Smash What? SmashBurger comes to Mill Valley


As a food blogger I sometimes get invited to restaurant openings via email.  These are always in New York and Los Angeles so I don’t usually even read them.  However an invitation for a new restaurant in my town of Mill Valley, well that’s hard to pass up.  Although we almost did.  This new restaurant is a burger place.  With 50% of my family not ever eating meat and the other 50% eating it on occasion this didn’t seem like a place to try.  However I checked out the menu online and realized we could go to the opening and everyone could eat something.  Another set-back was the original invitation was on my daughter’s (the vegetarian) birthday. That would just be cruel, so we were passing.  However as the date approached the construction and opening was pushed back a week.  So tonight we went to Smashburger.


For some reason our town of Mill Valley has opened a few new burger places in the last few months.  I’m not really sure why.  Seems people that I know are eating less meat, not more.  But still here they are.  Most just do burgers so the thing that stands Smashburger out is the variety of the menu.  Yes there are creative burgers (arugula, truffle mayo, portobello mushrooms anyone?) with wonderful fresh rolls (ciabatta, egg, multi grain) here but there are also chicken sandwiches, a veggie black bean burger and salads.  Another thing is the drinks.  It’s not just soda.  Hooray!  In addition to sodas there are other drinks for kids such as brewed caffeine free iced teas, Honest Teas, milk and lemonade (although not real).  And there’s beer for mom and dad.


My family tried lots of food tonight.  And we ate more fried sides than we usually would (another reason we don’t frequent burger joints).  Smashfries are tossed with rosemary and olive oil and garlic.  Then there’s sweet potato fries and veggie frites (which are grilled/fried? green beans and carrots – yum!)  Although a chain there are some regional menu items for each location.  I enjoyed my truffle mayo burger.  They likely don’t have that in Texas.  My son liked his plain cheeseburger, although the plain kids’ fries were lacking after trying all the other frite options.  I saw a very generous cobb salad (in a real ceramic bowl – no cardboard or plastic) come out after I finished my truffle burger and immediately had veggie envy.  One disappointment was my husband’s black bean veggie burger.  Kind of flat and a non event.  My daughter ordered a chicken, avocado, bacon and tomato sandwich without the chicken and bacon, of course.  She was happy.  But even happier when they brought around a Haagen-Dazs milk shake sample.


Maybe it’s because we don’t go to a lot of burger places but my family had never heard of SmashBurger.  To our surprise there are over 200 of them and they just started in 2007.  So if you know your burger chains (they don’t like to be thought of as a chain, but hey, let’s face it) this is certainly a growing and popular one.  The staff was very friendly and we realized these were people brought in from other locations for the opening.   This is smart.  And a great way to make a first impression.  Hopefully when they hire locally the same friendly and enthusiastic attitude will prevail.


With such a large menu and non meat options my partially veggie family will likely come back.  It also doesn’t hurt that it’s next to Whole Foods and down the street from my kids’ school and Tae Kwon Do studio (where I spend much of my life).  Smashburger Mill Valley opens to the public this Wednesday, July 10th.




Giants vs Dodgers – Food Concessions Battle



I don’t know the baseball standings right now.  But I do know how the ballparks for the L.A Dodgers and S.F. Giants rank for me and my family in terms of food.

I grew up in the LA area and went to many Dodger games.  It was the years of Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, and Tommy Lasorda.  Yes, I’m that old.  Anyways my kids and I I were lucky enough to go to a Dodger game while visiting family in L.A. this summer.  It was just as I remember as a kid.  There were no differences.  The concessions were stuck in a Dodger Dog and fast food time warp.  Luckily my sister the vegan thought ahead and brought she and my vegetarian daughter veggie mexican food from Chipotle.  However when I went searching for my son’s dinner – it was slim pickings.  I couldn’t even find a plain cheeseburger that wasn’t a pre-made saucy fast food mess, topped with bacon.  He ended up sharing some cheese pizza with his uncle and having some peanuts.  I was determined to find something healthy and all I came up with was one cart (really not even a permanent stand) that said “Healthy Fare”.  This meant a $12 wilted iceberg lettuce salad and some iced teas.  (Apparently they already sold out of sushi – this was only the second inning.  People want this stuff!).  I bought the iced tea and went back to my seat in a huff.  Luckily for me my daughter’s veggie burrito was huge and I ate some of hers.  My sister felt bad and gave me some of her salad too.  Thanks sis.  Really in an area with all kinds of celebrity money and high profile chefs, someone needs to step up and bring LA into the present.  Magic, are you listening?

The very next week we met friends for a lovely day at AT&T park to see the Giants.  My husband and I used to live right down the street and go to many Giants games (back when Barry was Barry).  As we were walking near the stadium there was a Safeway selling peanuts, water and Cracker Jacks for about a quarter of the ballpark price.  This was a good ballpark food start.  Once we got inside there are was a large variety of lunch options.  However the lines were much longer than the Dodger lines.  Everything  from Cha Cha Bowls (my daughter and husband’s pick) to clam chowder in a bread bowl (my son’s pick), to fish and chips and fresh crab sandwiches.  Of course there’s the usual ballpark fare too.  There were actually too many choices for my son and we did a bit of line jumping before he made his soup decision.  We were with friends whose kids chose hot dogs.  They bought and finished them no problem before we even got through our first gourmet line.   I realized if my kids weren’t such food snobs (my doing) we’d spend less time in lines and we’d see more baseball.  I’m not complaining, just observing.  Again it was all about wrangling food for the kids and by the time my friend and I were choosing food for ourselves, we decided to hit the margarita cart.  It went well with my daughter’s Cha Cha bowl which was bigger than her head.

Both games were fun and we saw both home teams win their respective games.  If I ask the kids which game they liked better they’d probably say Dodgers.  The reason?  Not the food.  Not the baseball.  The give-away – Kurt Gibson bobble heads!  The Giants gave away 2 for 1 tickets to fly on Virgin Airlines (not sure we’re headed anywhere before the stingy Nov. 2012 deadline).