Burgers are an American staple, and May happens to be National Burger Month.
Considering how much fast-food I've tried, I've developed some serious opinions (see: a gushing ode to the McGriddle) — and that extends to the burger.
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I know that there are myriad variables at work. Is the burger too small? Too messy? Is the bun soggy? How fresh is the beef? Toppings?
Is there some gimmicky limited edition flavor, or is it a simple, old-fashioned burger? It's a lot to mull over.
But there's one that outranks all the rest and wins in every category, and that's the burger at Smashburger.
In terms of quality, the burgers are as close to a nice dining experience as you can get in a fast-casual setting. They're of medium size — nothing overwhelming or gluttonously gargantuan.
The ingredients are fresh and definitely in the premium tier; both burgers I tried at Smashburger had vibrant and natural toppings like baby spinach, tomato, and some pretty top-notch blue cheese.
The patties, although rather thin (they're "smashed" on the grill, hence the name), are savory and cooked to perfection. There's no uneasy, greasy texture to the burger, unlike many other burger chains. It's a lean meat that stands out amongst the flavors instead of suffocating beneath them.
Its closest competitor Shake Shack makes delicious burgers, but they have a certain greasy unctuousness to them; they're completely enjoyable, but you know they're not fooling anyone in terms of health.
Smashburger is by far the least guilty burger I've tried. Even the completely unhealthy buffalo blue cheese burger was wonderfully rounded in flavor and dressed with care and quality.
The company states it uses only 100% Angus beef — and I'm inclined to believe it. While "Angus beef" has become something of a buzzword in the industry lately, Smashburger's beef truly tastes excellent — tender and satisfying.
The Smashburger menu offers some adventurous flavor and topping combinations, and allows you to create your own burger masterpiece as well. And while they may be pricey for burgers — roughly $8, which is cheap in NYC if you can believe it — the service and quality are worth it.
Luckily, Smashburger seems to be nearly everywhere. With locations in 32 states and seven countries, there's bound to be one nearby.
Of course, if the field is narrowed to simply fast-food chains, then the choice becomes all the more difficult.
I've found that Whoppers are great in theory, but the execution often disappoints. Big Macs are true classics, but McDonald's quality isn't always up to snuff — although the new "Create Your Taste" option is challenging that. Perhaps ... Wendy's.
Yes, Wendy's, with its pig-tailed icon and its divisive square patties. It's no longer the Wendy's of yore: quality is improving. And in light of the recent bun change, a fresh Dave's Double cheeseburger has become an incredibly satisfying sandwich.
Is there still the requisite fast-food guilt after scarfing one down? Of course. But for me, less so than others. The beef is as juicy and good as ever, the onions, pickles, and tomatoes are typically crisp, and the bun is resilient in the face of ketchup and mayo.
But until other fast food chains step up their game, Smashburger reigns supreme.