Last week, the chain restaurant Smashburger opened its first South Carolina location on Devine Street with a bang. Bloggers and food writers in the area (including me!) were invited to a preview event at lunchtime on Tuesday before the official grand opening. Since we work in close proximity, The Hungry Lady and I carpooled it over, where we showed up a few minutes early, before many people really got there. We got name tags that labeled us as VIPs and were greeted by the local owners, who also happen to be the guys who own most of the Moe’s in town including the one next door. As we approached the counter, a man who looked not quite like anyone else in the store greeted us and told us to “Order everything!” That man was the founder of Smashburger, Tom Ryan, who also invented a lot of other fast food creations such as the McGriddle and the McFlurry, among others.
With some hesitation, I put in a hefty order- a Baja style black bean burger, fried pickles, veggie frites, a chocolate milkshake, and a beer. Yes, beer! Smashburger is committed to soaking up the local vibes in their restaurants by stocking locally brewed beer and offering special burger creations. In this instance, they are already stocked with a few types of beer from Spartanburg’s RJ Rockers, and offer a Carolina burger?? For evidence and to make everyone jealous I took a photo of my spread once it all arrived.
I really had no idea where to start, so naturally I took to the RJ Rocker’s First Snow Ale (LOVE their seasonals!) and decided to go for the veggie frites first. These are carrot sticks and green beans that are oiled and seasoned and then cooked to soften and give a bit of deliciously burnt blister to the outside of the veggies. The veggies retain their vibrant green and orange, and they are crunchy yet not as crunchy as a raw veggie. They made me not miss having fries, though I did steal some of Elizabeth’s fries because they are seasoned with rosemary, yet more evidence that Smashburger takes just the ordinary and elevates the flavor profile to unexpected levels.
The fried pickles came in rounds, my preferred way to eat them. They were crisp on the inside and the outside, the savory breading contrasting nicely with the tang of the pickled cucumber inside. I asked a fellow diner if the dipping sauce was ranch because it didn’t taste like ranch- it tasted better. I’m not sure what kind of ranch they use, or if they make their own but it certainly enhanced the fried pickles.
I had a chocolate milkshake too, which was good. Thick, chocolatey, but overall it was just a milkshake, nothing spectacular to report. They also had one of those soda dispensers with a ton of choices. Patrick made some sort of delicious concoction.
So I bet you’re wondering about the signature dish of the place, the smashed burger. Again, I had the black bean burger, which as far as I know gets the same “smash” treatment as any other. I got a chance to go back in the kitchen and see the smashing happen. The meat (I’ll tell you about the meat rather than the beans since it’s how it was explained to us) is rolled fresh every morning into meatballs and stored in a cold drawer. When a burger is ordered, the griddle is buttered and a ball is set onto the griddle and a piece of parchment paper goes over it. Then the meatball is quickly flattened with what looks like a hockey puck with a handle on top, and pressed down on hard for ten long seconds. Then it’s seasoned with a shaker of “special seasonings” and cooked for thirty more seconds. Then it gets scraped up with a metal spatula, flipped over and then the second side is seared until done. I took a video of Eb of Make Me Over Eb smashing a burger under the tutelage of Tom Ryan (sorry it’s a bit blurry!).
On my newly created Youtube channel there’s also a video of Tom Ryan smashing a burger if you’re interested, plus videos of my dogs. So back to my black bean burger. It was piled high with cheese, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and ketchup, and guacamole which was probably the reason for its undoing- literally. After a few bites, the bun couldn’t contain all of the ingredients and it became difficult to eat with any about of dignity, which I was trying to maintain as a VIP and someone who was eating with cameras everywhere. I had to ask a guy to please not photograph me eating because it was getting that ridiculous to try and eat. However in private, I’d have eaten that burger from end to end. Like I was telling my coworkers once I got back, the black bean burger is good, and I’m sincerely glad it’s an option, but I probably wouldn’t crave it alone.
My overall assessment of Smashburger from this one trip is that it’s a solid place to get a meal that’s about middle range on the spectrum between McDonald’s and Ruth Chris that’s a great place to take a group or people, or people whose tastes you aren’t familiar with since there is such a large variety of menu choices sure to satisfy meat eaters, vegetarians, gluten free eaters, and healthy eaters alike.
Having a leisurely lunch to catch up with my blogging friends from the area, and meeting new ones, along with other real writers like Susan Ardis of The State was a really fun time, and I wanted to thank Kelly Davis of Davis PR for contacting me to me a part of this! I think there was sufficient buzz on Twitter that day since every other tweet was about the place! Mission accomplished, ya’ll.
Disclosure: I was contacted to be a part of this preview and provided with lunch and a media kit, but all opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review.