Living in Southern California, I already enjoy an abundance of awesome smashburgers. Between giants like In-N-Out and Fatburger, plus all the ’hood burger joints throughout the greater Los Angeles area, going out of my way to visit a Smashburger seems a bit needless. But when I saw that Smashburger is selling a limited-time-only S’mac & Cheese Burger—a burger topped with mac and cheese—that’s exactly what I did.
Smashburger, I was surprised to learn, is a national chain; it was founded in 2007 and now has locations in more than 30 states, so it must be doing something right with its burgs. The smashburger craze itself has reached peak popularity, to the point that we’re starting to see a shift back in the other direction toward thicker pub and steakhouse-style burgers (though I hope we don’t swing too far in that direction). No matter the style, though, I’m not a fan of trick burgers loaded with unconventional gourmet toppings. That’s a space better occupied by hot dogs.
Most of us agree that burgers are best when they’re simple, so my hopes weren’t exactly high for Smashburger’s new one-trick pony. I mean, macaroni slopped onto a burger? Sounds messy and stupid, honestly.
I’m eating my words along with this burger, because man, the S’mac & Cheese Burger tastes great, and it’s super fun. The burger isn’t without its warts, but there might be a way to fix that. First, though, I want to talk about what makes this thing so damn good.
I had thought this was just going to be a burger with a bunch of low-rent mac and cheese thrown over the finished patty, but it’s more than the sum of its parts. Smashburger takes the serving of mac and cheese itself and presses it down on the griddle to form a perfectly circular, caramelized layer before squishing it down on the burger. It’s smashed mac on a smashed burger, and it rocks. Just take a look at its undercarriage:
The caramelization from the griddle unlocks some extra sweet + savory flavors in the macaroni itself. Also, this mac is thick and homogeneous: It’s so cheesy that it sticks to the roof of your mouth like peanut butter, and none of it slipped off the bun as I was eating it, which I found quite impressive. The execution and structure all around deserve recognition. It’s one of those rare times when the promotional photos of a product don’t look half as good as the actual product.
Because of the mac’s generous portion of American cheese sauce, this burger is pretty heavy and can feel a bit too rich. The one thing I didn’t know about ordering this, though, is that you really have to specify what toppings you want on the burger, otherwise it’ll come out plain. I just said, “I’d like one S’mac & Cheese Burger, please,” and that was wrong.
My burger didn’t come with any pickles, onions, or mustard—three things that would have helped this burger immensely. The thick, cheesy, indulgence of the mac & cheese is wonderful, but it needs some piquant accoutrement to tame it. Don’t make the same mistake I did.
The burger patty itself was admittedly a bit dry, and as far as standard smashburgers go, there’s no need for me to go back to Smashburger and get one. But, man, this S’mac & Cheese version is a surprisingly well-constructed burger with a wonderful vibe. I was laughing as I ate it, and that’s about as good a feeling as a fast casual chain can elicit with its food.