Gettin’ Smashed - New Beginnings and New Jerks
"BUR-GER BLOG! BUR-GER BLOG!!!" chanted the eager audience just a few yards from where Drew sat in the dressing room. It was a packed house, and the stakes were big - fans of the one and only San Francisco Burger Blog hadn’t been able to see their heroes perform for quite a while, and they wanted them to play the hits.
But Drew was nervous as the chants grew louder. Because this time, things wouldn’t be the same. “Egomaniac,” said the Blogger Weekly. “An insane gambit,” said Barely-Known Websites Quarterly. “Who or what is the San Francisco Burger Blog?” asked Time Magazine. Drew knew expectations were high. Or at least, expectations had been high that he would die on a toilet.
They’d been absent quite a while. Due to creative differences and Drew’s severe addiction to collecting obscure polka records and doing Sex On The Beach shooters in Fort Lauderdale, most of the original crew wasn’t there. George was back to his original love of fixing up old chainsaws and donating them to preschools. James had finally been arrested for one of his many crimes in Southern America and was awaiting the death sentence that so many knew he deserved for his depravity. Chris finally became the Magician/Puppeteer/Lounge Singer he’d always wanted to be, teaching kids about Xenu and how unfair life is by eating all their candy. One by one, they all walked away when it seemed like Drew no longer had the magic to write the hits that made people pay attention.
"BUR-GER BLOG!! BUR-GER BLOG!!!" echoed the crowd as they stamped their feet. A man with an earpiece and clipboard walked in and said, "lights are going down in 2…this crowd is ready!"
Drew stood up and looked around the room as his silent comrades stared nervously at the floor.
"It’s time," he said. "Let’s go out there and remind them why some random website called us the Number 6 burger review site ever."
Aloha, burger gals and gents. I know, I know - it’s been a minute. You tweeted us, you Facebooked us, you sent us gentle emails stating you would go on a murderous rampage through the Midwest if we didn’t come back, but alas - it was not to be. Until now. It’s time for a new review, albeit one a long time in the making.
And this review will also be different in that most of our original crew wasn’t with us. That doesn’t mean we won’t be getting back together for more reviews in the near future - but let’s just say your humble narrator had his hands full with more pressing business for the past year or so, so we can high-five and say, “good to see you. Now tell me about some hamburgers, jerk.”
And tell you I shall! First, let me introduce the crew for this run. Our original member Joe was able to join us, as was Leila to add some of her standard issue Filipina Flava (consisting of pork products and vinegar, and also possibly some very colorful shirts). But we have some new cuisine-loving cohorts for this episode as well:
Allow me to introduce Nicole Calasich, a very funny San Francisco-based comedian who I met, oddly enough, at a robot fighting match. Which is weird, because we both do standup. You can find Nicole on Tumblr or Twitter, and she does a regular show at Lost Weekend Video’s Cynic Cave called Attractive Camp that is very much worth checking out.
And next, let me introduce you to generally rotten person, oddball gadfly and all-around misanthrope, Ivan Hernandez. Ivan also does standup, enjoys eating massive quantities of food and can be found shouting at people almost every night of the week. Some of those times occur onstage at scheduled comedy shows. You can also find him on his website and Twitter.
And just to set the stage, here’s Nicole and Ivan giving the 80’s style shade-tipping. So you know things are about to get craaaaaaaaaa-zay, maaaaaan.
And so it was that Nicole, Ivan, Joe, Leila and myself made our way out to the outer edges of San Francisco’s Mission District, where everyday is Hoodie Friday and no mural was ever painted to make any sense. While San Francisco is not ripe breeding ground for the creature known as the Suburban Strip Mall, out on 16th Street just East of South Van Ness lies one of the few of these beasts to manage to have its seed find purchase on the landscape.
