This is a new one for me, but since I hit both locations of this chain in a relatively short time frame, I’m just going to do one write-up for both.  Towards the end of last year, Smashburger took out a full-page ad on the back of the main section of the Idaho Statesman.  It was big and unwieldy, but a buy one get one free coupon is worth a little hassle.  It sat in a drawer for a long time, but with the expiration date looming we decided to dust it off and get grown-up food after a recent trip to McDonald’s for half-priced Happy Meals (Tuesdays from 5 PM to 7 PM at most if not all of the Treasure Valley locations, just in case you care).  I’m not promoting McDonald’s by any stretch, but when you’ve got kids to deal with sometimes it’s an easy way to take care of them cheaply and then cook something or get take-out somewhere for yourself and not have to worry about whether they’ll eat it.  Moving on…

I hit the one in Meridian first, near the intersection of Eagle and Franklin Roads.  Smashburger does something interesting to set themselves apart from the pack:  they have a partially individualized menu for every state they’re in.  In our case it’s the Idaho Smashburger, which consists of potato chips, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo on a potato bun.  As a kid, I liked doing things like putting fries or chips in my sandwich or on top of my burger, so I figured it was worth trying.  Since my burger didn’t come with pickles, I decided to forgo the usual side and try the Fried Pickles.  My girlfriend opted for the Classic Smashburger (American cheese, lettuce, ketchup, onion, pickles, and “Smash Sauce” on an egg bun…usually there’s tomato as well, but she don’t like that) and Smashfries.  God, all this branding gives me a headache sometimes.  Anyway, they packed our food into very sleek, grown-up appropriate black boxes.

Idaho Smashburger with Fried Pickles

I was pleasantly surprised by my burger.  The bun was really good (I’m having lots of good luck with hamburger buns lately), and they had put pickles on in spite of the menu description.  The onions were red (my favorite), the lettuce was dark and leafy, and the potato chips were of the kettle variety, thick enough to remain crunchy despite the heat and moisture.  The fried pickles, on the other hand, were just too much for me.  I had assumed that given how salty and tangy pickles are to start with, a mild batter would be used, but this stuff had a very strong flavor to it.  I tried them with some of the accompanying ranch dressing, hoping the creaminess would mellow the whole thing out, but all it did was add another layer of seasoning.  If you’re the kind of person who likes a level of seasoning that would send most mere mortals running for the nearest toothbrush, these are for you.  I tried some of my girl’s Smashfries too, which are the same as their normal fries but with the additions of olive oil, rosemary and garlic.  The end result was strongly flavored but much more bearable than my side dish.  All in all, I wished I had gotten the standard fries.  On a prior trip to this restaurant, I had tried the Veggie Frites, a side dish of asparagus spears, carrot sticks and green beans flash-fried.  They were a nice alternative to fries but at a 50% markup, which I wasn’t willing to pay again since my previous batch only had one asparagus spear.

Literally just days after this trip, Groupon put Smashburger up as their daily deal and I picked up a $10 voucher for $5.  This time, I decided to hit the Franklin Road location just west of Milwaukee Street.  The Idaho Smashburger had been good enough that I was tempted to get that again, but for variety’s sake I chose the BBQ, Bacon and Cheese, with standard French Fries this time.  There was still a little room left on the voucher, so I ordered a Häagen-Dazs chocolate malt to go along with my meal.

BBQ, Bacon and Cheese burger with fries and a chocolate malt

The BBQ burger is comprised of barbecue sauce, applewood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese and haystack onions on an egg bun.  One look at this thing and I knew that it was going to be delicious but that about halfway through it I would be sorely craving vegetables that weren’t deep-fried.  I was absolutely right, after four or five bites I was wishing there was some lettuce or tomato to break things up a bit.  The haystack onions were a little oily for my taste too, but I made it through with the help of my chocolate malt.  The malt was delicious as well but not malty enough, but then again no chocolate malt is ever malty enough for me, so the problem is likely with me.  After my last Smashburger experience the regular French Fries were delightful in their simplicity, crispy, golden brown and dusted with sea salt.

When all is said and done I’ll likely return to Smashburger again, but will be much more likely to do so if I come across another coupon or discount voucher.  They’re good, but they’re just not one of the first things that pops to mind when I’m craving a burger (that would be Five Guys when I’m craving the gut bomb, Fuddruckers when I’m craving the exotic, or of course homemade).  Smashburger to me is more of a novelty, something for the occasional change of pace, but good burger options are always nice to have around.

Food:  B
Value:  B
Service:  B
Atmosphere:  B
Final Grade:  B

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