With hundreds of fast-food restaurants throughout Chicago, it might seem like the last thing the city needs is another burger spot
However, the Denver-based chain Smashburger is in the Windy Cityat a pretty busy location, near LondonHouse (360 N. Michigan Ave.; smashburger.com ).
Fortunately, Smashburger stands out from the fast-food crowd in at least two ways: variety and quality.
Director of Operations Josh Rivera said that several items separate the chain from others. "I've actually worked for another burger concept myself," he told Windy City Times. "I think it all starts with our 100% ground beef; other places use 90-10 [the "10" being 10% fat)] and 80-20. We also have gluten-free bread, which other places don't offer. We also use fresh ingredients that are prepped every morning. I [even] think we have the best pickles out there.
"As for the beef, yes, we smash it for 10 seconds [to speed cooking]but we also season it, which is something most places don't do. Smashing the burger is good for people who only have a half-hour for lunch, and who spend 10 minutes walking over. And the burgers are reasonably priced and pretty fillingI can't eat a double."
And you're not likely to find too many burger joints that have crispy Brussels sprouts on the menu (and with ranch dressing). I was a little surprised to see the vegetable there, but Rivera insisted it sells quite well: "Usually, moms buy the sprouts. Their kids will pick at them, and eat more and more."
However, those items are just the tip of the culinary iceberg there. There are grilled and crispy chicken sandwiches as well as turkey burgers, black-bean burgers and saladsand people can customize their purchases. (For example, I had a truffle mushroom Swiss burger with turkey instead of the usual beefand it was divine.) Smashburger doesn't have an official Chicago burger (yet), but there's a smoked bacon brisket burger that could represent the city. The kicky Colorado Burger, an homage to the chain's headquarters, is back through at least Labor Day, according to location manager Terry Parfrey; and the Spicy Baja with Guac burger is as advertisedespecially for someone with a relatively low spice tolerance.
Even the salads (BBQ Ranch and Classic Cobb) can be customized with your choice of meat (or black-bean burger).
If you happen to swing by the spot before work, Smashburger (which opens at 8:30 a.m. every day) has breakfast sandwiches as well (meat, egg and cheese concoctions) as well as coffee, vanilla cold brew latte, breakfast tots and more.
Don't bypass the addictive sides, by the way. In addition to the sprouts, there are fries (French and sweet potato), tots (regular tater and the wonderful Smash tots, which are tossed in rosemary, garlic and olive oil) and haystack onions (fried onion straws that, like the sprouts, come with ranch).
And as for the shakes, be sure to work out before going herebecause you're going to want one. (Beware: The federally mandated calorie listings are everywhere on the menu.) Made with Haagen-Dazs ice cream, flavors include mocha coffee, salted-caramel coffee, vanilla, chocolate, Oreo and the sinfully good peanut butter, among others.
"There is truly something here for everyone," Rivera said. I couldn't agree more.