Shelly’s Smashburgers sizzles up tasty food in a Sunset Hills convenience store

Shelly’s Smashburgers – located in the brand-new Phillips 66 at 4504 Lindbergh Blvd. – fired up its griddles just two weeks ago. It feels like a nice surprise, over there in Sunset Hills. You weren’t expecting to be seduced into a burger and some garlic Parmesan fries at 10:30 in the morning, but there you are at the counter asking for $40 on pump five, and a Shelly’s Spice to go. 

Mathew Unger is the man in charge of the food service at this (and 30 more) gas stations owned by Midwest Petroleum. And his enthusiasm for his job and the quality of his product is infectious. Unger has some good experience to talk about: From 2011 until 2016, he owned his own restaurant – Mathew’s Kitchen in South City  – and for eight years before that he was executive chef at Missouri Athletic Club in Town & Country.

When it comes to gas stations, we’re all a little too familiar with warming “hutches.” This is usually where scary things live: petrified breakfast sandwiches, crusted sausages, tired fries. But here, it’s a little different. Even though I’d ordered that burger, Unger pressed another little something into my hand. It was warm, intriguingly heavy. “Chicken and waffles,” he said. I was slightly delighted by this convenience – having one of my favorite things packed and ready to eat on the road. Because for now, Shelly’s is takeout only. 

But there will be tables. Soon the mountain of beer by the window will be moved (or drunk) to make space for eat-in customers, and concrete will be poured to the side of the building for picnic benches. There surely needs to be some accommodation for the 100 or so customers Unger said he welcomes in each day.

The No. 1 seller is the Shelly’s Double. It’s deliciously simple: two 2-ounce patties, two slices of American cheese, onions, mustard and a few pickles. The Shelly’s Spice, No. 2 in popularity, kicks things up with pepper Jack and siracha. All burgers are made with a combo of brisket, chuck and short rib, and are – dare we say – not a million miles from Five Guys. Elsewhere on the menu: freshly made chicken sandwiches, monster tater tots (“tater kegs”) stuffed with bacon, cheddar cheese and chives; French bread pizzas, salads and wraps.

Unger said he’s inspired by similar gas station concepts in states like Pennsylvania (Sheetz), and Wisconsin (Kwik Trip). “What’s happening is that gas stations are losing things like their cigarette business. They’re finding other ways,” he said.

Shelly’s Smashburger is open seven days a week. Breakfast begins at 6 a.m.; burgers and other hot foods are available from 10:30 a.m. until 8 p.m.