Monday, June 27, 2011

Smashburger Throws Its "Better Burger" Onto a Crowded Grill

Posted By on Mon, Jun 27, 2011 at 5:00 PM

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Smashburger today officially announced what many St. Louis burger fans already knew: The Denver, Colorado-based chain restaurants will debut its first area location on Wednesday, July 20, at 1981 Zumbehl Road in St. Charles.

Smashburger plans to open a total of twelve locations in St. Louis over the next four years, with the second slated to debut this fall in Chesterfield.

Smashburger is a name and a process: The restaurant shapes raw Certified Angus ground beef into a ball and then smashes it flat on the grill. In a larger context, Smashburger is the latest entry in one of the nation's hottest restaurant trends: the (so-called) "better burger" joint.

"Better than what?" you ask.

Well, better than ordinary fast-food burgers, for one. "Better burger" restaurants generally tout fresh, not frozen, ground beef, more and better-quality toppings and condiments and a greater emphasis on letting diners customize their burgers.

Such is the case at Smashburger, though customers can also choose one of several specialty burgers. For the St. Louis market, Smashburger is introducing the "St. Louis Smashburger," a burger topped with...wait for it...Provel cheese as well as mushrooms, onions and peppers on a pretzel bun.

Though Smashburger would seem to be in direct competition with Five Guys Burgers & Fries, which has entrenched itself in the area over the past few years, it will also go head-to-head with several homegrown "better burger" joints that have opened in recent months or that will debut in the future.

Already this year has welcomed Jim Hanifan's -- yes, that Jim Hanifan -- It's a Better Burger (4881 Mexico Road, St. Peters; 636-922-7706) and Dave & Tony's Premium Burger Joint (12766 Olive Boulevard, Creve Coeur; 314-439-5100).

Last week, David Bailey of Baileys' Chocolate Bar, Rooster and Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar announced that his new restaurant at 920 Olive Street will be a burger restaurant called Baileys' Range. Bailey will take the "better burger" concept a step further, using local grass-fed beef and making breads, sides and condiments in-house.

Finally, former Harvest owner and chef Steve Gontram revealed to George Mahe of St. Louis Magazine that he is founding Blue Ribbon Burgers. Gontram tells Mahe that the Blue Ribbon concept, which is still seeking a home for its first location, will feature table service, rather than a fast-casual counter, but will still be high-volume.

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