Caesar salad ($5.99) is better than one might expect in a burger joint.
The retro dessert lineup features shakes and floats made with Haagen-Dazs ice cream.
Malts, which cost the same as the shakes ($1.99), come in the old-fashioned soda-fountain metal containers in which they’re made, along with a soda-fountain glass.
The vanilla malt is well-done, with moderate malted notes amid vanilla and dairy flavors.