Saturday, December 11, 2010

Our first and last visit to Smashburger at the mall in Hackensack

Smashburger interiorImage by Average Jane via Flickr
The interior of a Smashburger.


I won't let my wife take our teenage son to Burger King or McDonald's, and I pride myself on never having eaten one of their low-quality hamburgers.

So, on Friday night, I offered to take them to a new Smashburger outlet in Hackensack's former Riverside Square mall.

Is the quality of the beef at Smashburger any better than at the low-rent places? It's hard to tell, because the word "beef" doesn't appear anywhere on the wall menu, just the lower-case smashburger repeated numerous times. 

But on the soft-drink cups, you'll read:
"Smash means we literally smash 100% Angus beef at a high temperature to sear in all the juicy burger goodness, and our seasoning blend and fresh toppings take our burgers over the top."
Is Smashburger saying it uses Certified Angus Beef, a brand from cattle that are raised conventionally on grain, antibiotics and growth hormones? That's the same beef used by Chef Bobby Flay at his so-called Burger Palace in Paramus.

Both my wife and son ordered a one-third pound "Classic Smashburger," with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion and "smash sauce," on an egg bun, and they loved it ($4.99). 

My 13-year-old son said it was the best burger he's ever had. Fries and drinks were extra.

A friend's child had a Kids Smash Dog, a Best's beef hot dog ($3.99). 

If you don't eat meat

I don't eat meat, so I could have ordered a Caesar Salad, the only one on the menu without chicken or bacon. But I decided to try the Veggie Frites ($2.99) and Sweet Potato Fries ($1.99), which supposedly are seasoned with rosemary, garlic and olive oil.

I got some fried asparagus and carrot sticks, but none of the green beans listed on the menu, and the portion seemed small for the price. 

The paper they were served on was slicked with frying oil. The sweet potato fries were delicious, but the rosemary and garlic eluded me.

(I got two comments on this post, saying the potatoes and veggies are fried with beef tallow. Here is one: "All their fried veggies and fries are fried in beef tallow. They really should say on menu. So, in fact, you'll be eating beef like it or not.")

You have to wait in a corral to give your order to a cashier -- called a host -- and after you pay, you place a numbered sign on your table, so a waiter can bring you your food. It isn't a long wait.

You don't get plastic utensils unless you ask for them. When I went to get my no-charge seltzer from the drink machine, I could see into the kitchen, but no one was smashing anything against the grill.

When you are waiting in line, there is a lot on the menu to digest. I don't know if my wife and son saw that they could add many items to their burgers, including a fried egg or chili or potato, pepper and onion.

I paid with a credit card, and was surprised to see a tip line on my receipt. There was also a tip receptacle with dollar bills on the counter near the register where Anthony took my order. The entire meal cost about $25. I didn't leave a tip. 

And there is no place for your coat or hat, so I sat in a booth with mine on while I ate.


I once loved going to Fuddruckers in Paramus for a naturally raised ostrich burger or a fish sandwich, both offered in place of conventional beef burgers. 

I loved the sliced jalapenos I could pile on my sandwich, and the wine and beer I could order. They even once offered baked potatoes in place of fries. To me, that is a great cook-to-order hamburger place.

Next time my wife and son want a hamburger, we'll try Five Guys in Hackensack, unless they insist on going back to Smashburger.

Smashburger, Store No. 1101, 390 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack, in The Shops at Riverside; 201-343-1488.
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  1. Say what you want, but four nights in a row last week after emerging from my new job at 11:30 p.m. last week, having neglected to eat before my shift began some nine hours earlier, the only place I could find open was a McDonald's drive-through, and four nights in a row I had a mushroom-swiss third-pound Angus burger, beef byproducts, discarded body parts, hopefully not human, and all. Tastes great, plenty filling, and it sure beats the dollar menu McDouble unemployment special. Take that Bobby Flay and Smashburger Sam.

