By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It is one of the fastest growing restaurant groups in the country.

Last year, Forbes named it one of the most promising companies in America, and its founder lives in Minneapolis part of the year.

So, this week Jason DeRusha decided to eat at Smashburger.

“This packing is important. It’s key to the smash process,” founder Tom Ryan said.

Ryan wants everyone to know that Smashburger is more than just a name.

They literally smash the burgers on 385 degree grill. Ten seconds of smashing, just long enough to form a crispy bottom.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“And it’s a Smashburger,” Ryan said.

The smashing allows the fairly large burger to cook up, basting itself in its own juices.

“I wanted a burger you could taste in every bite and I wanted it to be really juicy and delicious,” Ryan said.

Since Ryan and some partners founded Smashburger in 2007 in Denver, they’ve spread like crazy. Now there are more than 300 restaurants around the country.

“We knew there was this latent demand for better burgers, so we kind of knew it was going to grow fast. [But] I don’t think any of us anticipated we would grow quite that fast,” Ryan said.

Ryan met his wife Jody when he worked for Pillsbury in Minneapolis in the late 80’s. Their Lake of the Isles home was featured in Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine.

“I think Minneapolis is a great town,” Ryan said. “It really is a great place for us to spend our time as we’ve empty-nested.”

Smashburger is part of the exploding fast-casual movement. They serve the burgers restaurant-style, open faced and deliver it to your table.

“Fast-casual is the new way Americans want to eat. It’s this really interesting balance of better food, most of the convenience but a lot more experiential elements,” Ryan said.

The sides are also different at Smashburger, fries with rosemary and garlic and fried pickles. And the burgers have high-end topping options, including localized toppings.  At Minnesota locations they serve a Twin Cities burger with carmelized onion on an onion bun.

“In Minnesota we love cheese, beef and bad breath. We don’t care,” DeRusha joked.

Smashburger’s success shows the hunger for an experience, nice decor, good service and our ongoing hunger for burgers.

“If I’m going to do a burger, let’s do a great one. And then I want to make sure it’s great for a reason other than the fact that it just tastes good,” Ryan said.

Ryan said the goal is to have 400 Smashburger restaurants in the coming years. There are 14 here in the Twin Cities.

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