Does Smashburger crush Five Guys? Or does Red Robin soar?

We compare and contrast three big burger chains

Teri: A quest for the area's best hamburger. That was the mission and I chose to accept, even though I don't typically dine in burger joints. I'm not a snob, mind you, just a burger novice, relatively unfamiliar with the three local chains. But, I know what I like. So after visiting West Chester Twp.'s Smashburger, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and Red Robin, I came away with an acute awareness of why all three restaurants are popular, why America has a weight problem, and why in spite of that, we'll all die happy. Burgers rule, and since I'm no fool, I can honestly say that each place had something I loved and each served enough food to feed a small country.

Eric: I was originally going to let Teri handle all this eating and writing, but after becoming extraordinarily jealous at the idea of eating at three of my favorite burger places for a story, I decided to offer my two cents - or whatever that is adjusted for inflation. I'm something of a burger connoisseur, and I have been to all three establishments multiple times - and have gained multiple pounds as a result, no doubt.


Founded in Denver in 2007, Smashburger has a mission to be every city’s favorite place for burgers. The Smashburger name comes from the process used to cook the burgers, which entails smashing a ball of 100 percent, certified Angus ground beef onto a grill to sear in the juices. The West Chester Smashburger was the first stop on my best burger quest.

“Even though we are considered fast casual, we take pride in our customer service and become more like a full-service restaurant after the customer has ordered at the counter,” said Public Relations Manager Allison Ryan.

Smashburger gets their props for customer service. I liked how the waitresses brought the meal to the table after we’d ordered. I also liked the wire baskets the food was served in as they added a touch of class that I don’t typically think about when I’m eating fast food.

As for the food, I absolutely loved my Buckeye Smashburger, which is only available at the Ohio locations. The classic hamburger was topped with fried pepper rings, haystack onions, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Served on Smashburger’s popular egg bun, the third-pound burger was exceptionally juicy and, quite honestly, they had me after I tasted the fried pepper rings. They were battered and fried with just the right amount of spice and added an unusual kick that I haven’t found anywhere else.

My dining companion had the Smashburger classic and said the special Smash Sauce was mildly spicy and delicious. After we shared an order of sweet potato and regular Smashfries, which were tossed in rosemary, olive oil and garlic, I decided the Smashfries were the best. You could definitely taste the rosemary in the potatoes, which added a unique seasoning that seemed to deceive you into believing you were actually eating something healthy. Smashburger also serves hot dogs, chicken, a variety of salads, Haagen -Dazs shakes, and has a kids menu. Coke products are served and beer and wine will soon be available.

Eric's Taste: I'm a fairly recent convert to Smashburger, since they opened in the Dayton area where I live not too long ago. Their burgers, which are extremely juicy and rather on the salty side, tend to fall apart in my hands — but I rather like that about them. Smashburger reminds me most of a Wendy's burger — only much larger and tastier. A friend of mine called their burgers "gut bombs of grease," and she's not wrong — but I like gut bombs of grease. The fries are also excellent, with the rosemary making them truly unique.


  • WHAT: Smashburger
  • WHEN: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Seven days a week
  • WHERE: 7598 Cox Road, West Chester Twp.
  • MORE INFO: (513) 847-4840 or

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

The next stop was just up the road at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Founded in Washington D.C. in 1986, Five Guys has the most limited menu, preferring, as they put it, “to perfect burgers and fries.”

“We have a fun, high energy environment here, and everyone has a great experience when they come in,” said Adam Whitley, director of operations for Cincinnati.

My guess is that burger purists probably like Five Guys the best as the burger was moist and the toppings were fresh, though limited. It was a straightforward burger and I chose the regular cheese with regular onion (they also offer them grilled), pickle and mustard. The 100 percent fresh ground beef burger had no fillers and was listed on the menu as being trans-fat free. While the burger was the smallest of the three that I ate, I actually preferred the size because it was filling without being overwhelming.

The fries however, were another story. Made from fresh-cut potatoes and cooked in 100 percent peanut oil, the amount I received can only be described as obnoxious. The small order is supposed to serve one to two people, but I think three to four is more realistic. That being said, they were actually the best tasting fries, in my opinion, as they were salty and simple, with just a hint of the fresh potato skins still on them.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries offers peanuts to customers while they wait for their order. If you like to fry your turkey at Thanksgiving you can buy the oil there. In addition to burgers they offer hot dogs, grilled cheese and a veggie sandwich. Fries can be ordered regular or Cajun. Coke products are served. Alcohol is not.

