Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Media Preview: Smashburger - Dupont Circle

It doesn't open until tomorrow, but Smashburger offered local press a chance to "peak under the hood" of its newest location (Dupont Circle, 1739 Connecticut Ave., NW) earlier today. The Denver-based fast casual "better burger" restaurant seats 47, and will offer a mouth-watering selection of burgers (beef, chicken and even veggie black bean) 12 hours a day (10-10) seven days a week.

Tomorrow's grand opening will mark Smashburger's 230th location (across 32 states and five countries, including the U.S.) The company has enjoyed a massive 254% 3-year growth, placing #1562 on the Inc. 5000, which ranks the fastest growing companies in America. Founder Tom Ryan was on hand, to explain the ins & outs of his popular burger business. After a few bites, it's easy to understand why Smashburger is so successful.

Smashburger Founder Tom Ryan, talkin' burgers

As you might expect, it starts and ends with the burger... 100% Certified Angus Beef, all chuck, 80/20. Fresh and never frozen, they're "smashed," seared and seasoned... producing perhaps DC's moistest burger. Paired off with a variety of four relatively soft buns (brioche, egg, multi-grain and my new favorite, spicy chipotle) the end result is something totally unique to DC's burger scene.

Front counter

The burger lineup is stacked with originals, including DC's very own CAPITAL BURGER (grilled onions, aged Swiss, applewood-smoked bacon, arugula, tomatoes and mayo on a brioche bun.) Other highlights include my favorite BBQ, BACON & CHEDDAR, which sports BBQ sauce, applewood-smoked bacon, cheddar and haystack onions on an egg bun. The bacon and crispy onions deliver a subtle, tasty crunch that gets kicked into overdrive with Smashburger's awesome BBQ sauce. How awesome? Just ask Ryan, 'We do fun things with barbecue sauce.' He ain't kidding.

Capital Burger

BBQ, Bacon & Cheddar

Also worth a look, the exotic-sounding TRUFFLE MUSHROOM SWISS. Don't you feel "all grown up" just saying it? Truffle mayo, sauteed baby portabella mushrooms and aged Swiss (the best cheese here, by a mile) on an egg bun. Rich, rich, rich. Match it up with an order of SMASHFRIES (delicious, thin fries dressed in garlic, olive oil and rosemary) and you're guaranteed to earn a second date! Smashburger could become the first local fast burger place worthy of "date night."


Also available, the option to create your own burger. Choose from 13 free sauces & toppings and five premium add-ons for $1 more. With a 10:00 AM open, you may be interested in my upcoming review for a custom burger with bacon & fried egg on a spicy chipotle bun with tomatoes. Hmm, maybe they could call it Peter's Eye Opener? Note to Ryan, "I'm willing to negotiate." Hint, hint: Free burgers trump cash!

Wall art: Rock the red!

Service should be fast: Most burgers take 2 1/2 minutes to cook, thanks to an innovative smashing technique. That includes the Smash-chickens, 5 oz. chicken patties, pounded out piccata-style. Keep an eye on the SPICY BAJA (fresh jalapenos, guacamole, pepper jack, lettuce, tomato, onions and chipotle mayo atop a spicy chipotle bun.) Vegetarians have an option too, the SPICY VEGGIE BLACK BEAN (basically the BAJA, sans the bird.) Note: The bun's divine.

View from the back

Sides and Häagen-Dazs shakes round out the menu, with some hits and misses. My Haystack Onions were too thin and greasy; while Veggie Frites make little sense (carrots are too thick, and feel out of place here.) On the other hand, the aforementioned Smashfries were just that... a smash. Not feeling the "herb?" Go for the Sweet Potato Fries, which are just short of crispy, but full of flavor (with the perfect hint of salt.) The shakes are good too, with Butterfinger atop the list.

Shake, rattle & roll!

Price-wise, burgers are affordable ($5.99 for a Regular, $6.99 for a BIG) Sides even more so (Fries $1.99 to $2.49, Haystack Onions $2.49.) Shakes and floats go for $4.49; while domestic/local craft beers go for $2.99/$3.49 respectively. Great location, nice layout and stellar food... Sounds like a winner to me.