Smashburger Has Arrived in Thousand Oaks

As if there weren’t already 245 burger restaurants on our side of town – a figure that I just made up, but you know what I mean – Smashburger, a new-to-us burger joint opened last week on Moorpark at Wilbur in Thousand Oaks.  I attended their opening night party for three reasons:

1.  It was not east of Calabasas, as most “VIP” events to which I get invited usually are

2.  Free food

3.  My friend Melanie agreed to come with me

Thusly enthused, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the VIP attention – Smashburger founder and “Chief Concept Officer” Tom Ryan personally ordered a huge spread of food for us to taste, not rattling the cashier at all, at least not visibly – and the gimmick that the chain uses to make its burgers taste like I think burgers should taste.

In spite of all the extras layered on to the various combinations (like the newly minted “L.A.” – Crispy wonton, fried egg, cilantro, cucumber, lettuce, tomato and Japanese steakhouse ginger dressing on a black bean and white sesame bun), one can taste the actual burger.  And it’s yummy.

The “smash” in Smashburger is the gimmick:  each patty starts out as a meatball that gets smashed by the cook to lock in the flavor.  The process is very precise asTom Ryan demonstrated for us in the very crowded kitchen.  I’m sure the cooks were delighted to have us there.

Melanie and I sampled the L.A., the Fresh Mex grilled chicken sandwich, the Fresh Mex salad, veggie fries, regular fries, and sweet potato fries.  Oh, and two flavors of tea from the Smash tea stand.  Also, while we waited in line, servers came around with tiny little samples of milkshakes topped with a spritz of whipped cream.  I recommend the Nutter Butter.  Quite strongly, in fact.

Aside from the surprisingly standout taste of the burger, I found the chicken to be quite delicious as well.  The restaurant doesn’t so much smash the chicken as they do pound it – the result is a thin filet of chicken that is tender and juicy, not dry like you’ll find in other burger/sandwich establishments.

What I also found surprising is that I’ve never heard of Smashburger before.  The Thousand Oaks location is store number #143!  Ford spoke of flying back to his home in Denver after the opening party, on a plane that he had made sure was stocked with wine.  I’m thinking that smashing thing?  A lucrative “gimmick” indeed.

Prices at Smashburger seem comparable to other fast-casual restaurant chains, and the kids’ meal (very important info here) is less than $5, drink included.  You order at the cash register, get your number, get your drink, and your tray is brought to you by a server when your order is ready.  Maybe next time you’re heading up Moorpark, just go a little farther than Jack in the Box and pull in to Smashburger to give it a try.

Cool Meals For Hot Nights – Crockpot Chili

Several times throughout the summer I’ll be posting good recipes that will help you feed your family without making your kitchen much hotter.  This first recipe is my tried and true chili, but after this I’ll be sharing recipes from other bloggers around the country who write about events and activities in their own small communities.  Without further ado, here is the first in my “Cool Meals For Hot Nights” series:

Crockpot Chili

I know, you were expecting something like a cold salad or a grilled meat entree for hot nights, but honestly, sometimes you want something HOT on a hot night.  Chili is crowd-pleasing and delicious, and you can vary it by serving over rice, hot dogs, burgers, or with different toppings.  My favorite way to eat this chili recipe is to top it with chopped fresh cilantro and shredded cheddar, with a nice cold light beer to go with it.

This recipe is SO EASY to make, and so tasty to eat, that you will not believe it.  It’s perfect to cook up overnight when you know you’ll be gone all day at the beach or other summer outing, and you won’t want to deal with putting dinner together when you get home.

Crockpot Chili*

2 lbs. ground beef

1 onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 14 oz cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1.5 x 28 oz cans tomato puree

1 tbsp cumin

2 tbsp chili powder

salt and pepper to taste

Brown ground beef and drain, place into crockpot.  Add all other ingredients.  Cook on high 4-5 hours.

BAM!  Depending on how big your family is, one pot of this chili can last you several days.

*source:  I found the original recipe on the internet many years ago, and I have adapted it a lot to suit my family’s taste.  You should definitely add more chili powder if you like it super spicy!