Long before they had their name, smash burgers were being flung from the grills of burger joints in Midwestern cities like St. Louis and Kansas City. Intense searing and a paper-thin press turned what might have been average quality ground beef into something charred, caramelized, and deeply flavorful. Those patties — just called “burgers” in their home cities — found a name after the international Smashburger chain launched in 2007. The term “smash burger” was popularized, and the cooking style glamorized.
Until recently, smash burgers have never really had their moment in New York City, even if they have been available for years from national chains like Five Guys (founded in 1986) and Shake Shack (in 2004 from Danny Meyer, who no doubt wolfed down smashed burgers in his St. Louis hometown). Locally, independent operators like White Mana Diner and Harlem Shake have been smashing their patties since 1946 and 2013, respectively.
Emboldened by the pandemic, and taking cues from Los Angeles’ smash burger scene, a new wave of burger shops has opened with a focus on thin patties sometimes made from superior quality beef. Vegan, halal, smashed, and stuffed into a pita, it’s all on this list, usually for around $10. Worth noting is that some of the best smash burgers right now are served from the sidewalk grills of pop-ups, including Motzburger, Gotham Burger Social Club, Extra Sauce, and others. Though worth a special trip, we’ve left them off this list to make room for brick-and-mortar burger spots.
Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.Read More