St. David's Square
550 E. Lancaster Ave.
Radnor/Wayne, PA 19087
With over 200+ stores worldwide, Smashburger is a new-fangled chain that's finally making an appearance on the Philly burger scene. And it's about time. What are we, chopped liver?
Now, when I say "Philly scene," I really mean the main-line scene. I'd probably go where there's lots of money and hungry rich families too. But don't get your panties in a bunch - the managing partners are already talking about bringing a few Smashburger stores closer in to the city proper.
It's your typical fast-but-not-too-fast food joint inside, with standard benches, tables, drink fountain, etc. But at last night's preview, we were greeted right at the door by Dr. Tom Ryan - the inventor of stuffed crust pizza and the McGriddle, to name a few. That's right, he started his career at Pizza Hut, moved on to Long John Silver's, next McDonald's, finally Quizno's and only after all of that accumulated knowledge of the fast food world, he decided to conceptualize the Smashburger chain.
Alton who? I mean, this guy's nothing short of a genius. He's a food scientist to the highest degree, with a Ph.D. in Flavor and Fragrance Chemistry and his Masters in Lipid Toxicology, both from Michigan State. Oh, did I mention that he also invented THE DOLLAR MENU? I love this guy.
He took us back into the kitchen, where the magic happens. They use only 100% Certified Black Angus beef and it's ground chuck that's not pressed through a grinding plate, but chopped in a large, open chopping machine that's basically a big bowl with a bunch of blades circulating on the bottom. Like a glorified meat blender. So the meat comes out like it's been freshly chopped with knives instead of being pressed to death.
They ball it up each morning and store the meatballs in these awesome refrigerated drawers right under the flat top griddle. What a dream. Here's Dr. Tom giving his demo.
Here's what he made me eat.
But before getting too dirty, they started us off with the sides. Now, they do offer salads, but this crew doesn't have time for that sort of thing. Do that on your own time. The fries are awesome. Thin, shoestrings that are cooked to perfection. The Smashfries variety has them tossed with rosemary, garlic and olive oil. Simply delicious.
They also offer sweet potato fries, another simply delicious item, again, cooked just right.
Just when I thought I'd had enough, they brought out the fried pickles. These were okay. They're served with a ranch dressing dipping sauce, but you should ask for the chipotle aioli dipping sauce with everything. They were just a little bit too salty and sliced a little too thin for my liking. I really want to taste the pickle, not the batter.
And then came the haystack onion rings. Yum. These babies were sliced paper thin and dipped in a chicken fried steak batter, which is so perfect to get the thin & crunchy coating they should have. Now, I would never order these as a side because you can add them to your burger, which is where they belong. That being said, the spicy brown mustard mayo that came along is not to be missed.
He got me close to a salad with the other 'health' side option - veggie frites. It's just a fancy name for deep fried carrots and green beans. They were still crisp and fresh tasting, even after their par-cooking, quick dip in the fryer. Pardon the sparsity here, my table mates attacked the basket before I could get a handle on what was happening.
And just when I thought the burgers would never come, they seemed to be never ending.
The Classic came out first and was probably my favorite (until the next one came out) burger of the night. It was your basic cheeseburger with American, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and Smash Sauce (mayo, mustard and relish).
This one was cooked to perfection, a beautiful medium rare with a hard sear on the top and bottom. I really liked the simplicity here because the flavors in the well-seasoned beef patty were the most prevalent. Not too greasy, not too dry. This was perfect.
All right, second place goes to the BBQ bacon cheddar.
Applewood smoked bacon, cheddar and aforementioned haystack onions come on this one. The burger is smashed into a dollop of BBQ sauce on the griddle, then finished with another generous smear. The flavor profile here was balanced and every ingredient had an impact with each bite. Apparently they use regional BBQ sauces where they can: Carolina style, Texas, Tennessee, etc. Too bad we don't have a Philly style BBQ sauce, I guess that's where the next one comes in...
Now, I don't know if I was getting tired of eating burgers (yeah right) or if the quality of preparation and assembly took a minor turn, but the rest of the samples sort of fell off for me. Especially this one.
They're calling this the "Philly Smashburger," or something to that effect. They took a soft pretzel, smashed it with cheesesteak toppings and then threw a burger into the middle.
Not very good. The pretzel roll is too hard for a burger, everything slipped out. They use spicy mustard instead of yellow and it just failed on all levels. Enough said.
The truffle mushroom Swiss burger was overcooked and boring. With a drizzle of truffle oil, that's all you taste. Ever.
I'm not even going to talk about the (mushy) black bean burger. But I will mention the chipotle bun it was served on. It was a spicy delight. All of the buns here are light, fluffy and the perfect vessel for any burger. Yet another amazing production feat we can attribute to the incredible Dr. Tom Ryan.
And in case you're more of a poultry person, they offer fried eggs to top any and all of their burgers.
Oh yeah, and they serve chicken breast sandwiches too.
Smashburger is an all around delicious and gourmet alternative to the junk we're so used to eating at the big 3 fast food joints. They don't have a drive-through, so get out of your car and order inside. It won't kill you to take the extra steps, lord knows I needed them. They open tomorrow, so get out to Wayne and see for yourself.