Smashburger a cut above

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Clay Fong

The Lafayette branch of
Smashburger, a growing
chain, is the latest in a series
of burger joints that emulates
the famed In-And-Out
Burger. Providing higher quality sandwiches
than its competition for only a few
dollars more, Smashburger follows
In-And-Out’s lead by serving cooked-toorder
burgers made from fresh, never frozen
meat. It also distinguishes itself by
having servers bring out your food after
you order at the counter.

On a recent weeknight visit with
friend Kuvy and her young son Adrian,
we also quickly discovered that this eatery
doesn’t scrimp on the portions, be it a
burger, hot dog or salad. Approaching our
table after ordering, Kuvy pointed out a
$6.99 wedge salad, which featured a hunk,
if not nearly a whole head, of iceberg
large enough to pull small moons out of
orbit.

We started with a round of $3.99 root
beer floats. A spritzing of aerosol whipped
cream on top was a distracting flourish.
Despite this unnecessary misstep,
Smashburger’s melding of Haagen-Dazs
vanilla and top-shelf IBC root beer was
simply sublime. Had Aristotle written a treatise on root
beer floats, he would have simply said to throw these
two ingredients together and call it good.

A family-friendly spirit is evidenced by the $3.99
kids menu that includes burger, hot dog and chicken
strip selections accompanied by a drink and fries.
Adrian’s grilled cheese was a comforting classic, with
lightly toasted white bread sandwiching endearingly
gooey American cheese. The plain fries were average,
but that’s OK, since a kids’ menu generally needs to
appeal to simple, and occasionally fussy, palates.

Considerably more sophistication informed Kuvy’s
choices, including a $2.99 portion of veggie frites. A
fry alternative, these were crisp-tender
strips of flash-fried carrots, green beans
and verdant asparagus stalks. Her $5.99
Smashchicken sandwich — apparently it
costs extra to tap the space bar after typing
“Smash” — was a fine buy for the
money, featuring moist and flavorful
chicken breast. Pounded thin, this tender
cut happily lacked the blandly uniform
appearance of the Stepford poultry common
to this price point — it looked
home-cooked. Fresh onion and lettuce
toppings contributed crispness, and a dollop
of mayo rounded out the flavor.

My side of $1.99 Haystack Onions
was cause for celebration. I usually find
fried onions too heavily breaded, or
worse yet, comprised of chopped and
formed vegetables. These were thinly
sliced ringlets of onion with a lacy texture
underscored by a sweetly caramelized
flavor. My only advice is to enjoy
these as soon as they arrive hot at your
table; they won’t retain their delicate
crispness for too long.

My main event was the $6.99 half
pound Spicy Baja burger. The toppings
were the stars of the show, a mix of
assertive fresh jalapeño slices, pepper
jack cheese, guacamole and chipotle
mayonnaise.

Unfortunately, it was harder to get
on board with the smashed Angus burger,
flattened into a thin patty on the
grill. A flat burger means a well-done
one, which equates to compromised flavor,
in my book. In its defense, the meat
had adequate marbling to stay reasonably
moist, but I still like the beefy flavor of a thicker
patty.

But that’s not to deny that Smashburger still
serves up tasty food for the money, and much here is
a cut above similarly priced eateries.
Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

Clay’s Obscurity Corner: What’s the fuss about Angus?

From fast food joints to the priciest steakhouses, restaurants
tout the fact they use Angus beef. But what does this really
mean? It certainly isn’t a guarantee of rarity, as Angus is one of
the most common breeds of beef cattle in the United States.
Nor is it necessarily a guarantee of quality, although the
American Angus Association has a “certified” seal of approval
for beef that meets 10 specifications, including marbling, ribeye
area and lack of capillary rupture (Yum!). However, regardless
of certification, Angus tends to be fattier and more flavorful, as
well as more tender than other breeds.