Cafe Reviews

Smashburger's Chicken Pickin's Are Okay, But We'll Stick to the Beef

Unleashing seven new chicken entrées may sound reasonable for a chicken-chow chain, but Smashburger?

That's right. The acclaimed "better burger" restaurant has gone chicken, with three new Smashchicken sandwiches: BBQ Ranch, Avocado Club, and Buffalo — and four new chicken Smashsalads: Honey Mustard, Caesar, Harvest, and BBQ Ranch — all available in Smashburger's traditional smashed-and-grilled format or a new crispy offering.

In a release announcing its new fowl fare, Smashburger founder Tom Ryan said, "Our customers have told us that they love what we have done with burgers and want to see the same innovation and magic in our chicken and salad menu."

What the cluck? I'm not sayin' there's anything wrong with chicken pickin's on the menu, but not one new Smash-tastic burger variation? What gives?

A feathered fuss, to be sure. Time for Fry Girl to break down the new menu.

Traditional smashed-and-grilled chicken or the new crispy option? Unlike the Smashburger, both options of the chicken have a harder time standing on their own when it comes to flavor, relying on a supporting cast of ingredients to make or break their success as sandwiches or salads. Too bad, because the new crispy option could have been beautiful with more seasoning or a crunchier texture. Depending on your preference of skin texture or nutritional needs, it's your call. Taste-wise, there's not much difference.

Smashchicken Sandwiches — BBQ Ranch, Avocado Club, and Buffalo: Skip the BBQ Ranch. With a so-so sauce, crunch-less haystack onions, and barely-there bacon, it's chicken without the pluck. The Buffalo fares better. Like wings between a soft bun, the sauce is tasty, but too much blue cheese blew the deal for me. My fave? The Avocado Club. Applewood smoked bacon and fresh avocado with my Smashchicken? Yes, please. And the multi-grain bun is a nice touch.

Chicken Smashsalads — Honey Mustard, Caesar, Harvest, and BBQ: Whoa, easy on the dressing there, Smashkitchen. While all were overdressed, the best chicken Smashsalad of the bunch (thank you, friendly counter gal!) was the simple yet satisfying Caesar. The worst? The Harvest. While the ingredients sounded intriguing (pumpkin and sunflower seeds, cranberries and raisins, and marinated balsamic tomatoes) the result was wet, limp chicken in a soupy mess of fruit and seeds. The Honey Mustard and BBQ Ranch? Woefully in the middle and not worth the effort.

Is Smashburger's decision to add chicken a blunder or is it just keeping up with other burger-based chains? Taste and time will tell, but for now, Fry Girl's keeping her smash-on strictly on the beefy side.

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Laura Hahnefeld
Contact: Laura Hahnefeld