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Smashburger's Chicago Launch

June 24 2013 - 1:00 PM

If you’re not familiar with Smashburger, it’s probably because the burger chain just landed in Chicago city limits about a month ago. The six-year-old Denver import is serving up gourmet burgers with a local twist and already has more than 200 locations, including 11 in  Illinois. What sets Smashburger apart from the likes of Five Guys, Steak ‘n Shake and others? Their process of smash-to-order grilling, localized menu options and a focus on an upscale fast-casual dining experience.

In celebration of their new burger and beer pairing menu, Smashburger held a private event for local media to try out the pairings right before they were rolled out here in Chicago. The Chicago location (2031 N. Clybourn) shut down for the night in order for us to sample seven of Smashburger’s sandwiches paired with Goose Island beers, as well as side options and milkshakes.

Smashburger Founder Tom Ryan and Goose Island Brewmaster Brett Porter were on hand to explain each burger and beer pairing. Each local market is paired with a local brewery for the beer and burger pairing menu. When Tom sought out a brewery for Chicago, he knew he had to go with Goose Island.  Other partnerships outside of Illinois include Summit Brewing in Minneapolis and New Belgium Brewing in Denver.

The pairing menu features three burgers, one veggie burger and two chicken sandwich options, each with a perfectly paired Goose Island brew. Highlights of the menu include the Windy City Burger, which includes a generous portion of Merkt’s cheddar cheese, haystack onions, lettuce, tomato, and Gulden’s mustard paired with Honker’s Ale. What makes this one even more special is that it’s nestled between a fresh pretzel bun.

Another great item is the Spicy Baja Black Bean Burger which includes chipotle mayo, pepper jack, guacamole, lettuce, tomato and jalapeno paired with the Goose Island IPA. This one was one of my favorites because it packed a great amount of heat and was quite flavorful. The sweetness of the IPA really helped cool down the spicy notes of the burger.

The breakout star of the menu has got to be the Truffle Mushroom Swiss Burger. It had a very strong truffle flavor and freshly sauteed mushrooms which earned it the nickname “The Umami Tsunami.” It was nicely paired with Matilda’s medium body and sweetness. The chicken sandwiches were just OK, but they did have a nice variety of toppings including avocado and bacon.

No burger is complete without sides, and Smashburger has quite the selection. Smashfries are seasoned with rosemary, olive oil and garlic and make a great gourmet addition to any burger, while classics like haystack onions and sweet potato fries are tasty as well. Not in the mood for typical fries? There are also fried pickles and flash-fried veggie frites, one of the many menu items whose inspiration came from another culture.

Milkshake offerings include Nutter Butter, Oreo and Butterfinger, all made with premium Haagen-Dazs ice cream. If you’re watching your figure, there are also three salad options; however, the massive size of the salads certainly are not healthy!

What do you think about Smashburger’s beer and burger pairing menu? For more information, visit Smashburger’s website.

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