4388 W. Shaw, Fresno IG: @hammyssmashburgers
By Dave Fountinelle | email@example.com
Fresno’s relationship with the smash burger seems to be in the “it’s complicated” category. We love good burgers around here, as evidenced by the quality of offerings from local favorites like Colorado Grill and Triangle Drive-In. But for some reason, newer restaurants featuring “smash burgers” – so named by the preparation method of smashing balls of ground beef into wafer-thin patties on a scorching hot flat top – have struggled to find enough customer support to keep the doors open.
A few months ago, I reviewed a smash burger joint called Flippin’ Dave’s and gave them a positive review. Their burgers were textbook smash burgers – thin yet juicy, dripping with melted cheese, and packed with flavor. Their fries weren’t bad, either. So imagine my surprise when I swung by there for lunch recently and found a completely different store in the spot where they used to be.
As I was leaving the Costco/WinCo parking lot on West Shaw, where Flippin’ Dave’s once was, I caught a glimpse of another smash burger joint across the street – Hammy’s Smash Burgers. I thought, “Perhaps these guys will be worth checking out.”
The first thing I noticed when I approached the counter was the simplicity of Hammy’s menu. They serve smash burgers in single, double, and triple patty versions (and likely as many extra patties as you’re willing to pay for), along with a topping selection including cheese, bacon, BBQ sauce, and jalapenos. For sides, Hammy’s offers onion rings and four types of fries – regular, cheese, bacon cheese, and “Hammy’s fries,” which come topped with a smash burger patty, grilled onions, cheese, and special sauce. Add a selection of sodas and shakes, and that’s just about the whole menu. This is by no means a criticism. Simplicity is a good thing, especially when it comes to burgers. “Do one thing and do it really well,” I say.
The Order: one basic, one fancy. Specifically, a bacon and cheese single smash with regular fries and a BBQ bacon, cheese, and jalapeno double smash with bacon cheese fries. Total cost with drinks: about $35. Not bad for lunch for two!
First things first, the customer service was excellent. The employee who took my order was friendly, helpful, and patient with me as a first-time customer. She explained all the menu items and told me they would be happy to make whatever I could think up. Once my order was in, it was brought to the table in less than ten minutes.
The Food: The burgers come wrapped in a toasted, split-top bun that is very soft and buttery. Even with all the sauce and juices dripping from the burgers, the buns held their integrity and didn’t get soggy.
As for the burgers themselves, the bacon cheese single smash was everything a good smash burger is supposed to be. The patty was thin and incredibly seared, with an outrageous amount of crisp “burger lattice” around the edges. When I bit into it, juicy goodness exploded outward and ran down my chin. The burger patty was very well-seasoned, not too salty, with an intense beef flavor. The molten layer of American cheese provided the perfect rich and creamy counterpoint to the crispy, beefy patty. The bacon was crunch-chewy, smokey, salty, and decadently harmonized with the beef and cheese. The grilled onions and pickles cut through the richness from the meat and cheese adeptly, providing just the right amount of sweet, tart, and vinegar notes to keep the flavor boat from capsizing. This burger almost didn’t need sauce; everything was juicy and flavorful in its stock form. But Hammy’s special sauce came in clutch with that familiar “special sauce tang” that we’ve come to expect from California-style burgers ever since Bob’s Big Boy put them on the map.
Next, it was time to sample the regular fries. Hammy’s fries have a crispy battered coating reminiscent of Jack in the Box or Arby’s curly fries. They were cooked very well, super-crispy on the outside hot and fluffy on the inside. One bite of the fries and I slid the extra salt packets I initially grabbed for them off to the side, as these babies were not lacking in the flavor department at all. I dipped them in the house ranch and special sauce and was quite pleased with both selections. The ranch was creamy and herbaceous, and the special sauce was tangy and slightly sweet.
Now it was time to get extra! The bacon BBQ cheese double smash with jalapeno is what Instagram was made for. They say we eat with our eyes first, and this burger was a visual banquet. There’s so much to unpack with this burger: two smash burger patties on a bed of lettuce and tomato, double-stacked with melted cheese, crowned with sliced jalapenos, bacon strips, crunchy onion rings, and drizzled with BBQ sauce. The burger was daunting in size, but with a good squeeze and careful unhinging of my jaw, I was able to get all the ingredients into one bite. What a bite it was! The first thing that hit me was the rich, savory one-two punch from the burger patties and the cheese. Swooping in out of left field like a drunken fan trying to make the sports blooper reel came the bacon and BBQ sauce, both bringing a shared smokiness, but where the bacon took a left at salty street, the BBQ sauce hung a right at sweet and tangy avenue. The onion rings provided a much-needed crunchy texture with a mild sweetness that played very well with the BBQ sauce. And oh, how those jalapenos sang! Their vinegary, pickled brininess quickly gave way to a perky, tingling heat that floated just above the symphony of flavors like smoke at a Cypress Hill concert. If you’re looking for a four-alarm mouth blaster, this burger isn’t going to send you crying to your mommy. But, if you want just enough heat to get your taste buds dancing around happily and a bit disoriented, like fans at a Cypress Hill concert, this is the burger for you!
Of course, what better accompaniment for an outrageous burger than a decadent side of bacon cheese fries? I was already impressed with how good the fries were on their own, but under a warm blanket of creamy cheese sauce and crunchy bacon, they became a thing of unctuous beauty. Hammy’s cheese sauce brought back memories of the nachos I used to get at Little League baseball games as a kid. If you know, then you know! These might just be the best bacon cheese fries I’ve had in Fresno, definitely a “must-try” menu item.
Time will tell if Hammy’s can score a home run with Fresno’s fickle burger buffs, but they knocked it out of the park for me. If you’re a fan of smash burgers or a newbie curious to see what all the fuss is about, Hammy’s Smash Burgers delivers both the quality and the customer service to be your regular stop. 8.2/10