Please note: I received two free burgers, two free soft drinks, and portions of their shakes as part of their VIP night. Please take this review with as much salt as you believe you should.
I’d heard all the buzz around Smashburger’s other metro locations and when I saw that they were opening up in Eagan I was mildly interested in checking them out. When I found out that I could head over there for their VIP night, presumably on their dime, I became quite a bit more interested.
We had “reservations” for 6:30 and met up with two friends right on time. The space is tiny and crowded and reminded me a lot of Chipotle–think busy and brushed metal. We were directed to order anything on the menu and told that we’d receive small portions of their shakes later so there was no need to order them at the counter. After looking over the menu (a huge one is located on the wall in an uncomfortable location and another smaller one was on a standalone sign in another inconvenient location) we all decided on our burgers and placed our orders.
I went with an off-menu item, shown on a table tent on the front counter, named The Spicy Baja which was advertised to include pepper jack cheese, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, onion, chipotle mayo, and fresh jalapenos on a chipotle bun. My wife ordered their Classic Smashburger (American cheese, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, onion, pickle, and our smash sauce on an egg bun). One friend ordered a Twin Cities Smashburger (layers of melted cheddar bar cheese, Swiss cheese, and garlic grilled onions, with lettuce, tomato, and mayo on an onion bun). Her husband attempted to order a custom burger but ended up with their BBQ Bacon and Cheese burger instead. My wife and I ordered our two burgers, which come with fries (I got the smash fries and she got their haystack onions), and two soft drinks and if we had to pay it would have been close to $22. Certainly not cheap for burgers, fries, and drinks. She went off to find a seat, which ended up being in an tight and uncomfortable counter parallel to the foyer.
We were told our burgers would be out in 5 to 7 minutes and that seemed to be pretty accurate. I had a few minutes to chat with the Smashburger PR person, who first asked if I was with The Heavy Table… When she asked me what I thought I told her, “it’s another chain restaurant,” to which she responded with a question asking how many chains offer a regional menu item? I smirked and didn’t bother to go into the list of places off the top of my head that did because, well, it wasn’t really worth it.
Anyway, my burger greatly exceeded my extremely low expectations. Their press release states that their burgers are, “named for the cooking method used to create the perfect burger,” which is nothing more than an abomination. Absolutely everyone knows that a “smashed” patty is the worst way to cook a burger. As such the burger was done more than I’d prefer and was not put together all that nicely as my guacamole was lopsided on the bun and the meat was 4x as thick on one side as it was on the other but I have to admit that it tasted pretty darn good. While the guacamole was basically tasteless (it appeared as if it was nothing more than avocado mushed up with nothing else added), the other vegetables were nice and I remarked to my friends that I was very impressed that they chose to go with fresh jalapenos rather than pickled as many other places would choose to do. The cheese carried little flavor but that may have been because the other toppings, especially the chipotle mayo, overwhelmed it. While I am not 100% sure, the bun I had appeared to be an onion one rather than a chipotle one but perhaps they just look similar–I certainly couldn’t taste chipotle in it. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve lived in Minnesota too long but the char on the edges and with all the flavors melding together with the meat, I found this burger to be quite an enjoyable one. It was almost as if all the stars and planets aligned in the sky and a booming voice came down from the heavens and directed me to enjoy this burger. That or it was my rumbling stomach, either one, take your pick.
In my opinion the smashfries were good. They were seasoned perfectly and the rosemary was just hanging in there while the other unnamed herbs and garlic were doing their job silently in the background. While I thought they were excellent, my wife disagreed. That said, her Haystack onions did not impress me at all. They were too thin and basically required you to eat them with a fork to get them into the sauce. Honestly it looked like a hairball rather than a side dish. She later said that it was as if they were having a burger topping pull unnecessary double duty as a side. One of my dining partners ordered a side of their veggies frites which include asparagus, carrots, and green beans. While I only had a single carrot stick I was pleasantly surprised to see them seasoned well with kosher (or sea, I didn’t look that closely) salt and that they were quite good. Definitely a winner if you are not into fried foods on the side.
We received our samples of the shakes, even though my wife had to go to the counter to get them, and I was not impressed at all. While I saw the Haagen-Dazs containers on the counter, my memory of their ice cream has either faded over time or they were watering it down so much that the bastardization of the brand should lead to a protest by Haagen-Dazs. The first sip tasted as if there was liquor inside and the second did nothing to make me want any more. I passed it off to my wife who happily slurped up what I decided was not for me. But, as always, you need to take my dessert ratings with a grain of salt–I really am not one for sweets.
Everyone seemed to enjoy their burgers with one person also noting that it was a lot better than they expected. That said, when I asked my wife if she thought it would be worth returning to again, she said not for $21+ it wouldn’t be. If we’re going to spend that kind of money on burgers we’re better off at nearby Junior’s Cafe where they at least have real waiters (rather than Culver’s like delivery) and the burgers are much more impressive size wise.
Overall, quite good but too pricey for us. The place is going to be packed on the weekdays for the lunch rush so be prepared to get your food to go or to sit shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers–something every true Minnesotan will loat…errr, love.
1270 Promenade Place
Eagan, MN 55121
See all the pictures from Smashburger on Flickr here.