NJ Dining: Smashburger (UPDATED)

Update: The post now contains photos from the Clifton, New Jersey soft opening.


The Shops At Riverside
390 Hackensack Avenue
Hackensack, New Jersey

700 Route 3 West
Clifton, New Jersey

989 Bloomfield Ave
Montclair, New Jersey

Web Site: http://www.smashburger.com

Hackensack is indeed becoming something of a burger town, being home to the legendary White Manna, a long standing White Castle location in nearby Little Ferry as well as a Five Guys which opened in 2007.

This week, the town got its very own Smashburger, an upscale small chain of franchised burger restaurants (there are currently 78 stores nationwide in select markets) which focus on classic griddled burgers cooked with fresh ingredients using an interesting “smash” process.

A group of us were invited by the owners to give the place a try and sample the burgers. I was skeptical of trying yet another burger chain, but as you’ll sound find out, I was pleasantly surprised.

The Smashburger at the Shops at Riverside, in Hackensack NJ.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

The new Smashburger location at the Shops at Riverside is spacious and bright.

Le carte du Smash. Prices are consistent with the mass-market burger chains, but Smashburger uses much more higher quality ingredients in their burgers.

And the sides.

So why do they call it Smashburger? Well, they take big balls of ground Angus beef, and they use a “smasher” device on the grill and press the burgers flat for approximately 10 seconds on a single side, so that it sears the meat and seals in the juices.

Smashburger uses a proprietary blend of fresh ground Angus Beef which is delivered four times a week.

Burgers are either 8oz or 6oz patties depending on the order, and are cooked to 165 degrees, approximately medium well. Obviously, I’d prefer to get my burgers medium or medium rare, with some pink, but that’s food service and local health ordinances for you.

Burger production line.

The assembly process.

And out to a happy customer.

A view of the pass.

The counter ordering area.

Dining Room (Clifton)

Your order is brought to your table by efficient servers.

The first of several burgers our group tried. This is the Taylor Ham, fried Egg and Cheese Burger with frizzled fried “haystack” onions on top, meant as an ode to New Jersey. Despite the burgers being cooked well, they were still very juicy and tasty.

The fries are cooked in a blend of soybean oil and beef tallow, meant to replicate the original McDonald’s fries of many years ago. I think they’ve succeeded. Make sure you order your fries well done, though.

The group’s favorite burger by far was the “New Jersey” Smashburger, which has blue cheese, apple-wood smoked bacon, frizzled onions, sauteed onions, lettuce tomato and mayo on an onion bun.

The only disappointment so far has been the fact that while all the produce is fresh, the tomatoes were of the white-core variety. During the middle of August, ripe tomatoes shouldn’t be a problem in New Jersey.

Bun and Lettuce closeup. The buns, like the burger mix, are a proprietary type baked for the company. Additionally, several different bun types are used for different sandwiches, an Egg Bun, an Onion Bun, and a Multi-grain.

In addition to the regular fries, they have herbed Smashburger fries and also sweet potato fries, shown here.

We also tried two different types of chicken sandwiches which were both very good. At left, a fried chicken sandwich with buffalo wing sauce and bleu cheese served with chili cheese fries (which Rachel pronounced as excellent) and the Avocado Club Smashchicken to the right, with ranch dressing and served on a multi-grain bun.

Here’s a particularly nice shot of one of the chicken sandwiches coming right off the pass.

Mushroom Swiss, another porn shot at the pass.

Hungry yet?

Rachel felt these were way too salty but I grew quite fond of these fried pickle chips.

These “Veggie fries” while a good concept, came out limp.

Smashburger also has salads for those of you not burger or sandwich inclined. To the left, the Ranch Chicken Club with fried chicken pieces, bacon, tomatoes, red onion and cheddar cheese with romaine lettuce.

To the right is my personal favorite of the two, the Harvest Chicken, with Romaine, baby spinach and arugula, with grilled chicken, balsamic tomatoes, raisins, cranberries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. Whew!

