Tuesday, January 11, 2011

French Fry Diary 200: Smashburger

Colorado-based Smashburger opened in 2007, not just French fries but also deep-fried green chilis, pickles, sweet potato fries, banana peppers and fried onions all frizzled up. That last one called haystack onions. They also have veggie frites – flash fried carrots, green beans, asparagus, with sea salt and black pepper. This is also probably why, along with Elevation Burger, and too far out of state contenders Whataburger and In-N-Out Burger, Smashburger is one of the places I get the most recommendations for. Several dozen folks have told me I have to check out the fries at Smashburger, so it's a serious contender.

So we were in the wilds of North Jersey (yeah, "Jersey Shore" land) for a New Year's Eve party, and knowing we were also in the land of Smashburger - I called to see if they were open, so we set out to the Riverside Square Mall for a New Year's Day lunch.

Once we were there (the GPS and the street signs had some real difficulty in determining where this mall actually was), the place reminded me a bit of Cheeburger Cheeburger in design, and similar to Gino's in ordering. You order at the counter, take a number with you and they bring the food to you.

As expected, catastrophically picky eater I am, I got a plain hamburger, and The Bride got something more normal, for sides we got the Smashfries and Haystack Onions to share. The burger was a bit greasy, but very flavorful, and very filling. All things considered, it was the best part of the meal. Notably, the burger was even better with the Smashfries or the Haystack Onions sandwiched under the roll.

Now on to the main event, the favorite fried food at Smashburger - the Smashfries. At first sight, the fries themselves were nothing spectacular, just standard shoestrings deep-fried, as they would have been at any diner or pizza joint. Then the magic happens. They are tossed in olive oil, rosemary and garlic to give them that extra special kick. This is a great trick to trump up the taste of not so great fries and the flavor combination can't be beat. The problem is of course, the fries, tossed in oil after cooking, tend to be a bit greasy.

The Haystack Onions are thin sliced onion rings and onion straws that are positively addictive, much better than the fries, and definitely recommended. I am reminded a bit of the Onion Strings at Famous Dave's. Again, the problem is that they are also a bit greasy. Both these and the Smashfries come in ersatz baskets, and in good portions.

As mentioned above, the grease is the problem. The burger is a little greasy, the onions are a little greasy, and the fries are a lot greasy. Separately it might be forgivable, except maybe for the fries, but together it literally leaves a bad taste in your mouth and stomach.

I would definitely come back however. I would get the burger alone, and maybe the onions, and maybe the flash-fried veggies as well, and definitely one of those tasty looking shakes - but probably not the fries. The large variety of options here at Smashburger was why it was originally planned as a group French Fry Diary field trip. With three or four friends along, we could order and try all the different things on the menu. Not this time, but maybe next time.

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