All the greatest hits of Northern California strip mall shopping are there: A Ross: Dress For Less, where all the clothes are kept in piles and the savings are passed on to you! Safeway, where you can find both gourmet ingredients AND frozen Taquitos, as far as the eye can see. And there’s even a burned-out husk of a Blockbuster Video, where once people from all over would gather to rent the latest Adam Sandler film, buy some gelatinous strawberry-flavored candy products and return in just a few days to return the Adam Sandler movie for another Adam Sandler movie. Now, the store is filled with nothing but empty racks and cannibals fighting for dominance.
Amidst this scene, a new burger restaurant called Smashburger has opened to spread the joy of fresh, quality beef to the masses who need sustenance to keep telling their kid “no” when they want to buy a parakeet at the nearby PetSmart. Combined with a very lovely staff and some nice extras on the menu, we found a table, ordered up and let the fun begin.
First out came the shakes. In this case we went with the Oreo and Raspberry Sorbet shakes, but Smashburger also has the standard chocolate, vanilla and strawberry as well as a few other specialties. The Oreo shake was rich and delicious and was almost a meal unto itself, whereas the Raspberry Sorbet was rich but still somewhat light and refreshing, if you want to lie to yourself that it was okay that you had a shake at lunch.
And it wasn’t long before the sides starting coming out as well:
Those, my friends, are fried pickles. If you’ve ever thought, “this pickle is tasty, but what it really needs is to be battered and then fried,” then here is the side for you. All of the tasty pickle goodness without all of that non-fried flavor. It even comes with a tub of Ranch dressing. Y’know, for health.
Also on the sides menu is the above Veggie Frites - sliced carrots and green beans flash-fried without batter so they have a nice crispy outside and are juicy on the inside. This item was quickly a favorite for everybody at the table.
Smashburger also has a quartet of sauces you can use to add extra flavor to your sides, your burger, your fingers, the napkins, your neighbor’s fingers…These include the specialty Smashburger sauce, as well as a Chipotle sauce and Truffle sauce, as well as a horseradish-based sauce called the Texas Petal, which seems like a great name for a gay biker gang but is also very delicious if you like your sauces spicy.
it wasn’t long into our noshing that out came the burgers. We’re gonna need a bigger boat, or at least a bigger table.
Nicole ordered up the Spicy Jalapeno Baja, which comes with a spicy jack cheese melted on the burger, along with some Jalapenos and Smashburger’s usual toppings of lettuce, onion and tomato. Nicole also got Smashburger’s regular Smashfries. Which are like normal fries, but smashed - with flavor! Ha ha ha! Sorry, sorry. Anyway, Nicole was happy:
Ivan opted to stray from the safe path of Smashburger’s standard menu, and in a noble fit of hubris created his own Frankenstein-esque beast that, if he failed to consume it all, would spend eternity hunting its creator seeking vengeance. This burger was topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, fried onions AND a fried egg. THE HUMANITY!!!! Ivan also got the regular Smashfries, although I was half expecting him to ask them to take them back and put three fried eggs on top with some nacho cheese.
Joe got the regular classic burger with American cheese and veggie frites on the side. In terms of total food on the table vs. number of people eating it, this may have been in our top three of all-time biggest pig-outs.
Leila tried to temper all the rampant fried calorie consumption by going with the Truffle Mushroom Swiss burger, although she switched out the cheese for a Monterey Jack, because she hates the Swiss. They know what they did. She also got the veggie frites. As I said, they were a big hit.
And yours truly got all ‘Merica up in that by ordering a good ‘ol-fashioned bacon cheeseburger, just like grandma used to make before the doctors told her to stop that.
Also brought out for our sampling was the dastardly Sin City Burger, which was almost an exact replica of what Ivan put together in his own sick head. Basically, if you would eat it while hungover in Las Vegas at 4am and you still needed some energy in order to go play an 18-hour poker game in the back room of a butcher shop in order to win the money you needed to buy back your girlfriend’s prosthetic leg that you pawned, they put it on this burger. And yes, it was delicious.
And so the digging in began, and there was much rejoicing. Well, it was mostly silent, but if you’re sitting with Ivan and things are quiet, you know that you’re eating pretty good food.
And so, with that it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. How does Smashburger stack up? Read onward, true believers!
