This post is a tale of two cities…or two Smashburgers in two cities. I made a trip to Atlanta last weekend to hang out with Mario and do some “official” last hurrah-type activities (mani/pedi at my most favorite nail shop, my favorite cupcakes, etc). After a half day of furniture shopping, I was really hoping to get my last Bocado burger for lunch but forgot that they are only open for dinner on Saturdays. Bummer. So we decided instead to visit one of the newer burger joints in town, Smashburger. Just a few days later, I got an invite to the opening of the 1st Jacksonville Smashburger location at Neptune Beach. I guess the fact that I accepted means my first visit went well!
The folks at Smashburger are doing some rapid expansion as of late, trying to fill the fast-casual space that they say is wide open (and maybe it is, in places other than Atlanta). How they determined that fast-casual burger joints are lacking is a mystery to me, but if you’re executing well I guess more is ok. Direct competition for them is, of course, the also-expanding “multiple men” burger joint.
We liked the open and airy feel of the dining area (very Chipotle-like) and the friendly staff members at the register where you order before grabbing a seat. The menu is largely customizable, from bread to cheese to protein (beef, chicken, and black bean), but also contains some “pre-fab” burgers. These pre-fabs are one way Smashburger aims to specially recognize each local market–one burger that is only sold in that area. Jacksonville’s burger is the Sunshine Bacon & Cheese, with orange citrus bbq sauce, bacon, cheddar, and haystack onions:
I like that the burger patties remain juicy despite being thin (and consequently well-done). The Sunshine burger had a little too much “stuff” for me, so I think I’ll stick to the burgers with fewer toppings, like the mushroom & swiss, but Mario enjoyed the BBQ, Bacon and Cheddar with peach bbq sauce in Atlanta:
Oh, those beauties next to the burgers are Smashfries and Sweet Potato Smashfries. I love that they use rosemary along with the usual S&P to season their fries, but I thought it worked better on the regular potatoes than the sweet potatoes. At the Jax opening, I also got to taste the fried pickles. Best I’ve ever had, no exaggeration (my previous favs were at Yeah! Burger in ATL). The seasoning in the batter was just right, and even after sitting out at the table for most of the lunch hour, they never got soggy.
In addition to the beef, chicken, and black bean burgers you can customize, Smashburger also offers salads and milkshakes (Georgia’s “special” is peach, Florida’s is orange cream). Because there were so many great burgers within 5 minutes of me when I lived on ATL’s Westside, I haven’t eaten a burger from Five Guys in a while anyway. Now that I’m not smack in the middle of burger heaven and with Smashburger on the scene…I may not want to.