San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Helpful service, culinary challenges at Smashburger

When Smashburger, a U.S. “fast-casual” restaurant chain, opened its first store in Central America in December, at the newly constructed Lincoln Plaza in Moravia, San José, I was really looking forward to it.

Many of the items were said to be reminiscent of the Smashburger joints in the States, but there had also been some local adaptations. New items included the “Costa Rica” meat or chicken burger with refried beans, chorizo and Turrialba cheese.

There was also the fried pejibaye (peach palm) side dish, breaded and served with a cilantro mayonnaise. Hand-spun milkshakes, the classic Smashfries (seasoned with olive oil, rosemary and garlic) and other familiar fare are still part of the selection.

In my first visit to the establishment, I was excited to try several menu items. It was a hard decision, but I finally settled for the BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger, Smashfries and a chocolate milkshake. And of course, I could not leave without tasting something local, the fried pejibayes!

Smashburger pejibaye.

Smashburger pejibaye.

Rebecca Aguilar

The burger was good, though the BBQ sauce was too spicy for my taste. The bun and the “Haystack” onion rings inside were very tasty. The beef used for the patties tasted fresh, however, the side dishes I could have done without. Both the Smashfries and pejibayes were over-seasoned. For a pejibaye lover such as myself, the heavily breaded crust was a turnoff and the dipping sauce was only okay.

My dining companion was also left wanting. She had the Mushroom Swiss burger, Portobello mushroom fries and iced tea. The burger was smothered in a thick coat of mayonnaise and the Portobello mushroom fries were over-breaded and served a harsh, radish dipping sauce.

Perhaps the most disappointing was the “ice tea bar.” We both tried two flavors of iced tea, and they tasted like water with a drop of mystery flavor.

Thankfully, our server was accommodating. She noticed we were not touching the Portobello fries’ dipping sauce and offered us another flavor without extra charge. She answered all of our questions about the menu, though she seemed unsure of the food preparation process. Still, she tried to make our stay as comfortable as possible.

Despite the disappointments, there is one thing that will bring me back to Smashburger – the Häagen-Dazs milkshakes. They are smooth and delicious. In addition, the waiter provides an extra portion of the shake in an additional container.

Smashburger offers only an a la carte menu, so if you wish to buy a burger, fries and drink, each has to be ordered separately and this can get pricy. Hamburgers alone cost $7 while each side is approximately $3. Milkshakes and individual wine bottles are $5 each.

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