What’s the Deal with Hamburgers? Beef Score
Smashburger gets its name from the way that the burgers aren’t so much rolled or shaped as they are smashed onto the grill. Smashburger is also using 100% certified Angus beef that has never been frozen, meaning you’re eating something that has never spent days stuck in an icy freezer next to a billion slices of American cheese, some tubs of “mystery sauce” and a guy who owes the owner money. This was moo’ing a few days ago and then gets turned into tasty burger patties for your benefit.
As a result, you can taste the quality and these burgers end up surprising you. When we first had them put on the table we all thought the patties themselves may be overpowered by the toppings and sauces, as they initially seem a bit thinner than your standard gourmet burger. But this meat managed to lay waste to all other flavors and shine through, like a meaty diamond.
FINAL MEAT SCORE: 9 out of 10
Sides? You Talking About Sides? Side Dishes Score
Smashburger is also clearly putting some tender loving care into their side dishes. The Veggie Frites were the big hit of the day,with all of us raving about how they managed to add a nice crisp flavor and juiciness to the veggies without feeling like you were suddenly living the life of meth-addled carnie, whose existence is filled with fried veggies, Bon Jovi mirrors and the hopes of meeting a 17-year-old bride in Flagstaff.
The regular Smashfries are also very tasty and if you’re the type who HAS to have a potato side with your burger, you won’t be upset. They also have sweet potato fries, which I somehow didn’t manage to get a close picture of, which were respectable but not anybody’s favorite on this trip.
Then, there are the fried pickles. If you crave these, be sure to share them with at least four or five friends, because I do not envy any man who eagerly gobbles up a whole basket of these and then attempts to do any other activity for the day, such as breathing or, say, not sweating while sitting down. These are very tasty but were the heaviest item we consumed while at Smashburger, and seeing as how all of us ate nearly two burgers each, a ton of veggie frites and regular fries, we were all still breathing heaviest from the fried pickles.
And let’s not forget the shakes - Smashburger is using gourmet Hagen-Daz ice cream to make these beauties, and if you have a sweet tooth you will be very, very happy. The Raspberry Sorbet may have been a seasonal specialty when we were there, but their menu still includes a Nutter Butter and a Butterfinger shake. My arteries harden just thinking about it.
FINAL SIDE SCORE: 9 out of 10
And you will know my name is the Lord: What Happens Afterwards Score
Of course, we have to mention the San Francisco Burger Blog’s notorious category of What Happens Afterwards. While other burger sites just tell you how it tastes when you eat it, we tell you what happens AFTER you eat it.
The good news is, Smashburger is using high-quality ingredients being prepared by trained professionals. If you’re eating a normal-sized meal, and especially if you just have a burger and veggie frites, you’re going to feel fantastic afterwards. Go to yoga with your girlfriends! Give that important presentation at the office! Sit in a bathtub while holding hands with your significant other, who is also sitting in a nearby bathtub, and both bathtubs are on a beach for some reason!
However, what we did that day was not a light, casual meal. We hit it kinda hard.
The even better news is, if you’re a disgusting pig who can’t control yourself and you’ll just keep eating and eating like a hound dog who can’t be bothered to pay attention when it’s stomach is full, Smashburger is using such great ingredients that while you’re going to feel terrible - both physically and deep in your shame-zones - once your tummy has a chance to digest all that food, you’re still going to be fine. Well, not fine - you clearly have some issues that need to be worked out - but you’re going to be better off than you have any right to be.
FINAL AFTERMATH SCORE: 9 out of 10
And so, factoring in the great ingredients, solid menu options, terrific sides and a staff who was more welcoming to us than most of my family is to me on Christmas (seriously, the staff was wonderful from start to finish) that we give Smashburger a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Go check out their tasty offerings, and if possible be a little more dignified than we were and control yourself. Or just have a cot ready nearby.
And with that, I welcome you back to the San Francisco Burger Blog! More entries will be coming soon as yours truly has found himself with more time on his hands and a hankering to do some more burger blogging. Thank you for coming back and we’ll see you soon!