In addition to the signature burgers on the menu, you can order completely custom burgers as well. Here I’ve instructed Rachel to order a massive burger, strictly for photographic purposes, of course.

If it’s a particularly crazy order though, you might fluster the poor girl at the POS.

Bacon Cheeseburger with Fried Onions.

Topped with chili.

This is a Godzilla-sized custom burger, a Double 1/2 pounder (pre-cooked weight) with Swiss, Mushrooms and Bacon.

And I even put some bleu cheese on top for good measure. Huge chunks of burger fell off of this, which I gave to Rachel, which she couldn’t finish. I only advise going the double half-pounder route if you are EXTREMELY hungry, and are within half hour’s driving distance from home, should you encounter any intestinal distress.

Smashburger’s shakes are made with Haagen-Dazs ice cream. We tried a classic chocolate shake (made with the company’s own proprietary chocolate syrup and vanilla ice cream), a strawberry malted, the mint oreo and a black cherry wishniak float. I liked all of them.

Stewart’s Sodas, used for the floats.

Scooping out the Haagen-Dazs.

So what did we think of Smashburger? We think it’s a great addition to Bergen County and it’s an excellent dining value and a great alternative to the myriad of other fast food establishments vying for the attention of our local diners. They’ve clearly raised the bar on franchise burger quality and when I’m in the mood for a serious cheeseburger, fries and shake that won’t break my wallet, I’ll be definitely heading back.

28 Responses to NJ Dining: Smashburger (UPDATED)

  1. Peter Cohen says:

    “Smashburger also has salads for those of you not burger or sandwich inclined”

    If you’re going to a place called Smashburger for the salad, UR DOIN IT RONG.

  2. Sinya says:

    There is no White Castle in Hackensack, NJ!

  3. So it’s just conventional Angus beef, as far as you know? Beef tallow for the fries? Sounds deadly.

  4. John Fox says:

    I think I enjoy Smashburger better than Five Guys, although nothing beats Five Guys fries. The burger is juicy and very rich. Just the flavor and consistency I like. The dogs are very good too. Best’s natural casing 6/1 split and griddled.

  5. tripleholic says:

    My arm looks retarded :(
    You & your camera take delicious food porn pictures.

    The Avocado Club Smashchicken I had was quite tasty, too.

  6. Dave says:

    I want to try this place however it’ll be tough to choose it over Houston’s burger.

  7. SHAKUEY201 says:

    I think I will pass, parking at that mall is a nightmare, just like Five Guys this seems overpriced. I will stick to Fuddruckers.

    • Shakuey, I don’t like that mall either, but we’ve been a few times already and the parking is not near the main stores, its on the side of the mall and we’ve found ample parking in the evening.

  8. Rick says:

    We’ll see how long they last, Wendys moved out years ago and they use “fresh ingredients” also. The price of hamburgers will reflect the rent they pay. Rosa Mexicana charges 14 dollars for a double order of Guacamole!!

  9. oscar duyor says:

    Nice post. Very interesting.

  10. Eric says:

    Be sure to try their chili….it is quite good! I had it for the first time yesterday and went back today for another dose. There is something very addictive about it. Fresh jalapeno slices, diced, onions, and shredded cheddar are served atop the precious go. You will not be disappointed!!!

  11. Eric says:

    I meant to type “precious goo”…Just go and try it!

  12. Ellie K says:

    This may be too ad hoc, but stay away from the Smashburger on Camelback Road in Phoenix, AZ. They opened the same week as your NJ Smashburger. I was very disappointed: the hamburgers must’ve been frozen, then straight into the cooker, because they were charred on the outside and bright red inside. Very “ground chuck tartare”: both gross tasting and a public health safety issue. I was SO disappointed, I had such high hopes for them. Fries were great though!

    • Really depends on the franchisee, just like any other franchise business to maintain quality and chain standards. The Northern NJ franchise owner is pretty vigilant about quality control.

