Smashburger to open first Ky. location near UK campus

The first Kentucky location of the gourmet hamburger chain Smashburger is scheduled to open April 16 in Lexington's Center Court development.

The restaurant on South Upper Street, near the University of Kentucky campus, will be the first of six planned Central Kentucky locations for the Denver-based chain, which describes itself as a "fast-casual 'better burger' restaurant."

Two of the other Smashburger restaurants will be in newly built sites near Wal-Mart on Richmond Road and near Fayette Mall on Nicholasville Road, said Christine Willis, a spokeswoman for the local franchisee, Bluegrass Burgers. Those are expected to open by the end of the year. She could not disclose where the remaining three locations would be.

Smashburger concentrates on burgers made of 100 percent certified angus beef, but it also serves chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, salads, a variety of fries, and shakes and root-beer floats made with Häagen-Dazs ice cream.

Each restaurant also has a menu tailored to its regional tastes.

In Lexington, that means the "Bluegrass Smashburger," with Wild Turkey bourbon barbecue sauce, bacon, melted cheddar cheese, and fried banana pepper rings; a hot dog made with Cincinnati-style chili; and a chicken club sandwich featuring Wild Turkey bourbon barbecue sauce.

Ale-8-One soft drinks and floats and Lexington Brewery Company beers also will be served.

Burger prices range from $4.99 to $6.99.

Smashburger is named for the method used to cook its burgers: A ball of ground beef is smashed, seared and seasoned on a flat grill.

Nationwide, Smashburger has plans to open more than 500 restaurants, with 100 to 125 open by the end of the year.

The Lexington franchise is owned by Bluegrass Burgers partners Bill Lear, Jim Phelps and Wayne Wellman, who also are behind the Center Court condo-retail development where the first restaurant will be.