Several hundred lucky burger-lovers got a sneak peak at the latest Smashburger in Morris Plains on Saturday, May 12 just two days before its official grand opening.
Located at the intersection of Route 10 East and Candlewood Drive, the restaurant is part of a new mini shopping center that has a Panchero's Mexican Grill, Great Clips, Caldwell Banker, and Sprint. A new Dunkin' Donuts is also nearby, but hasn't opened yet.
The Colorado-based burger franchise's newest addition officially opens May 14, making it the 10th Smashburger in New Jersey. More than 300 local residents attended the special sneak peak that allowed them to be the first to taste burgers, milkshakes and fries, all for free. The restaurant was open for two shifts on Saturday, both three hours long for lunch and dinner.
People of all ages attended; some had been to other nearby locations and couldn't wait for their next bite in Morris Plains. The event got the kitchen ready for the grand opening, and the business also accepted donations for The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey.
The chain is known for its various burger toppings such as avocados and beans; for special sauces such as the "Smarch Sauce" and spicey chiptole mayo; and for sides such as smashfries, which are tossed with rosemary, olive oil, and garlic. People can choose from a variety of salads and a side of veggie fries—fried asparagus, carrot sticks, and green beans—for lower-calorie options. Veggie black bean burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, and Haagen-Dazs milkshakes are among other menu items.
Jenny Ghavami of Whippany had been to Smashburger once in Clifton before, but she said she frequently passed the Morris Plains location and couldn't wait for it to open. Ghavami got the New Jersey Smashburger, which had bacon, onion strings, and blue cheese on it.
"It was awesome, it was tasty, savory, it hit the spot," she said. "They make their burgers really fresh, it's just different, and it's always clean, and the service is always great."
Cara Bodner, 17, of Morris Plains has been to the Montclair and Florham Park chain locations, and got her favorite item, the Classic Burger. She said she likes it mostly because of the special sauce on it.
"I think the burger itself is better. You get a lot more different flavors and taste, and the bun is phenomenal," Bodner said.
Another thing that sets Smashburger apart is the options for buns. Classic egg, multi-grain, and spicy chipotle are all available.
Justin Budlow, 21 of Millburn, tried Smashburger for the first time, and said his experience was "nothing but good things." He ordered the Mushroom Swiss burger, Smashfries, and a milk shake.
"It was incredible, it melt's in your mouth," he said. "It's so easy to eat."
Budlow just got back from college and came with his father, Gary Budlow, who has been to the Florham Park, East Hanover, and Newark Airport locations. Gary Budlow said the Smashburger in the airport serves tayor ham, egg, and cheese for breakfast.
Each Smashburger location has a special menu crafted to reflect the tastes and flavors of its neighborhood.
Smashburger burgers are made from 100 precent Certified Angus beef, and comes in the store fresh every day, according to the company. Scott Gillman, the owner of all New Jersey Smashburgers, was at the event with his wife Andrea, and said the beef comes in a special grind ready to be "smashed."
The cooks form the beef into meatballs, and use a special stainless-steel tool to then "smash" it on the griddle, which is the inspiration for the company's name. The meat is "smashed" for 10 seconds, which then sears the juices. It is cooked, flipped, and seasoned.
"We take an incredible amount of care in making sure that each burger is great," Gillman said.
Gillman also pointed to the variety of options on the menu.
"I think we go the extra yard with every item," he said.
Gillman said that the other thing that sets the restaurant apart is the service element, and that once an order is placed, it turns into a full-service restaurant, with wait staff bringing orders to tables.
This is Gillman's 10th Smashburger; the first one in New Jersey opened in Montclair in December of 2009, and the most recent (besides the Morris Plains location) opened in Ramsey in March of this year.
Gillman had planned to open the Morris Plains one two years ago, and first heard of Smashburger five years ago when he was researching about developing his own burger concept. During his research, he came across a press release from Smashburger, when it only had four stores. He contacted the Smashburger president Tom Ryan, and then they met in Chicago at the National Restaurant Association's Annual Food Show.
"I took a look at their first four restaurants and I loved what I saw," Gillman said. "I stopped all my plans and just decided that it looked like a great concept, and I just got a sense that it might become something big and quickly signed on."
Originating in Denver, Colorado in 2007, Smashburger is now across the country in over 150 locations. The chain continues to expand, as the first international Smashburger recently opened in Kuwait.
Gillman said that the next Smashburger to come to New Jersey will be in Parsippany, on Route 46, and he's currently looking into other locations near East Brunswick, New Brunswick and Rockaway.