DFW.com sampled the University Drive location in Fort Worth for our 2011 Battle of the Burgers, and although it was knocked out in the first round by Love Shack, it was so close that we included Smashburger in our list of burgers that got away. Not that Smashburger felt any pain; it's thriving in DFW, with nearly a dozen locations in the Metroplex.
The latest, at 5800 N. Tarrant Parkway, has had a sign up announcing its impending arrival since at least February, and until recently, the sign was looking like a tease. But this Smashburger -- just west of U.S. 377 near where Fort Worth, Watauga and Keller meet -- has finally opened, and it had a sneak preview on Tuesday night.
Despite Smashburger's expansion into DFW, this was my first visit to one, along with my wife, a vegetarian who is willing to support any burger joint that offers a veggie burger. Smashburger's veggie specialty is a Spicy Baja Black Bean Burger ($4.99), a variation on its beefy Spicy Baja ($599-$6.99), which comes with pepper jack cheese, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, onion and spicy chipotle mayo and fresh jalapenos on a spicy chipotle bun.
But there's a build-your-own option with the black-bean patty as well, and that kind of versatility is always appreciated when some other burger joints only offer one kind of veggie burger if they offer any at all.
When it comes to first impressions of a place, Smashburger's staff made a good one -- enthusiastic and so helpful that I was beginning to wonder if one of them was going to offer to drive us home after our meal. Influenced by this enthusiasm, and a little distracted by the noise level, I took the cashier's advice and order the regular (1/3 pound) beef version of the Spicy Baja.
Next time, I'll go for the large (half-pound) version. Although the medium-well patty maintained some juiciness and had some strong flavor, especially toward the center, Smashburger's method of grilling -- smashing the patties flat with a metal press on the griddle -- makes for a thinner patty that almost got lost within the large chipotle bun. Can't complain about the toppings, though, which gave the burger a nice kick. There's good stuff here, and it'll be better next time now that I know to make some adjustments.
There was good flavor in my wife's Spicy Baja Black Bean Burger, too, but she found the black-bean patty to be a little mushy, although she appreciated the effort to have something more than what she calls the "hockey puck" veggie patty. I took a bite and liked it; the spiciness in the patty kind of sneaks up on you, and successfully stands up among the other spicy ingredients. Still, she's a fan of the veggie burger at a nearby location of Mooyah, another fast-casual burger chain, and she gave Mooyah's the edge in this veggie-burger battle.
For sides, I had the Smashfries ($1.99), fries tossed with rosemary, olive oil and garlic; she had the veggie frites ($2.99), flash-fried carrot sticks and green beans. The fries were a little on the thin side for my taste, but the flavors were good; however, I couldn't stop nibbling the veggie frites, which were lightly seasoned and had a nice crisp texture that was just on the edge of softness without crossing the line.
Within the past year or so, this area on and near U.S. 377 has undergone a burger boom -- Bottlecap Alley, Bronson Rock and YourWay have all opened locations that are a short (if sometimes traffic-filled) drive away from this new Smashburger location, and the aforementioned Mooyah as well as No Frills Grill also have locations nearby. I tend to lean toward Bronson Rock and Mooyah, but all of these places are worthy, as is Smashburger, which makes for a welcome addition to an already busy burger market.