Restaurant review: Smashburger pays attention to detailsBurgers are not meant to be elegant cuisine. They are a symbol of American excess and ingenuity. And because they’re the staple of fast-food restaurants, burgers are virtually everywhere.
By: Eric Daeuber, special to The Forum, INFORUM
1801 45th St. SW, Fargo
Cuisine: Fast food
- Food: two and a half stars
- Service: three stars
- Ambiance: two stars
- Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Sundays
- Phone: (701) 478-2111
- Reservations accepted: No
- Alcohol: Beer and wine
- Dress: As you like
- Credit cards accepted: Visa, Discover, American Express and MasterCard
Burgers are not meant to be elegant cuisine. They are a symbol of American excess and ingenuity. And because they’re the staple of fast-food restaurants, burgers are virtually everywhere.
That’s why if you want to appeal to diners in the burger market, you have to do something different, because it’s hard to do something better. Smashburger, which recently opened in Fargo, tries to do something different.
The restaurant’s relatively unappealing name refers to the way it turns a round ball of ground beef into a patty, and the less said about it, the better. If that’s where the difference lay, the conversation would be over. It’s just not a big enough innovation to attract anyone for more than a single visit. Thankfully, they don’t stop there, because Smashburger’s strength is in its side dishes and in the details of its burger construction.
There are the usual off-the-menu novelty versions like the spicy Baja burger, and most Smashburger franchises create a burger for their own region. We get the North Dakota burger, which stands out for its pretzel bun, maybe a nod to our state’s German heritage.
But it’s more important to consider the variety made available by Smashburger’s four different buns, a half-dozen different toppings and sauces and five different kinds of cheese. The number of combinations might make a good middle-school algebra problem and, if burger variety is your gauge, Smashburger is a good place to do the math.
What’s impressive about Smashburger is that it pays some attention to details. It offers interesting sides like sweet potato fries tossed with olive oil, garlic and what comes very close to fresh rosemary. Burgers are served open-face in wire baskets so you can see the toppings. Tomatoes and lettuce are fresh, and add-ons like garlic mushrooms can offer a little range to what has become such a basic bit of American-wide ordinary.
Smashburger also brings beer and wine to fast-food burgers, and people willing to drop $4 on a milkshake or rootbeer float, can enjoy them in real glasses – a small, but not insignificant, improvement over disposable tableware.
The prices at Smashburger are reasonable, with burgers running between $5 and $6 with added sides costing another $2 or so.
And the service is actually friendly. The last time I was there, the restaurant was busy, but the staff never showed the strain and servers brought food to my table with a smile.
Smashburger doesn’t serve a gourmet burger, but I’m not sure burgers should ever use that adjective. Still, it’s a bit of a change and worth the trip just for the sweet potato fries.
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.