Eric's Taste: Teri is pretty much correct. Five Guys is the best for the pure burger lover. The first time I went there, I returned within two days because I liked the food so much. I have never done that with any other kind of restaurant in my life. Smashburger edges their burger out just a little bit —  but not by much. And Teri isn't kidding about the fries, which give new meaning to the term "heaping helping." When I look in the bag, I'm apt to wonder if there's really a burger in there. Five Guys literally buries it under a mound of fries, in addition to giving you a little box of them. That's not a complaint — not when the fries are that good.


  • WHAT: Five Guys Burgers and Fries
  • WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Seven days a week
  • WHERE: 7806 Kingland Dr., West Chester Twp.
  • MORE INFO: (513) 755-1103 or

Red Robin

My last stop was at Red Robin, which took a different approach to casual dining. It’s more like a typical sit-down restaurant, and there are many more options including a huge menu and full service bar.

“We take our burgers very seriously and they are very distinctive and insanely delicious,” said General Manager Brian Sutton.

Founded in Seattle in 1969, Red Robin has more than 26 gourmet burger choices, and is hands down the winner when it comes to amount of burger toppings that are offered, and for variety of menu options. I chose the Burnin’ Love Burger, because I like it spicy and I was not disappointed. Piled high with spicy Pepper Jack cheese, tangy salsa and fried jalapeno peppers, the cayenne seasoned burger was topped with chipotle mayonnaise, tomato and lettuce and served on a jalapeno-cornmeal, kaiser roll. If you are sensitive to spice, you will not enjoy this burger, but for me it was excellent.

Bottomless, traditional steak fries were served on the side, with bottomless Coke products to drink. I also sampled the Towering Onion Rings, which were among the best I’ve ever tasted. The sweet yellow onions were battered and crisply fried and served with tangy Campfire sauce (kind of a spicy barbecue) and ranch dressing. I much preferred them to the fries, which were basically a typical, thick cut fry.

My friend said her Sauteed Shroom Burger had an excellent flavor and was virtually drenched with mushrooms, melted Swiss cheese and Parmesan butter. All burgers can be custom ordered with a wide variety of toppings and buns available. For those looking to count calories, there is a protein-style burger that is served between two wedges of lettuce instead of a bun. Burgers can be stacked as high as you want with past customers reportedly ordering as many as six large patties on one sandwich.

Red Robin has an exceptionally large menu that has everything from salads, pasta, ribs, chicken, fish and dessert. The bar has Happy Hour four days a week, and kids have a separate menu featuring burgers, pizza and spaghetti. There are numerous desserts, shakes, smoothies and The Red Robin mascot stops in to sign autographs on Sunday nights.

Eric's Take: Red Robin's great variety of burgers actually makes it a little tough to judge them against Five Guys or Smashburger, which are more about pure burgers than Red Robin. I've been to Red Robin many times, but in all those visits, I don't think I've ever had just a plain ol' burger there. It almost seems silly to get said plain ol' burger when there are so many varieties. And Red Robin has a nice edge that Five Guys and Smashburger do not, in that their meat is cooked to order. My favorites are the A1 Peppercorn Burger and the Chili Chili Cheeseburger, because I'm a sucker for all things peppercorn and chilli.


  • WHAT: Red Robin
  • WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Happy Hour is 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
  • WHERE: 9434 Civic Center Dr., West Chester Twp.
  • MORE INFO: (513) 759-6532 or

Teri’s Final Grade:


  • Taste: A+
  • Topping Choices: A
  • Service: A+
  • Fries: B
  • Atmosphere: B
  • Overall Grade: A

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

  • Taste: A
  • Topping Choices: B-
  • Service: B
  • Fries: A+
  • Atmosphere: A
  • Overall Grade: A -

Red Robin

  • Taste: A
  • Topping Choices: A+
  • Service: A+
  • Fries: B- (onion rings A+)
  • Atmosphere: A
  • Overall Grade: A-

Teri's Final Word: In light of the above categories I'd say the Best Burger Award, by a nose, goes to Smashburger. I think for me in a perfect world, I'd stop by and get a hamburger at Smashburger, pick up some fries at Five Guys and eat them at Red Robin for the atmosphere!

Eric's Final Word: Couldn't have said it better myself.

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