Smashburger comes to Magazine Street, and Saucy's smokes - sort of.
Smashburger, located at the corner of Magazine Street and Toledano, is a national chain whose burger occupies the place between other fast food chains and Company Burger and Truburger. It's named for the process of turning balls of burger meat into patties (though it's not as violent as it sounds), and it makes the quality of its burger its calling card.
Compared with other chains, it's a clear step up. The burgers are served on egg buns, and they're not designed for the lowest common denominator. The All-American (American cheese, ketchup, mustard, pickles) is perfectly satisfying, but the NOLA worked better than expected with properly done, thick-cut fried green tomatoes and swiss cheese added to the burger. Two fried green tomato wheels were a bit unwieldy, but I appreciated a chain that thinks a little about the value of presentation as the burger came to the table open-faced so you could see one leaning on the other.
Smashburger doesn't position itself to be everything for everybody, but tries to be a lot of things for a lot of people. It has a full chicken menu, multiple vegetarian options, a host of sandwich topping choices, and eight variations on fries. The base fry is thin, pale and crispy, and the Smashfries are lightly dressed with rosemary, olive oil and garlic - enough to have a distinctive taste but not so much that they confuse people who want French fries. The Debris fries showed a similarly light touch with roast beef gravy debris and cheddar cheese. The debris is really a light roast beef gravy flecked with bits of meat, so po-boy of the stuff would fail miserably. A judicious splash of it on the fries gives them some roast beef flavor without turning the fry boat into a swamp.
The nods to locale get it half-right (they also include a Barq's-based barbecue sauce and fried pickles), but that's far more than other fast food burgers manage. I'll still choose Company Burger and Truburger ahead of Smashburger, but it's big improvement on the best-known national chains.
Since Saucy's opened in the space abandoned by Ignatius, I've been trying to find something more positive to say than average barbecue is better than no barbecue. You smell smoke when you walk in and you see a light smoke ring on the ribs, but you rarely taste it. Instead, the sauces are left to do the work and they're generally pretty sweet. So far, the winner has been the link of smoked boudin. Ordered on its own, it arrives at the table as an intimidating, foot-long log of boudin, but it also arrived with a discernable smokiness that mixed well with the richness of the boudin. It wasn't so special that it has stopped my internal clock from counting down the days until Neil McClure opens his barbecue joint, but it's nice to know that Saucy's has more to recommend it than proximity to Spilt Milk World HQ.