July 18, 2012 | Wall Street Journal |
Convinced that flavor preferences are distinctly local, burger chain Smashburger, with 163 locations in three countries and 27 states, adds a local burger to each market’s menu. Founder Tom Ryan, a food veteran of Quiznos, McDonald’s MCD +0.79% and Pizza Hut, describes what goes into six different one-third pound Smashburgers, which sell for $5.99.
Minneapolis: Twin Cities Burger
This burger features bar cheese, “the spreadable cheddar cheese you get with the big relish tray at the old supper clubs,” says Mr. Ryan, referring to mom-and-pop restaurants in the Upper Midwest that feature hearty food, plenty of drinks and often musical entertainment. Grilled onions and aged Swiss cheese are also piled on top of lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and a toasted onion bun. “Minnesotans are onion-crazy,” Mr. Ryan says.
Tulsa: Oklahoma Burger
“There were fried pickles on every bar menu everywhere here but not on burgers,” says Mr. Ryan. Smashburger’s creation features fried pickles atop the burger along with pepper jack cheese, haystack onions, lettuce, tomato, buttermilk ranch dressing—another local favorite—on an egg bun.
St. Louis: St. Louis Burger
From his tenure at Pizza Hut, Mr. Ryan knew that St. Louis residents loved Provel, a gooey, processed cheese used by a favorite local pizza chain. “The cheese is unique, but St. Louis people grew up on it and it’s hugely popular,” he says. Garlic-grilled mushrooms, grilled onions and sweet bell peppers are also stacked on a pretzel bun.
Michigan: Michigan Olive
Growing up in Grand Rapids, Mich., Mr. Ryan remembers devouring olive-laden burgers. “Then they disappeared,” he says. The burger’s chopped Spanish olives, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo are served on an egg bun. Turns out the olive preference doesn’t extend across the entire state. “The same burger in Detroit does half or less of what it sells in western Michigan,” Mr. Ryan says.
Las Vegas: Sin City Burger
This bacon-and-egg smothered burger is designed to appeal to people working (or partying) at all hours. “People’s timing is all out of kilter here,” says Mr. Ryan. “If you’re eating dinner or finding your breakfast, this burger will work.” Fried egg, applewood-smoked bacon, American cheese, grilled onion, haystack onions and “smash sauce,” a mix of mayo, mustard, pickle relish and lemon juice, are heaped onto an egg bun.
San Diego: Fresh Mex Burger
Mr. Ryan aimed to include as much produce as possible on the San Diego burger, and the results were so popular that Smashburger sold it nationwide for a limited time. Avocado, cilantro, onions, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream and spicy chipotle mayo are packed onto a sweet-tasting torta roll, served with a wedge of lime.