  2. Congrats on your new job, Aaron, but you have to plan your meals better. Are there no diners where you now work?

    It's always cheaper and healthier if you buy and prepare your own food. What does that McDonald's thing cost?

    Send me an e-mail and tell me about your new gig.

  3. This guy's review of smashburger is ridiculous. your wife, your child and you ate for $25 including burgers, fries, drinks, veggies. I work in a restaurant in the area and would rather eat at smashburger any day. The quality and price is amazing. It probably didn't occur to this guy that leaving a small tip in the bin on the counter is a nice, small gesture. The tip line on his credit card is the format from the credit card company, not the restaurant. I know this bc the fast food restaurant I work in has it too. He also sounds like a child who can't figure out what to do with his coat. Try the back of the chair instead of a booth. Shame on you for writing something like this. Next time, figure out how to find the good.

  4. "This guy" is the author of the blog, Victor Sasson. You may find the "quality and price amazing," but I don't. It's cheap, because the quality of the beef is low, and the portions, especially the Veggie Frites, are small.

    In case you didn't notice, I have never eaten the shit burgers served at McDonald's or Burger King and I'm not going to start by eating a Smashburger.

    The "good," as I wrote, is at Fuddruckers. which serves naturally raised meat and fish for those who don't want conventionally raised beef.

    The only chairs I saw at Smashburger were at tables for two (chair and banqette), so our party of four couldn't sit there and I couldn't put my coat over the back of the chair.

  5. Never been to Smashburger, but Five Guys is nothing special, been there a few times and didn't care much for it. I would take Fuddruckers over Five Guys any day.

    LOL @ the imbecile ranting and raving about his job at a fast food restaurant.

  6. I may even go to Fuddruckers for a fish sandwich piled high with jalapenos and a small bottle of red wine.

  7. Smashburgers baja burger is uneatable! Looked like a disaster opening the wraper. Put together all wrong, bun tasted like it was dipped in dishwater. The Guacamole was garlic flavor only and the beef tasteless... go to fiveguys or something

  8. Houstans right next to smash burger is by far superior in taste and quality probably as far as to call it the tastiest burger in America. It's $19 though but when you eat their burger and their amazing fries you still say it's worth it.

  9. I've been amazed that you can NOT find an ingredient listing on the smashburger web site. Sure you can find a list of general allergens and nutritional info, but no comprehensive list of ingredients.

    What are they hiding?

    1. All their fried veggies and fries are fried in beef tallow. They really should say on menu. So infact you'll be eating beef like it or not.

  10. Good question. One reason I no longer eat meat or poultry. Try a veggie burger.

  11. -no drive though

    +Häagen Dazs

  12. Hey Victor,

    I found this blog post searching "Smashburger Ingredients" because I have a really serious allergy / intolerance to vegetable oils, soy additives, etc. Yeah, it is horrible, and I feel like there is not a single cooked menu item at any restaurant anywhere that I can eat safely. :(

    I do go for grass-fed beef for the omega 3's (and to avoid any traces of soy), but honestly I would think trying to find grass-fed beef at a fast food place is like trying to find ice in a desert. : /

    Also, it's pretty weird that you live in NJ too. I actually used to live in Hackensack, and I've been to that mall and seen the Smash Burger restaurant! I didn't go in though. I was usually just at that mall for H&M and Whole Foods. haha.

    I can eat only extra virgin olive oil and extra virgin macadamia nut oil. Do you by any chance know restaurants that cook with these LOL?

    (I am lol-ing very hard because I highly doubt there is a place like this anywhere in NJ) : (

    1. Why not bring that oil with you to a restaurant and ask whether they will use it?

  13. By the way - I just learned from their counter guy that Smashburger fries in a beef tallow + canola blend. Yep, even the veggie frites. Sure enough, their nutrition PDF shows cholesterol in the veggie frites, all fries, haystack onions, etc. Won't be back.

