Smashburger Presses into the Los Angeles Burger Scene with new Culver City Location

The fast-growing burger chain, Smashburger, just opened their newset Southern California location in Culver City. Their approach to capturing a share of the sophisticated Los Angeles burger market is a reasonably priced menu with lots of variety and their name-sake burger preparation: the smash.

Smashburger Store Front

Smashburger is growing at a frenzied pace all over the US. Culver City is the location of their most recently opened store in the Los Angeles metro area.

What’s in a Name? Smashburger’s Cooking Method

Given the name of the burger chain, I was immediately curious about the origin.

My first thought was a burger cooking method that I’ve seen all too often. A burger patty is formed and put on a grill or skillet and pressed with a spatula. The burger cooks while the juices, and ultimately some of the flavor, squirt out of it.

That’s not the case with Smashburger.

Tom Ryan, Smashburger founder, at the Culver City Smashburger restaurant.

Tom Ryan, Smashburger founder, at the Culver City Smashburger restaurant.

I met with Tom Ryan, the founder of Smashburger at the new Culver City location* just before opening day to learn more about their signature smash method.

The preparation, Mr. Ryan explained, starts with a ball of freshly ground Angus beef. The ball isn’t pressed into a patty before the burger is ordered.

After a burger order gets placed, the beef ball is placed on a hot grill, seasoned with a blend of spices, covered with a piece of wax paper, and then – quite literally – smashed for 10 seconds with a mold.

The smashing does a couple things. First, it forces the bottom of the burger against the cooking surface, creating a thin layer of caramelized beef and seasonings. And second, the juices in the burger are forced upward instead of out through the sides.

The real secret (if you want to call it that now), is in flipping the burger. Using a very sharp spatula, positioned at a very specific angle, the burger is quickly scraped from the grill and flipped.

The scraping movement keeps the caramelized layer of flavor intact with the rest of the burger and continues to keep the juices inside as the other side of the burger cooks.

I had the chance to try this cooking method. Trust me; it’s a lot harder than it looks! I succeeded with the burger press, but failed on the scrape and flip.

Smashing the burger takes some effort.  The real skill, though, is in the scrape and flip.

Smashing the burger takes some effort. The real skill, though, is in the scrape and flip.

Mr. Ryan consoled me saying that it wasn’t a total fail, since the flavor-layer that I left behind was tasty enough to eat by itself. I declined, offering to taste it along with the rest of a whole burger…cooked by someone else.

The Burger Line Up

As I learned more about the menu, I found that each Smashburger location offers a burger recipe just for that area. San Diego county, where the restaurant has several locations, has the San Diego burger.

The San Diego Burger was so popular that Smashburger added it to the menu at all locations as the Fresh Mex burger. Out of the gate, the Fresh Mex has avocado, cilantro, pepper jack, lettuce, tomato, onion, sour cream and chipotle mayo on a telera roll served with a wedge of lime.

The SD Buger.

The Fresh Mex, also known as the SD burger, is like a the burger version of a fish taco.  Many of the toppings are the same down to the lime wedge on the side. Its paired here with veggie frittes.

Staying true to form, they also offer The L.A. Burger. The burger repping our city features a crispy wonton, fried egg, cilantro, cucumber, lettuce, tomato and ginger dressing on a black and white sesame seed bun.

The LA BUrger

The LA Burger has tastes with a nod to the influence of Asian cuisines on the city. The ginger dressing is a big part of the flavor and the cripsy won ton above the burger patty adds a tremendous crunch.

Both burgers are $5.99 for a single patty “Smash” or $6.99 for the double-pattied “Big Smash”.

Before ordering, I joked with the Smashburger reps about which one would tase better, SD or LA. The votes were pretty much 50/50 so I had to taste both to make an executive decision.

Both were delicious, but The LA burger was a clear winner. The combination of flavors had me thinking they drove through Little Tokyo to season the burger, swung by a steak house to cook it, and then came back to serve it.

You may think I’m jaded but you’ll have to try both and see for yourself.

*Some items mentioned in this article were provided on a complimentary basis for the purpose of this review. Prices and menu items mentioned are subject to change without notice. This story was accurate when it was published and reflects the uninfluenced opinions of the reviewers.

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About the Author

Michael loves grilling, rum, and has a weakness for key lime pie.

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