Glasgow is a city that likes to think it’s a little bit different. Simultaneously gruff and friendly, brutal and beautiful and with an attitude that prompted Anthony Bourdain to describe it as “one of my favourite cities on earth“. But we’re not, it seems, immune to the cyclical mania of the food business. Five years ago the city went nuts for burgers. With more than a little nudge from American TV imports like “Man v Food” and “Diners Drive Ins and Dives”, new burger joints seemed to pop up every other week as canny restaurateurs rushed to capitalise on this newly discovered demand for brioche buns and exotic toppings.
Five years and a few more fads later, things have normalised somewhat. We still have a bunch of great burger places in the city but they sit cheek by jowl with national and global competitors. Bread Meats Bread continues to knock it out of the park despite the close proximity of Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Handmade Burger Co and Five Guys, while Byron has set up on West George Street. So is there room for one more? That, as ever, depends on the food.
Smashburger has come to town, promising us something a little different. The name comes from their cooking process whereby a ball of meat is pressed (or smashed) into the hot plate, resulting in an intense Maillard reaction that makes the outside of their burger crispy while the inside remains juicy and soft. They’re unashamedly a chain but there’s a nod to regional culinary quirks in the form of their local specials. For their first Scottish outing that, inexplicably, means a “Stilton stack”. Something haggis-related was hinted at on their Facebook page so this may change.
I went for the BBQ, bacon and cheddar burger with an order of SMASHFries ™ while my plus one went for the grilled chicken avocado club with the non-SMASH variety of sweet potato fries. This being 2017, you place your order at the till and retire to your seat with a weighty electronic gizmo. I was expecting this to bleep and flash when the food was ready but a server somehow tracked us to our booth upstairs.
The burgers were served “taps aff”, proving, if necessary, the presence of bacon and cheese. That crisp bite we were promised was there and the patty was well seasoned. The bacon was nicely crispy and not too salty, but the barbecue sauce seemed a bit lost. Those SMASHFries were rendered SMASH by their post-fryer toss in some olive oil, garlic and rosemary. The flavour was great but tossing anything in oil tends to make it, well, oily. Still, I scoffed the lot.
The avocado chicken club was, I’m told, succulent and full of flavour. The bacon was sweet and crispy while the avocado provided a bit of richness. The verdict was a head nod combined with a thumbs up. The sweet potato fries, some of which I pinched, were great: crisp, fluffy and well seasoned. Our drinks were soft, although beer is available. I wasn’t sure what our server meant when she said “Coca Cola freestyle” drinks were included, but what a glorious thing it is. Previously unknown flavours await you in this magic self-service box. Who even knew that Raspberry Sprite existed? Not me but I want more.
The restaurant is situated on the pedestrianised section of Sauchiehall Street in a new unit bolted onto the side of an existing building. The space is modern and fresh with an industrial vibe that suits the millennial crowd they’re obviously trying to woo. Think something along the lines of Paesano Pizza and you won’t be far off.
All in all it was a satisfying lunch. Were I to go back I’d definitely order the larger burger and go for SMASH-free fries. For two burgers, two sides and two drinks you’re looking at nearly £28. Not the most phenomenal value you’ll find in the city but a better option than, say, Byron.
Smashburger officially opens tomorrow (19th October 2017). Today’s visit was part of a pre-launch event and, in the interests of disclosure, our meals were complimentary.
165 Sauchiehall Street
Coca Cola freestyle
Perfect sweet potato fries
SMASH fries tasted good but were oily