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photo credit: Sandy Noto

The Smith image
7.1

The Smith

American

River North

$$$$Perfect For:Big GroupsDinner with the ParentsEating At The BarKidsLiterally EveryoneWalk-Ins
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You don’t go to see Chappie in theaters because you think it’s going to change your life, but because the theater is dark, the popcorn is (hopefully) fresh, and you pine for the days before YouTube when it was the only place to see trailers for the movies you were actually excited about. And sometimes, you might want a similar thing out of a restaurant. Maybe you’re looking for a place to hold a graduation dinner, or you want to focus on helping someone through a breakup without getting distracted by the delicious, fiery ramen in front of you. When this is the case, The Smith is a good place to keep in mind.

The Smith is a chain, with multiple locations in New York and DC. We don’t have anything against chains - a road trip hasn’t really begun until you’ve stopped at Culver’s for cheese curds - but at first glance The Smith manages to look more like Etta than an upscale Red Robin. There are big windows that open up to the sidewalk, subway tiles everywhere, and giant mirrors on the wall, which, in addition to making the space feel even bigger, make the busy waitstaff look like Agent Smith multiplying around Neo. But then you open the menu and see 15 different appetizers, six different sides, a section for both “Salads” and “Big Salads,” and basically everything short of an onion ring tower with sparklers on top. All of this sets you up for a dining experience where what’s happening at the table, not on it, is the focus.

The Smith image

photo credit: Sandy Noto

Like the first person to die in a slasher movie, a lot of the food at The Smith makes what feels like easily avoidable mistakes. The cast iron pizza lacks a crispy bottom edge, and the middle falls apart when you pick it up. The potato chips, sitting under a heavy blue cheese fondue, lose their crunch after about two minutes. The simpler things - not the dressed-up attempts at fine dining - tend to work best here. The skillet mac and cheese isn’t going to blow your mind, but it will more than satisfy your desire to take down as much dairy in one dish as you can. And the Burger Royale is actually excellent: griddled patties that are well-seasoned and juicy, with a heaping order of thin-cut fries that you can fill up on until it’s time for dessert.

The Smith wants to please the largest group of people possible and will probably do a fine job at that, as long as you know to skip bland dishes with fancy names and stick to more straightforward things like the chicken and the mac and cheese. Like a summer blockbuster, it’s a nice way to kill a couple hours in the air conditioning. You won’t remember any of the details after you leave, but that’s probably not why you came here in the first place.

Food Rundown

Potato Chips

These chips are covered in a blue cheese fondue. The first few bites are really satisfying: the chips are hearty and have a great crunch. But they get too soggy almost immediately after they’re served. We wish they had a separate cup for the fondue, but overall they’re a fine thing to eat mindlessly while you focus on giving dating advice to your friend.
The Smith image

photo credit: Sandy Noto

Spicy Salmon Tartare

This has a nice flavor profile of lime, avocado, and jalapeno. But the standout of the dish is the delicious crispy rice the salmon is served on. If you come here to meet a friend for drinks and a light appetizer, this is what you should pick.
The Smith image

photo credit: Sandy Noto

Mac And Cheese

This has the consistency of your favorite mac and cheese. It’s lightly charred on top and creamy and gooey inside. As for the flavor, it’s pretty muted, but nobody will be mad they ordered this for the table.
The Smith image

photo credit: Sandy Noto

Burger Royale

This delicious burger, served with thin cut fries, is the best thing on the menu. It’s got two thin patties, bacon, American cheese, and a classic burger sauce. The meat is well seasoned and every bite is worthwhile.

Cast Iron Pizzas

The pizzas here are more like flatbreads and are a mixed bag. The outer crust is warm, chewy, and airy, while the inner crust is a little too thin to hold up to all the ingredients, which means it gets soggy.
The Smith image

photo credit: Sandy Noto

Squid Ink Spaghetti

Like most of the pastas here, this was a little overcooked, and the shrimp was a bit tough. But we’d go with this over any other pasta because of the light, semi-spicy sauce.

Braised Short Rib

The short rib is really tender and the texture is great. Unfortunately, it’s also very bland. The cremini mushrooms, fava beans, and carrots are well cooked but turn into an unpleasant stew in the sauce, and the parmesan whipped potatoes don’t taste like anything at all.
The Smith image

photo credit: Sandy Noto

Brick Pressed Chicken

The skin is crispy and flavorful, and the chicken itself is juicy. But like the short rib, the whole thing is just kind of floating in jus for no reason.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, this has a great sweet and savory flavor. Order this any time you end up here.

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FOOD RUNDOWN

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