Burger restaurants go by a lot of names: Burger joint, burger kitchen, burger shack, burger bar and the list goes on. Whatever the name, they all essentially serve burgers, and there are plenty to be had in Jeddah.In order to be a successful burger place, one must have an edge. The best edge is to serve a delicious hamburger; naturally, tasty
French fries and onion rings help too. While things like décor, service and location are certainly important, but to me they come second to the taste of the burger on offer.As you first enter Smash Burger Shack you get a pretty good idea of the sort of place it is — a relatively small shack. They have managed, however, to use their limited space to portray a good amount of character that is both modern and old school.
The artwork on the wall conveys the combination of the old and new. There are graffiti style paintings next to Pepsi advertisements from the 1950s, with funky pictures of rock star Elvis and boxer Muhammad Ali. It is certainly an eclectic choice of artwork that seems to reflect the character of the restaurant owner.
As for the meal, we ordered the Smash burger with cheese and the chili cheese fries. It is worth noting that whether you just have the burger or the meal, you will still be paying the same price. The meal comes with a side of fries or onion rings and a drink.
As our server prepared our burger, we noticed that he used some sort of metallic weight atop the burgers as they were being grilled. Apparently, this is meant to squish out the excess fat from the meat so that it is less fatty and healthier.We also noticed that the menu advertises fresh ingredients, specifically fresh cut fries. When we saw the server preparing our order, however, we did witness him reach into a plastic bag of frozen fries, which was disappointing.
An interesting point on food presentation is that when your burger arrives, the top bun is branded with the initials “SBS”.Unfortunately, if Smash Burger Shack does have an edge to it, it is not its food. None of it was bad, but it did not have me thinking about my next visit. The burger meat was a bit too dry for my taste. Although the weight placed on the burger meat might make it healthier, I do believe that it must not detract from the taste. One of my favorite burger joints would actually use a goblet type of apparatus that they place atop each burger for a few minutes. This steams the burger and melts the fat directly into the meat, creating a succulent and delicious burger. It may not be healthy, but burgers really are not meant to be healthy. It’s a shame really because the meat seemed to be of good quality, it was just too dry. The bun itself was very nice, soft and warm, which did enhance the overall experience.
The fries and onion rings were adequate, but as they came from frozen bags they were really nothing more special than what you can buy at the market. The chili cheese fries were adequate, but the chili could have been more flavorful and I would have much preferred it if they hadn’t used a processed cheddar.
On the positive side, the service was very good. Our server was extremely friendly and answered all our questions with a big smile. Since my friend and I were the only ones in there, it is possible that he got a bit lonely, but we still appreciated his enthusiasm.
I got the sense that Smash Burger Shack opened prematurely. There were two clear plastic surfaces where the menu was displayed. One had all their items, and the other was completely empty. When we asked for a beverage, all they had was Diet Pepsi. There is a second floor, and when we asked what was up there we found out it is completely empty, but were contemplating getting a pool table.
As it is important to offer your customers the best experience possible to keep them coming back, it is critical to have a soft opening, not just with family and friends, but with people who will be honest about the food they eat.
Smash Burger Shack, open for just a month, has potential. But it needs to stay true to its word, offering fresh cut fries and a variety of burgers. If Smash is able to optimize its burger flavor, I see no reason it couldn’t become a local favorite, but I don’t believe it will in its present state.
Note: This Review by Sharif Islam first appeared in Arab News on Mar 2, 2011Smash Burger,
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