  13. enassar says:

    Nice pics. Smashburger and “Five Guys Burgers and Fries” are good chains with my prefernece being to the Five Guys. Both are significantly better options to the Mega chains.
    I have to quibble with your “and seals in the juices” statement Jason :-). Searing does not do that and it just bugs me whenever I see it now.

  14. Henry Strauss says:

    Am I missing sometning or did I not see a single person in your great photos over 35/40. More like 20/30. Just maybe the older and wiser we get the more we realize how bad this kind of food is for us especially with al that dressing.

  15. Bart says:

    What do you mean by “local health ordinances”? There is nothing in a Hackensack health ordinance that says that burgers can’t be served rare, Houston’s serves them anyway you want them, even blue!

  16. Bart says:

    That cannot be true! Houston’s in Hackensack makes burgers rare. Smith Brothers in Ridgewood makes burgers rare. Joe’s at Garden State Plaza makes them rare. (I’ve had them all) . And I’ve had RAW beef (beef tartare) at Pourquoi Pas in Westwood. You must be confusing beef with pork!!!

    • It’s a Bergen County health ordinance. However, not all restaurants comply with it fully, and will sometimes comply with customer requests, but if you are seen to be cooking rare or medium rare burger meat during an inspection they WILL hit you with a fail mark.

  17. Bart says:

    Spoke to the Bergen County Health Dept (They are in Ridgewood). Firstly, there are NO county-wide “ordinances”.!!!! (All local) And certainly NOTHING about rare vs well done meat. It’s all about bacteria counts. If you use McDonalds with 100 different steer in the burger, watch out! But if the ground meat is one piece of beef, this could be eaten raw.

    I then spoke with the Hackensack Health dept. They would never fine Houston’s for making rare burgers,(!!!) the issue is food handling and bacteria, just as the County person said.

    Then I spoke to the mgr at Houston’s. Houston’s, as a chain, would NEVER not comply with local health ordinances. They just have too much to lose, they are run with rules “like a military camp”, said she.

    You just made this up about ordinances, apparently, sir. I now would find anything you describe here as suspicious.

    • Well, I’m glad you spoke to someone, and I’d really appreciate you giving me their name and contact information for direct clarification. The last time this subject came up a local restaurant owner — David Finkelstein of Finks’ Funky Chicken and Ribs in River Edge, which has been closed for several years now — explained to me there were ordinances at the county and local level which prohibited food service establishments cooking burger meat at anything less than medium doneness as to prevent foodborne bacteria from still being present. Beef -has- to be cooked at a certain temperature to prevent this. Certainly, I would expect prime ground beef from a premium supplier to be less likely to have a higher bacteria count than beef from say, SYSCO, which would have a large quantity of mixed animals in it, but even then there are no guarantees. If that’s not correct then I’ll be happy to clarify that.

  18. Bart says:

    Well I got first hand information, you used OLD third hand, and never even checked it out. Feel free to call the same places I did, they are easy and available. (Which is what you should have done before making your statement!) And then be sure to apologize and correct yourself. And if you want to proclaim something as fact, be sure you get the info from the horses mouth directly like any good reporter or blogger would!

    P.S. FYI, “Prime” has nothing to do with bacteria, it has to do with “marbling”. Choice beef can be just as low in bacteria as prime if handled properly.

    • I’m well aware of what USDA gradings for beef mean. My point about Prime was that a restaurant which is likely to use a more expensive cut of meat for a burger (Prime, Choice, special purveyor such as Niman, whatever) is more likely to grind it themselves from single pieces of meat. The bacteria issue is going to arise when you buy a large quantity of ground beef from a supplier such as SYSCO where you have a large number of animals being butchered specifically for hamburger meat and mixed up in large volumes. The action of grinding creates more surface area and a higher chance of spreading any bacteria. Unfortunately, you cannot enforce standardization of what sort of meat a restaurant buys, you can only ensure that it is cooked to a specific temperature as to kill the bacteria. It doesn’t matter if it is McDonalds, Five Guys, Smashburger, White Manna or Houston’s.

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