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Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Smashburger - Orange County
26541 Aliso Creek Rd, Ste C
Aliso Viejo, CA 92656

1003 The Shops at Mission Viejo
(Inside the mall food court)
Mission Viejo, CA 92691

SmashBurger, a chain that started in Denver CO, has recently begun to expand into Orange County. I was invited down to sample some of their offerings. SmashBurger sets themselves apart from their competition by literally smashing their burgers down on a flat top grill. They say that this puts a good sear on the meat and thereby gives the beef patty a good exterior crust while retaining the juices. Below is a video of the process they go through to create a SmashBurger.

It seems that Smashbugers across the country all have regional specialty burgers in addition to the standard SmashBurgers. The two regional burgers for the Orange County area are "The LA Burger" and "The OC Burger." I decided to try the LA burger and V tried the OC burger.

The LA burger consists of a beef patty topped with a crispy wonton, fried egg, cilantro, cucumber, lettuce, tomato and a Japanese Steakhouse ginger dressing. The burger was very good. The cucumbers and the cilantro gave the burger a very fresh, crisp taste. However, I felt that the dressing was a little on the bland side.

The OC burger was topped with baby portabella mushrooms, baby arugula, grilled onions, aged swiss cheese and truffle mayo. V enjoyed her OC burger a lot. She loved that the grilled onions were nice and caramelized instead of barely grilled like at some other burger places. She thought that the truffle mayo was very good but felt that there was a little too much of it on the burger. She said she would definitely get this burger again, but would just ask them to go easy on the mayo.

I also got to try one of their Fresh Mex chicken sandwiches. A chicken breast is pounded out until it is really thin and then grilled on the flat top. The chicken was topped with guacamole, cilantro, pepper jack cheese, tomato, onion, sour cream and chipotle mayo. I would usually never choose a chicken sandwich over a burger, but I think I really enjoyed this sandwich more than my burger. The chicken was cooked well and was not dry at all. The sandwich had a nice spicy kick to it and was full of flavor.

Smashburger offers a variety of side dishes. Their signature Smashfries are tossed with rosemary, olive oil and garlic. They were very tasty with a pungent kick of rosemary. Fries are also available in sweet potato form and can be smothered with chili and cheese. Fried pickles and onion haystacks are available at the Aliso Viejo location. They also offer fried green beans and carrot sticks.

In addition to burgers, SmashBurger offers a variety of chicken sandwiches, hot dogs and salads. Burgers are also available with a veggie patty. Ice cream shakes and malts are made with Haagen Dazs ice cream and are very rich and decadent. I love the fact that they offer a malt option, instead of just a plain milkshake.

Overall, I was very happy with the food at SmashBurger. I feel that the prices are reasonable and the burgers are much better than your standard fast food joint. I also appreciate the fact that they take the time to present the burgers nicely, instead of just wrapping them in paper and throwing them in a bag. SmashBurger currently has the two location in Aliso Viejo and Mission Viejo and plans to open a third location in San Clemente in the next six months. They are also currently looking for a location in the Irvine area.

SmashBurger has offered to give away a $20 gift card to one lucky reader! Use the form below to enter! GIVEAWAY VALID ONLY FOR RESIDENTS OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA!

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Smashburger on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fish Camp - Huntington Beach

Fish Camp
16600 Pacific Coast Highway
Huntington Beach (Sunset Beach), CA 92649

I was recently invited down to try the new menu at Fish Camp in Huntington Beach. Fish Camp is a fast-casual dining concept from the owners of the King's Fish House chain. All of the suppliers are the same, so you basically get the same food as you would get at King's, but at a slightly lower price point because they have eliminated the traditional wait-staff. They also offer only a limited selection of beer, wine and a few cocktails instead of a full bar.

As you enter the restaurant, there is a small fish market where you can buy fresh fish by the pound. One difference between King's Fish House and Fish Camp is that Fish Camp mongers all of their fish in the restaurant every day.

We started out the meal with a few appetizers. JL ordered a cup of the Clam Chowder ($2.95 cup, $5.25 bowl, $7.75 sourdough bowl) and an order of the Crab Cakes ($7.95). I started out my meal with the Baja Shrimp Cocktail ($5.75). We split an order of the Ahi Tuna Poke ($8.75) as well. Lastly, we also both had a Cajun Bloody Mary ($5.75) that we both thought was awesome. It was made with Absolut Peppar vodka to give it an extra kick.

JL really enjoyed his clam chowder. He said that it was really creamy and had a stronger seafood flavor than most clam chowders. He thought that the crab cakes were pretty good, but a little dry.

My Baja Shrimp Cocktail kind of reminded me of shrimp on top of a cold gazpacho soup. The cocktail consisted of a cup of a chunky, cold tomato sauce with avocado mixed in. The shrimp were sliced in half lengthwise and placed on top of the sauce. It was served with crispy tortilla chips. This dish would be the perfect, refreshing start to a warm, balmy summer evening spent relaxing on their patio in the cool ocean breeze.

The Ahi Tuna Poke has peanuts in it. I also felt it was slightly underseasoned. The dish wasn't bad, but I feel it could be improved.
For my main course, I ordered the King Crab Legs (market price, $33.50/1-lb. on 2/7/13). The dinner plates come with your choice of two sides. I chose brown rice and cheesy grits. JL ordered the Sea Scallop plate ($16.75) with french fries and cheesy grits. I really enjoyed my king crab legs. The legs had been partially split open with a knife and the crab was easy to remove from the shell. The crab was cooked perfectly. The cheesy grits were very good. JL and I both agreed that it was a very good, however slightly unusual side dish. The brown rice was just plain, steamed rice. I was hoping for it to be slightly seasoned.

JL enjoyed his scallops. He said that they were smaller than a lot of scallops that he has gotten at other restaurants, but that they were packed full of flavor. He described them as dense in a good way and very tasty.

To finish off our meal, I decided to try a piece of their Chocolate Cake ($4.55).

JL got a piece of their Key Lime Pie ($4.45). The key lime pie is made in-house. JL thought that it was very good and has a nice tang to it. The chocolate cake is made by an outside bakery. The cake was served cold and was dense and fudgy, the way I like it.

Overall, I think that Fish Camp is a very good option if you are looking for a fast-casual seafood experience. The seafood is all of very high quality and it is prepared well. One of the managers was telling me that the company is looking to open a new Fish Camp location by the end of the year and they hope it to be in South Orange County. In the near future, they will be focusing on opening more Fish Camp locations than King's Fish Houses. I hope they open one near me soon!

Fish Camp on Urbanspoon