    1. This blog is completely disgraceful. Unless any of you have worked at Smashburger you cannot be completely sure about what goes on behind the scenes. I have worked at Smashburger for years and I know exactly how it works.
      For one, Smashburger is not fast food, it is fast casual dining.. In which a burger can be prepared in 3 minutes. All burgers are cooked to order and are definitely smashed for 10 seconds coming from a fresh never frozen state to cooked. I've done prep at this store,especially beef. Our beef is indeed 100% Angus beef from Michigan. It comes vacuum sealed, and after preparation has a shelf life of 24 hrs. Prep consists of breaking the beef down with forks into small pea size pieces, and each burger is weighed on a scale for consistent portions. Like I said before, every burger is smashed on the grill for 10 seconds..if not you would receive a tennis ball shaped burger.
      2nd, your sweet potatoe fries are not served with with the Rosemary seasoning oil unless you order them that way (smash sweet fries) which is clear on the menu.
      3rd, a classic Smashburger is served with American cheese, smash sauce, KETCHUP, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles. All ingredients are prepared fresh daily. Everything is done from scratch.
      4th, veggie frites are not asparagus.. What?? They are green beans and carrots flash fried for 45 seconds, thrown in a bowl and seasoned with garlic, and served with ranch. If you say the paper they are served on is wet, that is strictly the fault of the personnel employed in your location.. Have you ever thought about that? same goes with that uneatable Baja apparently in this blog. That's no reason to blame an entire franchise. Personally that is my favorite burger.
      Since I have worked at Smashburger, I haven't gone near a McDonalds, burger king, Wendy's or any other fast food restaurant because there is an obvious gulf in quality. Five guys is not bad, but does not offer near as many selections plus you have to create every burger.
      My advice is try another location if there is one in your area, and if not come to mine and I'll make you and your family the BEST burgers you've ever had

    2. This post was written nearly five years ago, and I haven't returned to Smashburger since then. If there have been changes to how the food is prepared, I don't know about them.

      Today, if I want a veggie burger, I'd go to Zinburger, Shake Shack or another upscale place.

  14. Agreed actually I've been searching hard for there ingredients list and to every person who comments on this unless you know your eating organic grass fed free range beef you simply being poisoned and our usda now does not recognize the terminology "grass fed" so good luck not getting tricked put it this way if it's corporately owned your never going to get something nutritious he forget to mention in his post how his veggies are most likely gmo pesticide ridden vegetables that probably didn't get washed off until they were cooked in the deep fryer and served to him and you can't fully trust even personally owned restaurants now a days everyone outsources to ingredients from China who own majority of our agricultural market. I do appreciate your blog on smash burger as I will most likely still try it at one point but will be very picky on everything there . There is one place I let poison me and its five guys. Tho there meat may be fresh and frys cut fresh everyday it doesn't stop the pesticidel fed hormone and antibiotic shot up grain or soy fed beef we eat everyday. Aka if u want something done right do it yourself although it's expensive it just takes Brian thought to be able to buy certain things from certain places it's your health remember that 50 isn't old it's a half way point. And in the end of the day you do it all yourself it's still cheaper than having some one poison you.

  15. Wow, some of you guys would love Boulder! ;) I did see mention of a Whole Foods there and both of ours have HUGE buffets of food you pay for by the pound. Everyone can find things they like and the ingredients are listed for EVERY item there. It's where I used to go a lot when I had a vegan boyfriend. It sounds like that would be a good fit for your family with varied tastes and for the gentleman with the new job, if he can get away for a couple minutes before or during work. Some people get it to go (like parents on their way home from work) or to stay and eat (like folks on a lunch break. If your WF doesn't have one you should inquire about if that's in the works. If the one in Nebraska has it then the one in NJ should.

    Wishing you health and happiness!

    1. Thanks. Yes. Whole Foods Markets in New Jersey and New York have buffets of hot and cold food by the pound (around $8.99 a pound as I write this in January 2017), plus store-made wood-fired pizzas, half-dozen great soups and ethnic food stands, including Korean, and all diets are accommodated.


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