Hammer time: Favorite food truck moves from wheels to walls

The Classic Hammer Burger is a smash burger.
The classic Hammer Burger is a smash burger with grilled onions, house-made pickles, cheese and Hammer sauce.
(Sarah Mosqueda)

As Hammer Burger prepares for the opening of its first brick-and-mortar location, there is one thing the team still can get over.

“Look at all this space!” said Katie Blakeley, who handles social media for Hammer Burger. “I used to be getting content like, excuse me, excuse me, excuse me,” she laughs.

Hammer Burger founder, Kevin Hammons, laughs too.

“We were like this,” Hammons said, standing stick-straight with his hands at his side.

Hammer Burger comes to its downtown Santa Ana location at 313 N. Bush St. in the former Vegan Diner space from a food truck. The new location, with beer, wine and seating for about 60, gives the smash burger concept a little more room to stretch out.

Hammer Burger’s first brick-and-mortar location opens in downtown Santa Ana on May 5.
(Courtesy of Hammer Burger)

“We are expanding the menu a bit too,” Hammons said.

Hammer Burger originally started in Hammons’ backyard in Orange in 2020, where he perfected Hammer’s classic burger and grilled them for friends.

“The idea was to start doing pop-ups in breweries, but we never got the opportunity,” said Hammons, who was head brewer at Gunwhale Ales at the time.

COVID-19 hit, and Hammons took orders via an app instead.

“We just stared doing online sales, through Instagram and pick-up at my house, and that was selling out in 10 minutes every time I posted,” said Hammons.

Once restrictions relaxed, Hammons finally made it into local breweries. His neighbor and former co-worker and now Hammer’s chief operating officer, Curtis Scheetz, partnered with Hammons around the time as well. Scheetz brought a culinary background and front-of-house experience to the table, and the duo continued to sell out of burgers.

From left, Hammer Burger founder Kevin Hammons, Charles “Pepper” Massingill and Chief Operating Officer Curtis Scheetz.
(Courtesy of Hammer Burger)

“The pop-ups really blew up on us,” said Scheetz. “We wanted to play with new menu items, we really wanted to serve French fries, so we looked into getting a truck.”

“We ran the food truck for two years and it just kept growing in popularity,” said Hammons.

A smash burger traditionally has a flattened patty, smashed down with a spatula or something heavier, like a weight or cast iron skillet. The technique makes for a patty that has thin, crispy edges and juicy center, making it a new favorite on burger menus.

Hammer Burger’s take involves house-made pickles and sauce, Martin’s potato rolls flown in from Pennsylvania, and a special blend of beef that is smashed so thin, it’s basically a meat tuile.

“We use a special ground blend that we have made custom from West Coast Prime Meats in Brea,” Scheetz said.

The new location will offer the eatery’s signature French fries sprinkled with the house-made seasoning blend and served with its collection of dipping sauces like ranch, white barbecue, jalapeño ranch, garlic sauce, hammer sauce and chipotle mayo.

Since they are no longer limited by the storage and kitchen space on the food truck, the team can grow the menu beyond burgers and fries.

“We have a couple chicken options for people that don’t want beef or the Impossible burger,” said Hammons.

“Although my Impossibles are amazing,” added Scheetz.

Diners can look forward to salads with house-made Caesar dressing, a fried chicken sandwich, milkshakes, fried pickles, onion rings, sweet potato fries and chili cheese fries. There are some new burgers too.

The Flattymelt is Hammer Burger’s take on a classic patty melt.
(Sarah Mosqueda)

“The Chili Burger is kind of like a Tommy’s burger, but without the thick diced onions. We use our house-made chili sauce, mustard and pickles on top,” said Scheetz.

The Flattymelt is a play on a classic patty melt, with grilled onions, pickles and cheese flattened between inverted potato buns.

“Everyone thinks I use sourdough,” said Scheetz. “But inverting the buns gives it such a rad toast.”

The beer list is reflective of the relationships Hammons and Scheetz built during their career in the beer industry.

You’ll find local brews on draft, like Bearded Tang’s Carlos Danger lager and ciders, kombucha and seltzers, like Green Cheek’s lavender lemonade.

The exterior of Smash burger food truck concept Hammer Burger's first brick-and-mortar shop in Santa Ana.
The exterior of Smash burger food truck concept Hammer Burger’s first brick-and-mortar shop in Santa Ana.
(Courtesy of Hammer Burger)

Hammer Burger’s spacious new location opens to the public on Friday and will be open Tuesday through Sunday moving forward.

“We’re excited to give Hammer Burger a permanent address,” said Hammons.