SoCal's Hottest New Burger Only Pops Up In An Auto Body Shop At Night
Editor's Note: On January 29, Smoshtown announced in an Instagram post it has temporarily closed "due to higher demand & expanding our business & staff." We'll let you know when we hear about it reopening.
At 6 p.m., after Gabriel's Auto Body in Pasadena pulls down its shutters, 23-year-old Ohan Kejejian rolls out a grill, coolers, propane tanks and all the other supplies he'll need to bring SoCal's hottest new burger pop-up to life. Smosh Town has only been around for two months and already, it has become a hot ticket among the sort of food fiends who will brave SoCal's most traffic-choked freeways to dine on dan dan mian and queue up for the carne asada at Tacos 1986.
It's 7:05 p.m. when I arrive at Smosh Town on Friday night. Half-a-dozen people have already placed their orders and a few more are waiting in line. By the time I finish paying, the line has grown to nearly two dozen people. Smosh Town has been open for a quarter of an hour and the wait is already 25 minutes to get your burgers — not burger because you'll want more than one.
On a busy night, Smosh Town will serve 150 to 200 customers from its parking lot headquarters, located at the corner of Hill Avenue, near the 210 Freeway.
The Smosh Town menu has only two items, they're both burgers and they're more or less the same. One has raw onions sprinkled on top. The other has grilled onions mashed into the patty.
This isn't a gastropub burger, with a patty as dense and thick as a hockey puck weighing down a delicate brioche. This is a "smash burger," the semi-official term for the flat, fast food burgers that most of us have been eating all our lives. Sometimes, stuff is mashed into these patties. That's when a smash burger gets dressed up.
To make Smosh Town's creations, Ohan lines up 10 golf ball-sized gobs of ground beef on the grill. He smooshes them down with his large, line cook's metal spatula, flattening them down to pancake-thin discs because surface area is the crucial element of a smash burger, and a Smoshburger.
"It gives it a nice cripsy crust at the edges, which differntiates it from other burgers, but it keeps it really juicy on the inside," Ohan says.
When he goes to flip the burgers, it's no simple twist of the wrist. He scrapes the patties off the grill the way a deckhand might work barnacles off a ship's hull.
Then he stacks two thin patties, melted American cheese, tart pickle rounds and the aforementioned onions on a supermarket bun that he drizzles with ketchup and mustard.
When you get your burger, you can take it to one of the folding tables, set up under tents in the parking lot and dig in under the glow of Instagram-unfriendly work lights.
Ohan keeps the burgers simple and light. They're so snacky, you'll probably need two. But they are deeply satisfying in that salty, meaty, carby, greasy way that all the best burgers are.
In L.A.'s crowded burger scene, Smosh Town has competition — and inspiration. Southern California's other mega hot burger pop-up, Burgers Never Day Die, is gearing up to open a brick-and-mortar place in Silver Lake.
The Kejejians don't know what's next for the venture but, for now, it's a family affair.
Smosh Town is Ohan's brainchild and he mans the grill. His father, Mike, provides the space. His younger brother, Sevag, helps him set up. His mom, Lena (who kind of looks like Celine Dion), runs the register. His sister, Natalie, handles the Instagram feed that has helped Smosh Town become a star.
You know what they say... The family that grills together, thrills together.
Smosh Town: 250 N. Hill Ave., Pasadena
Tue. - Sat., 7 p.m. - midnight or until they sell out
Additional reporting by Sue Carpenter.