Fast Times: Texas Smashburger

Categories: Fast Times

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Photos by Christina Uticone
When I stopped into Smashburger on Buffalo Speedway I was only looking for a little snack -- some fried pickles, or some veggie frites to tide me over until dinner. Unfortunately, the line was quite long, giving me ample time to peruse the short-but-tempting menu, and when I got to the register I simply couldn't resist the siren song of the Texas Smashburger ($4.99): mustard, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles on an egg bun.

I've been fascinated by this "Texans don't put ketchup on their hamburgers" thing for a while now, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore what all the fuss is about. After all, I gag when I see someone douse a hot dog in ketchup; you guys could be on to something with this thing. I needed to know whether "mustard-only" was a superior hamburger condiment position, or just a lot of nonsense.

On one hand it's not surprising that I loved the Texas Smashburger, because I love Smashburgers period. They are always fresh, hot, and juicy, and the egg buns are just plain delicious. Before digging in I truly believed I would miss the ketchup -- not only do I put ketchup on my burgers, I often use some on the side as a dipping sauce too. (I realize that admission is potentially gag-worthy, but bear with me.)

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Not only did I not miss the mustardketchup, I am willing to go so far as to admit that this burger is superior without it. And I do mean, specifically, this burger -- a less-juicy burger would surely suffer from a lack of ketchup.

Smashburger serves up sandwiches that are dripping with grease, and so the ample schmear of mustard added the perfect amount of flavor and moisture. More important is what the mustard did not add -- specifically, an overwhelming taste that would obscure the flavor of the beef itself.

The Texas Smashburger made me realize that what makes ketchup great on a mediocre burger -- its moisture and flavor -- takes a lot away when you get a really good burger. Without the ketchup I could taste every layer -- beef, tomato, onion, lettuce, and pickle -- all offset by the salty tang of the yellow mustard.

Needless to say, this is something of a revelation.

I can't say I've given up ketchup on all hamburgers across the board -- and I certainly encourage all of you to stop putting it on hot dogs, starting immediately -- but the Texas Smashburger is a step in that direction.



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Location Info

Smashburger

5220 Buffalo Speedway, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help
44 comments
Jeremy Parzen
Jeremy Parzen

Do they allow corkage? Christina, I'll bring the Nebbiolo! (Love this post btw.)

justabob
justabob

Oh..forgot to add, one of the best burgers I've ever tasted had a perfectly fried egg on it...that oozy yellow yolk...AHHH food porn!

justabob
justabob

Usually only like ketchup on a whopper from BK.  Not a fan of a huge (thick) patty so I tend to prefer a sonic or whataburger.  Love me some tomatoe if it's a good home grown tomatoe (not that crap you buy in local grocery stores).  In and Out makes a good burger, we try to hit them when we visit Vegas.  I've heard that Dallas area is getting one (don't get me started on the fact that Houston didn't get one first).  Mustard, as in that yellow Frenches crap...can't abide it. 

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

I will say that the Double cheeseburger at Burger King is quite enjoyable from time to time and it ONLY has ketchup and mustard on it...

MadMac
MadMac

Experiences may vary. I picked up the smallest burger and fries, (six bucks, really?) at Smashburger Pearland. The bun was too sweet, the meat on the bun, (there was raw meat stuck to the wrapper) was dry and the foliage wilted. There isn't ketchup enough in this world for those greasy, NASTY fries.

Why, in this new burger vogue, is it so difficult to work this out? See Champ Burger on Sampson for getting it right. You don't need fancy rolls, veggie fries, (WTF?) or spears and magic helmets. Unless you can't get the basics right and then the gimmicks won't help anyway.

Good article, Ms. Uticone.

John K.
John K.

I'm a convert. Texans figured out that tomatoes and ketchup are redundant. Of course they did so before pink plastic tomatoes appeared on the scene. Texans also figgered out that the plural form of "you" mistakely disappeared from the English language, and y'all reinstated it.

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

On a high-quality burger, less is more.  

Ketchup and mustard can hide all sorts of woes; neither are required if the beef is juicy, the right amount of cheese is present, and the veggies are fresh.

When I want to evaluate a burger joint, I order a cheeseburger with lettuce, onion, and pickles.  The flavor of the meat is front and center.

Terry Alexander
Terry Alexander

Resistance is Futile. Eventually you will assimilate.TA

iMidget
iMidget

"Not only did I not miss the mustard."  Perhaps you meant ketchup?  I got so cornfused reading that paragraph of superlatives and comparatives.

Matthew
Matthew

putting ketchup on a burger serves the same purpose as putting it on a steak; covering up the dryness/taste of subpar preparation or meat.

Jay Francis
Jay Francis

The hands down best ketchups that I have found in town are: the South African brand Gold's that is available at Leibman's on Memorial (has a subtle curry component) and the organic version of the Whole Foods 365 ketchup (not the non-organic one). Addtionally, Revival Market makes a ketchup, I believe, but I haven't tasted it yet.

