This may be the ultimate First World problem: Which gourmet hamburger restaurant shall we patronize tonight?
Smashburger recently complicated that question for Baton Rouge diners, who already have specialty burger chains and an abundance of creative burger offerings in the city’s bars and grills. Smashburger’s particular take on this American classic is the use of a special tool to smash — hence the name — balls of raw meat onto the grill to achieve a better sear and keep the meat moist. Throw in artisan buns, seasonings and Smashburger’s particular take on sides like fries and onion rings, and the Denver-based chain has its own, distinctive flavor.
The good news is that flavor is bold. The not-quite-as-good news, depending on your tastes, is a lot of the boldness seems to involve salt.
Smashburger seasons its burgers with kosher salt, black pepper and garlic along with spices the restaurant doesn’t reveal. On our recent visit, it was the salt that stood out the most on the burgers we sampled. We liked them, but would have liked them better with less salt.
The classic burger ($4.99) is your basic, entry level burger, adorned with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and red onions on an excellent, fresh egg bun. The one-third pound patty was thick and satisfying but, as we said, salty (the pickles may have contributed to that).
The truffle mushroom Swiss burger ($6.29) has a lofty name, but is a simple affair: The meat is topped with three sauteed mushroom slices, melted Swiss cheese and a dab of mayonnaise infused with truffle oil, all between a toasted bun. It’s the same chassis as the other burgers they serve, but a different model body. It’s served open-face so the presentation is noticeable. They want you to see what you’re are getting.
Fries ($1.99) are extra, and the Smashfries are worth trying. They are sliced very thin and cooked in olive oil along with rosemary and garlic, giving them a light, nontraditional flavor.
The buffalo and blue cheese Smashburger ($6.29) comes with crumbled blue cheese topped with peppery, vinegary buffalo sauce, lettuce and tomato on an egg bun. The regular size was surprisingly light but filling. Described online as “red hot,” we’d amend that to spicy, but not overly so. The blue cheese and buffalo sauce complemented the hamburger rather than overpowering it.
Smashburger has a variety of chicken sandwiches that are identical to the burgers except for the meat, which is offered grilled or crispy. We were drawn to the Louisiana Smashchicken ($7.29), if only to find out what is meant by “Cajun grilled onions.” We’re assuming that means well-peppered, because that was the overall flavor profile of the sandwich, which includes American cheese, applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, ranch dressing and mayo.
We also sampled the haystack onions ($2.29). We’re not sure what Smashburger is going for here, but this didn’t work on any level. The onions, battered and apparently deep fried like traditional onion rings, are much smaller and had little flavor. The dipping sauce on the side added some horseradish kick, but since the onions themselves were such small slivers, dipping them made for messy eating.
Smashburger also features shakes made with Häagen-Dazs ice cream, and the chocolate version ($3.99) was thick, creamy and delicious.