Local owners of a growing fast-casual hamburger chain are hoping to find smashing success in Westerville.
Smashburger, a Denver-based company that opened its first central Ohio store in Gahanna earlier this year, opened this week at 552 S. State St., in the Westerville Square shopping center.
The local franchise is owned by husband-and-wife team Drew and Darcy Hansen. Drew Hansen is a 34-year veteran of Wendy's.
"If you're in the business, you stay in touch with all the new competitors, and every year, Wendy's talked about the up-and-coming chains that were going to give them the competition, and they always talked about Smashburger as being a No. 1 threat to their business," Drew Hansen said. "I checked it out and I became a believer.
"This is the best concept going right now."
The Smashburger process starts with a loose ball of Angus beef. A grill is brushed with melted butter and the meatball is "smashed" onto the grill to create the burger.
The burgers come with a slew of toppings, and diners can choose their own condiments or order combinations straight from the menu.
Options include the "Buckeye Burger," only available in central Ohio, which is topped with fried pepper rings, American cheese, haystack onions, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.
The topping options also can be applied to grilled or fried chicken sandwiches, or a vegetarian black-bean burger.
The sides also set Smashburger apart from other burger chains, Hansen said.
The "Smashfries" are tossed with olive oil, rosemary, garlic and sea salt. Veggie fries are green beans and carrots deep fried with no breading. Sweet-potato fries and strings of fried onion also are available.
The restaurant also features salads and, for dessert, Haagen-Dazs milk shakes, malts and floats.
"We have quite the variety of food and something for everyone's taste," Hansen said.
Sticking with the fast-casual model, customers order at the counter, and food is delivered to tables.
Hansen said he is committed to opening six restaurants in northern Franklin and Delaware counties, and is excited at the opportunity to locate in the newly renovated Westerville Square, where Walmart recently opened.
"This looked like a great opportunity, and we jumped on it. It took about a year," Hansen said. "We scoured the northern part of Columbus for those A-level locations, and this one just happened to be in flux."
Hansen said he already has his sights set on the next Smashburger restaurant, which likely will be in Lewis Center.