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

Smashburgers are the best fast burger for those who love the drippy burger.  All others see, Five Guys.

Bruce R
Bruce R

And pickles, no?  And it costs about $1.  I dig 'em the most.

Corey
Corey

Sans mustard and I agree.. 2 of those and a sixer of shiner is darn right fine bachelor chow.. FFB your next double cheeseburgers on me pal.. :)

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

Smashburgers are not best "to go."  Eat in for the best experience.

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

I've been to 4 different SmashBurger locations, and all have served outstanding burgers - the best I've had from a big chain.

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

The bun is really sweet, but I liked it. I've only been the Smashburger on Buffalo Speedway by HEB, so it's disappointing to hear they aren't quite uniform. I'll check out Champ Burger, thx MM!

Terry Alexander
Terry Alexander

Agreed. Meat matters. If you have shitty meat, you can use all manner of fancy named condiments to cover it up but that still doesn't hide the fact that you are eating a shit sandwich.TA

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Thank you! This has long been my argument: The French have vous, the Spanish have vosotros, the Dutch have jullie, etc. Y'all = problem solved! AND it's gender neutral, unlike "you guys."

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

This is true.  Best burger I have had in Houston is at Red Lion.  Ketchup, mustard and mayo  served on the side, and totally wasted.

Jim Ayres
Jim Ayres

I really need the acidity of mustard on a burger to balance out the meat, cheese, mayo, etc. It's why I stay away from novelty burgers that just add more ingredients with a similar flavor profile. Pickles help, but mustard just makes a more balanced burger IMO. 

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

I did mean ketchup! You seemed to muddle through okay. Cheers!

totally pissed "iMidget" isn't my handle. (I'm 4'10)

Bruce R
Bruce R

You could say the same thing about mustard, or any condiment you might put on a hamburger.

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

I've got the Revival ketchup in the cupboard but haven't busted it out yet.

MadMac
MadMac

Everytime I've eaten at Five Guys, (all three times, that is) I've left feeling nauseous. Probably because I just dropped eight bucks for a burger and fries.

MadMac
MadMac

I'll take your word for it but I can't do this joint again.

MadMac
MadMac

Excellent!  I love CAO cigars, so I get brand loyalty. Though CAO also makes a cigar that is "flavored" like fruit punch and @ss. Further, Cameroon wrappers are not everybody's bag and some people, I'm told, don't like cigars at all. Gasp!

You can have my share of Smash Burger.

MadMac
MadMac

Champ Burger on Sampson Street is open M-F, lunch-ish and the only seating is concrete tables. I had a bad experience with the milk shakes and now avoid them like the plague but the burgers are worth the two-window line.

Nicholas L. Hall
Nicholas L. Hall

I think the gender neutrality issue is debatable with "you guys." Language evolves, and I believe that "you guys" has evolved to mean exactly the same thing as y'all, gender neutrality and everything.

Corey
Corey

I find that mustard dominates everything, and all I taste is mustard. And while I am from Texas (BOI) I like ketchup on my burger.  It's really about all I'll use ketchup for save for the occasional rainy day with some fish sticks..  Mustard I cook with, but don't care for much as a condiment.

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

I'm with you on novelty burgers.  But sometimes unique ingredients can be wonderful - Samba's aoli comes to mind.  But to me, too many flavors mean it's no longer really a burger.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

"Y'all" will creep into your vocabulary like diffusional regolith down a linear slope. It's inevitable, like the gravity that acts as a force on the regolith. Embrace it.

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

I agree.  Condiments aren't necessary with great beef and fresh veggies.

Corey
Corey

Revival's catsup/ketchup is is great so it their wosterchire sp?.  The barrel aged soy is pretty gross truth be told, I'll stick with my shoyu..

Corey
Corey

And ingested a weeks worth of calories..

mollusk
mollusk

Gender issues aside, somehow saying "you guys" to my grandmother's bridge club just ain't right.  "Y'all," however, has some politeness to it.

Corey
Corey

Erm no thanks, too many white trash connotations to use such a red neck faux-word..Though you'uns (said "yooons") care of Pennsylvania is even worse.. Finding a better pro-noun isn't all that difficult.

Jeff
Jeff

I like condiments. I don't put them on things to cover the flavor. I just don't like the flavor of the meat by itself no matter how great it is. Sacrilege I know.

Culinary_Curmudgeon
Culinary_Curmudgeon

Death to the calorie-counters!! You would make a naked pillowfight in a convent sound boring....

Corey
Corey

Their idea of a small burger and mine of moderate to large burger are about the same -- the regular is simply overkill.

If it's too heavy, try the dogs though they're not half bad bacon and cheese on a hotdog sounds horrid, but it's quite good with grilled onions, jalepenos, and your condiment of choice.  My office is addicted to five guys, and it takes it's toll on me too.. :)

MadMac
MadMac

Good one, C. I never considered that. Seriously, I don't know if it's the oil they fry with or what but even when I split the burger with my Mrs., I feel like yuck after eating at Five Guys.

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