So I just visited the Wolf Road Smashburger as a patron for the first time after the media preview. I wanted to see how the reality would hold up to the preview fantasy. And there were a couple of things I really wanted to eat again.
The place was a little busy but tidy and efficient. Lots of staff running food, clearing tables, etc. Like a lot of staff. I don’t really need 4 or 5 people coming over to my table while eating fast food and I don’t want you asking if you can take my basket while I’m clearly still eating. Food was flying out of the kitchen. Despite the claims from the preview of ~5 minute waits, I don’t think we waited more than a minute or so for our food after getting fountain drinks and sitting. I’ll come back to this.
I went with my favorite from the preview, the Spinach, Cucumber, and Goat Cheese Chicken sandwich. My wife went for the regular grilled chicken sandwich as a safe starting point. We shared an order of veggie frites. So, how did it turn out?
Nothing was bad. But nothing was as good as before, either. I was so impressed with the chicken on its own that I again peeled off a piece before digging in to try it. What I loved about the simple salt & pepper coating at the preview was the deft touch with the salt and the strong peppery bite that the chicken needs to fight through the other flavors. This time the prevalent flavor was salt. Really salty. Some pepper, but it was more background. The flavors were reversed from the preview.
The sandwich itself was OK. The spinach was fine, a few too many onions for my taste, but that’s almost none, so it was fine. The cucumber was crisp and fresh tasting. The tomato was an absolute disgrace. I’m not kidding. We are at the UTTER AND COMPLETE PEAK of tomato season around here. You’re not going to find a fresher or more gorgeous supply of tomatoes during the year than right about now. There is not a single excuse for the pathetic, orangey, pale slices on our sandwiches. As a serious tomato lover, I was a little angry and a lot sad. If you can’t get tomatoes right in early September, what should I expect in February? Honestly, these tomatoes would be pathetic in February, too. If this was what your supplier brought and you couldn’t get anything better (there’s a Hannaford across the street, I bet they had better tomatoes) you should have taken them off the menu and apologized to patrons that you couldn’t in good conscience serve what you had on hand. (sorry, I really like tomatoes)
Anyway…the bun was still good, the goat cheese, warm and creamy on the hot chicken, again makes this sandwich. In spite of the lame orange slice masquerading as tomato, my sandwich was pretty good. My wife’s was OK, but again the dominant flavor was salt. It was also SUPER drippy. Not really sure why from the ingredients, but it was puddle-making drippy.
At the preview, the veggie frites were a star. The carrots were sweet and delicious and very floppy. The green beans were stiffer and were rocked with their delicious touch of salt and coating of coarse black pepper that went great with the ranch sauce. This time, the carrots were undercooked and too firm, not having developed their peak sweetness. The beans were floppy but not bad. But, guess what? Yeah, unsurprisingly these were incredibly salty. They had salt and pepper on them, but again the pepper was an afterthought and the salt was the dominant tongue blasting impression. The emptied basket had a pretty good puddle of oil in it. These were simply not prepared the way they could be. They were amazing at the preview. They were a ‘probably not again’ purchase this time. Really sad. And salty. Simply put, they were rushed. The carrots were not cooked long enough to develop their flavor and were a weird mix of not crisp enough or soft enough. Mushy outside and crunchy inside? My wife in particular wasn’t happy with that. And the copious oil, to me, says ‘not drained long enough’. We could have waited another minute for our food to have it done right.
So what have learned?
- Honestly, I probably won’t rush back. I’d like to try some other stuff again, but I’m hoping they might get better at it, I guess. If things stay like this we would stop going there completely.
- C’mon, that’s just way too much salt. Pepper’s pretty good, too. Give it a shot.
- Slow down just a little. They’re doing quantity over quality right now.
- Seriously? The salt?
- I said the shakedown might not live up to the media preview and right now that’s the case.
- LAY OFF THE SALT! Nothing says, ‘we’re only pretending to care about fresh ingredients’ like burying them under salt.
All in all, effort needs improvement. I have a hard time recommending the place the way food is currently coming out of the kitchen. Maybe give them a month and see what happens.
Did I mention how salty everything was?