Thanks to Brookline Public Relations, I was lucky enough to be invited again to the VIP Sneak-a-Peek launch event for Smashburger last week. This time it was to celebrate the opening of their second location in Calgary. The first ever Canadian location of Smashburger opened in early May in northeast Calgary, just a couple blocks off Barlow Trail on 32nd Ave NE. This second location, which just opened on June 27, is located in the northwest residential neighbourhood of Royal Oak.
I attended this complimentary event with two of my friends. Both my friend M and my friend S had not tried Smashburger before so this was the perfect opportunity for them to check it out.
My friend M ordered a big (half-pound) Spicy Baja ($6.99 for regular; $7.99 for big; $7.99 for double), which came topped with pepper jack cheese, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, onion, spicy chipotle mayo and fresh jalapenos on a spicy chipotle bun.
My friend S ordered the regular-sized Calgary ($6.99 for regular; $7.99 for big; $7.99 for double), which came topped with Canadian seasoned grilled onions, pepper jack cheese, applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, and Dijon-mayonnaise. Normally, the Calgary burger is served on a kaiser roll but she asked to substitute it with an egg bun.
I’ve always been curious about the Smashchicken burgers with the crispy chicken as I’m a fiend for fried chicken so I took this opportunity to check it out. For all the Smashchicken burgers, there is a choice of either grilled or crispy for the piece of hand pounded 100% all-white meat chicken. I ordered the Avocado Club ($8.49), which came with a piece of crispy fried chicken that was topped with fresh avocado, applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, ranch dress and mayo on a multi-grain bun.
We cut the burgers into quarters so each of us had the opportunity to taste all three burgers. Of the three burgers I tried, my favourite on this visit was the Calgary as I could really taste the flavours of the beef. I actually liked the Calgary a lot more on this visit than on my very first visit to Smashburger. I think this may be because this time we swapped the bun for an egg bun. I really love the egg buns at Smashburger. The Spicy Baja was really spicy due to the fresh jalapenos so be forewarned if you can’t take the heat. My friend M really enjoyed it. As for my Avocado Club Smashchicken burger with the crispy chicken, I wish the chicken would be crispier. I was pleasantly surprised that the piece of crispy fried chicken wasn’t greasy at all. Personally, I didn’t care for the multi-grain bun although it’s probably a healthier choice. I had meant to swap it for an egg bun but had forgotten when I was ordering. My friends M and S both thought the Avocado Club was tasty nonetheless and they didn’t seem to mind the multi-grain bun.
For sides, my friend M chose the Haystack Onions ($2.49), which were served with a horseradish dipping sauce. These were basically like onion rings except that the onions were sliced really thinly and were lightly breaded. I found them to be a little “flimsy” (compared to a regular onion ring which is a lot thicker) so it was a little hard to dip each piece into the dipping sauce. My friend M really enjoyed them.
My friend S chose the Sweet Potato Fries ($2.99), which were seasoned with sea salt. A variation on this side is the Sweet Potato Smashfries, which I had tried on my second visit to Smashburger recently. The Sweet Potato Smashfries is basically the same thing except tossed with the signature Smash seasoning of rosemary, olive oil, and garlic. Now that I’ve tried both versions, I think I personally prefer the plain Sweet Potato Fries with sea salt a bit more.
I chose the Mushroom Poutine ($3.99), which consists of the signature Smashfries topped with garlic sautéed mushrooms, cheese curds, and poutine gravy. Along with the Traditional Poutine, which I had tried on my first visit to Smashburger, these are two of the menu items that are unique to the Canadian locations. Smashburger has tried to put their own unique twist to the Canadian classic by using their signature Smashfries, which have the rosemary and garlic seasoning. As I had commented in my previous post about the Traditional Poutine, even though I usually love rosemary and garlic, I just didn’t think the flavours worked well together with the flavours in the gravy. Interestingly though, compared to the Traditional Poutine, I actually liked the Mushroom Poutine better. The flavours in the garlic sautéed mushrooms really helped to tie things together. This Mushroom Poutine was a good attempt at the Canadian classic. My only quibble is that I wish the gravy would be served hot enough to melt some of the cheese curds. I also would have preferred if they would use cheese curds that are more squeaky as I didn’t find these cheese curds to be squeaky at all.
On this visit to Smashburger, I finally got to try the Smash Iced Tea. I’d overlooked the colorful display of iced tea at the other location on both of my previous visits as I usually don’t care for sugary beverages and prefer to have water when I’m having such a high calorie meal already. There are actually three flavours of Smash Iced Tea – the Passion Punch (passion fruit green tea), the Classic Crush (unsweetened black tea), and the Citrus Smash (pomegranate red tea). Smashburger is one of the few places I know of in Calgary that is actually serving unsweetened iced tea. This is more of an American taste so I’m not sure how popular it will be here as most Canadians are accustomed to only the sweetened version. Nevertheless, I’m sure the American transplants here will be happy to find a place now with unsweetened iced tea. I tried both the Passion Punch and the Citrus Smash. Both of these were slightly sweetened. Neither of these are nearly as sweet as the iced tea that I’ve grown accustomed to here. This was a pleasant surprise for me as I actually don’t have a sweet tooth and find most iced teas here to be too sweet for my liking. I could really taste the green tea in the Passion Punch and this was actually my favourite out of the two. I found the Citrus Smash, which is caffeine free, to be quite fruity and even slightly floral. If you’re looking for something less sugary then soda pop, the Smash Iced Tea is definitely a great alternative.
As with the first sneak-a-peek event at Smashburger, we got to try samples of the Classic Milkshakes. The Classic Milkshakes made with Cochrane’s famous MacKay’s ice cream. Smashburger offers three flavours of Classic Milkshakes – vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. I’d previously sampled the vanilla on my last visit and totally loved it. On this visit, I got to try a sample of the strawberry. The strawberry was just as tasty so I’m having trouble deciding which is my favourite now.
All in all, I’m really glad to see Smashburger open up in northwest Calgary. There were no real decent places for a good, inexpensive burger in this quadrant of the city until now. And they definitely have won my heart with the MacKay’s milkshakes. I like that Smashburger has such an extensive menu, with even some vegetarian options as well as healthy options like fresh salads, so there is something on the menu for everyone no matter what your dietary preferences may be.
Smashburger (Royal Oak)
Royal Oak Centre
#319, 8888 Country Hills Blvd NW
#4, 2770 32 Avenue NE