SmashMouth Burgers And Pizza, Schererville – Behind The Scenes
One of the great privileges I have being a local blogger is meeting NW Indiana business owners and entrepreneurs. Recently I went to a Tweetup at SmashMouth Burgers and Pizza in Schererville (Cline and Rt30) and met Chef and Owner Joe Arvin. I also got a chance to taste his food, of course, and I was highly impressed with both.
In fact, I was so stoked about the food and the chef creating that food, that I asked if I could video shoot behind the scenes in the kitchen and do some food tasting and reviews. Chef Joe though it was a great idea, and here’s the video we shot.
I respect Chef Joe alot. He’s got a vision for his business and he follows through on that with no compromise. All you need to do is taste the Monster Burger, the pulled pork sandwich or the ever awesome cheeseburger pizza to know that this guy “don’t mess around.”
“I first moved to the area from Lexington, Kentucky where I lived in downtown Chicago and served as the corporate chef for Tyson Food Co,” says Chef Joe. “Over the course of 10 years, I developed the SmashMouth concept in my mind, along with all the flavor profiles (recipes) and recorded each step into a journal.”
“When it came time to get out on my own for good, we decided to come out to Schererville and build it.”
During these years, Chef Joe tried out most of his recipes on friends and family. The fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich (yep, fried guys, and no crust!) along with brown sugar and cinnamon battered chicken strips were favorites of his own four kids… — Now you can find them on the kids menu everyday!
For the ocean lover, there are monthly featured crab cakes as well. Chef Joe developed a respect for fresh crabmeat when he attended Baltimore Culinary College and worked in local seafood restaurants to earn his way through school.
“Being a Kentucky boy, this exposure to fresh seafood on a daily basis gave me a real appreciation and Maryland style crab cakes became one of my favorite foods,” he says, “so I just had to put them on the menu here at Smash Mouth.”
“You have to order the best, and serve the best and that’s what we do.” says Chef Joe about his crab cakes, but from my experience, that philosophy permeates every dish he serves, not just this one offering.
He uses ground Brisket that he smokes on site instead of ground beef, and they make their own sausage served on their pizza pies. If you are in the mood for something lighter, try the lightly grilled Caesar salad (where the romaine lettuce is actually grilled… not just the chicken!) — and of course, he makes his own Caesar dressing, served on the side as a drizzle.
So what is a SmashMouth and how does that relate to food?
From my visit to the kitchen, the SmashMouth concept came across when Joe talked about the pickles he uses on his burgers. yep, pickles…
“We use shredded pickles,” he explains, “not pickle slices, or pickle spears, but shredded pickles. This way the pickle permeates the entire flavor profile, and that is just one way we create a point of difference in our food.”
It’s this attention to detail in something so simple as a pickle that makes the food literally “smash your mouth” when you eat it. It’s straight up, no playin’ around. You throw in some of his signature “bistro sauce” and your taste buds are begging for more.
That’s just one example of course…
“The Smash Mouth name is a nod to football,” explains the chef, “football like in your face, run up the middle, up the gut style football — and we wanted to serve food that’s the same way, at a price people can afford yet in a country club style. People like being able to come in here and spend less than $10 and eat like a king.”
As their brochure reads (and I agree with) “SmashMouth is a restaurant that burger and pizza lovers can call their own — American food that is ideal to share at lunch, on a first date, for dinner with the kids and so much more.”
“Our goal is to serve up top notch food without top-notch stuffiness.”
FYI to my Around Crown Point readers… I interviewed Chef Joe for almost an hour as we shot video and chowed on some of his signature dishes. If I had the time and space, I’d run the entire interview from start to finish… it’s that good. But one quote stood out to me that I wanted to end this article with.
This quote stood out because I am a HUGE fan of Gordon Ramsay and Kitchen Nightmares. This quote from Chef Joe lets me know that Gordon Ramsay will NEVER have to show up to save SmashMouth, and in fact, Ramsay should take some time and sit down and Eat At Smash and learn a few new tricks! Here’s the quote, tell me what you think:
“We don’t have very much freezer space here,” Joe explained when I asked him about his rather small kitchen, “we don’t need it because everything is made fresh to order anyway.”