I am a HUGE burger fan and last week I finally had a chance to visit the Triangle’s first Smashburger location. It opened just two weeks ago and is located in Durham’s Lakeview Pavilion East shopping centeracross the street from Duke University Hospital.
I was invited to visit the Durham location by the franchise owners and local residents Ketan and Jayshri Patel. As with any media preview my meal was comped, but trust me when I say this does not influence my review in any way. My wife will be the first to tell you that I am very particular about my burgers and I have a few key criteria that I expect from a great burger place. With that in mind here are my thoughts on the Triangle’s first Smashburger!
When I try a new burger place I like to judge them by the basics that make the foundation of a great burger. So I got the “Classic Smash”. I had the 1/3 pound version with American cheese, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion and the signature secret house-made “smash sauce”. The four critical elements I look at are what I call BTBF. That’s Burger, Toppings, Buns, andFries!
I’ll get right to the the punchline – Smashburger impressed me the most of all the casual burger places I have reviewed since starting this blog four years ago. The meat of the burger is fresh (not frozen) and is seared on the grill that lock in the flavorful making for delicious juicy burger. I also really enjoyed unique taste from the added Smashburger sauce which provides just the right amount of “kick” without overwhelming the burger’s natural flavor. The burgers are not greasy and are made fresh to order and come out nice and hot.
The lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickle toppings were crisp, fresh, and plentiful. These toppings aren’t an afterthought, they complete the burger. I also love that the sandwich is served open faced making it easy to add condiments and it also prevents the sandwich from being smooshed together (which often happens at other burger places that wrap them in foil).
Most of all it was on a nice toasted potato bun. This to me makes such a big difference! I can not tell you how often I have been disappointing by burgers served up on boring white bread buns that are too soft and smoosh easily. To me having a good toasted bun that is slightly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside like the ones used at Smashburger is what puts the finishing touch on a quality sandwich.
French fries are another place where many places drop the ball. I am glad to report that this is not the case at Smashburger. I enjoyed a nice order crispy french fries with garlic and rosemary. It garlic and rosemary were not overwhelming and it made for some very tasty fries. I also liked that the order of fries was ample (some places really wimp out on fries). In addition to the garlic rosemary fries Smashburger offers regular fries, sweet potato fries, haystack onion rings, and veggie frites. So the side options offer a lot of variety.
Smashburger is more than just burgers. Customers can also enjoy a selection of tender grilled chicken sandwiches and fresh-tossed signature salads. While I didn’t get a chance to have a salad, I did try their BBQ, Bacon, & Cheddar grilled chicken sandwich with haystack-style onion rings piled high. The burgers may be the central focus for some, but I found the chicken sandwich to be equally delicious. I like how the chicken was tenderized before being grilled making for a larger but thinner piece of chicken. This allows it to be cooked quickly and thoroughly without drying out the chicken. The chicken sandwiches were also served on a hearty potato bun which I love.
The restaurant will also serves a nice selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages including handspun Häagen-Dazs shakes, root beer floats in frosted mugs and beer, including a few local beer options. I opted for a strawberry shake. No only was it delicious (using quality ice cream really makes a difference) they served the shake in a classic shake glass topped with a little whipped cream. It really hit the spot. I didn’t hurt that the shake is served with the metal shaker along with that little extra they couldn’t quite fit into the tall glass.
Seating and Service
In terms of environment, Smashburger is your classic casual restaurant offering counter ordering where guest are given a number to take to their table. Seating is modern and ample ranging from booths, high tops, and individual tables that can be combined for larger parties. Staff deliver your order directly to the table and frequently come by during your to see if you need anything and to bus the tables. It was an unexpected and welcome touch. Good service goes a long way in my book.
From one burger lover to another I highly recommend you check out Smashburger. And while I stuck to the classic offerings there are plenty of more adventurous menu items for you to check out like the Carolina Chili Smashburger. A burger topped with layers of melted American cheese, beefy chili, chopped yellow onion, Duke’s mayo and coleslaw on a pretzel bun. I might try that one the next time I go back (which I hope is soon).
There are plans to possible open additional locations in the Triangle so keep an eye out. I know I am secretly hoping they pick a North Raleigh location next. In the meantime you can visit the Durham Smashburger location and be sure to let me know what you think!