Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Media Preview: Smashburger - Bethesda

Smashburger unveiled its new Bethesda location (first in Maryland, #245 nationwide) last night to local media, one day ahead of today's eagerly-anticipated, public grand opening. Food critics (like yours truly) were treated to samples of each menu item... as well as a special appearance by Honest Tea TeaEO (and Bethesda's own) Seth Goldman, who was on hand to promote his company's special partnership with Smashburger (think, drink iced tea.)

Ever since Smashburger opened its first Washington, DC location near Dupont Circle three months ago, I've become a huge fan of the Denver-based chain that specializes in the fine art of smashing. Having a chance to feast on assorted burgers, fries and onion rings was, as you can imagine, pretty awesome; but I was especially excited to try an assortment of Goldman's iced teas, in what might best be described as a non-alcoholic food & wine pairing (without wine, of course.)

Stacie Lange and Honest Tea's TeaEO Seth Goldman (r)

2013 has been a busy year for Smashburger, which opens their first Massachusetts (Boston) location next week; before turning their attention back to Maryland and Virginia for new outlets in Germantown, Falls Church and Vienna respectively. The Bethesda space (at the corner of Cordell & Norfolk Avenues) is sneaky-big, seating 63 with almost as many food options. There's even a Secret Menu, which includes Fried Pickles for $2.49.

Then of course, there's Honest Tea (fresh brewed and available via bottle or by dispensers.) We got a chance to try Classic Green Tea, Half and Half, Honey Green TeaJust Black Tea, Lemon Herbal Tea, Pomegranate Blueberry and Unsweet Lemon Tea (my least favorite, zero sweetness.) The best? Half and Half, a 50/50 blend of tea and lemonade is easily the most refreshing of the lot; while Pomegranate Blueberry (paired with a Classic Chicken sandwich) packs the most flavor.

Honey Green Tea has the distinction of being named Best Bottled Tea by Men's Health magazine for six years running; and tastes just like green tea - only cold and more refreshing. It went nicely with Smashburger's Avocado Ranch Black Bean Burger, AKA the veggie burger. Gluten allergies? Smashburger Vice President of Press Relations Stacie Lange announced that a gluten free bun will be available soon. Score.

Truffle Mushroom Swiss Smashburger

My best bites of the evening? The BBQ, Bacon & Cheddar Smashburger gets messy in a hurry; but it's worth an extra trip to the wash room. Did you know? Smashburger uses different barbecue sauces for this burger, depending on your area. It also sports my favorite bun (the egg bun) and tons of Haystack Onions. Yum. You can't go wrong with Classic Chicken (both chicken burgers were unbelievably juicy) and the Capital Smashburger (without cheese) is a thing of beauty on a brioche bun with applewood bacon and grilles onions. As for secrets, two bites of a fried pickle and I was Tweeting like a canary. They're truly A-mazing. Ditto for sweet potato fries (our opening act) which lacked salt but had great crispiness.

I have to be honest, I took a lot fewer notes than I did at the Dupont Circle preview. I also ate a lot more food. You really have to watch what you eat at these tastings: I basically had four full dinners tonight, in the span of an hour and a half. That said, it's hard to resist all that Smashburger has to offer. BGRFive Guys and Kraze are suddenly looking up at the new guy... now wondering who's #2. Imagine how they'll feel, once Bethesda locals start to share my newfound addiction? Let the smashing begin!

BBQ, Bacon & Cheddar Smashburger

The Bethesda location is open seven days a week, 10:00 AM - 10:00 PM daily. Questions? Smashburger is only a phone call away at (240) 235-1188.

Capital Smashburger

Classic Chicken

Fried Pickles, via the Secret Menu

Harvest Chicken Salad

Haystack Onions

Sweet Potato Fries

Honest Tea selections