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Copperline Smashburgers serves up burgers, hope, and opportunity

Copperline Employees
Posted at 9:32 PM, Jan 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-16 11:42:12-05

HELENA — At the Copperline Smashburgers in Helena, owner Chris Abrego is not just serving burgers and fries – he is also dishing out hope and opportunity with a side of culinary expertise.

In a kitchen full of renegades, Chris Abrego's journey started at the age of 17 as a dishwasher in a Washington restaurant, fueled by a desire not to disappoint his older brother. From that moment, he knew his future lay in kitchens and restaurants.

Chris Abrego Hardware Cafe

Abrego quickly made a name for himself in Helena, opening three restaurants in just over two years. It all started with the Hardware Café in Montana City in 2021, followed by the Copperline Airstream in January 2023. The latest addition, Copperline Smashburger on 11th Avenue, opened its doors in November 2023, marking another milestone in Abrego's culinary journey.

Copperline Streamline Trailer

There's more to Chris Abrego than just his success in the Montana culinary scene. Chris also owns a culinary business and is a graduate of culinary school in Chicago. His expertise extends beyond Montana, as he was part of opening several upscale restaurants in Chicago and spent significant time in New York at prestigious restaurants. Chris applies all the techniques he learned in these culinary meccas to his restaurants here in Helena, Montana.

However, managing multiple establishments requires resilience, as he acknowledges the challenges of a hot, bustling kitchen filled with fires, knives, and hot grease.

Copperline Employees Working

For Chris Abrego, finding the right people to work in his demanding kitchens is crucial. He values individuals who can handle stress, pressure, tough love, and language – a unique temperament that goes beyond just culinary skills.

Robert Winkler, a Copperline employee, says, “I have a less than stellar past, oftentimes opportunities don’t present themselves, I think the thing I respect most about Chris is he judges you solely on your ability to do the job and you can't ask for more than that with an employer.”

Copperline Smashburger

Anthony Gonzalo, another Copperline employee, adds, “He (Chris) creates a culture that is based around that whole second chance, I don’t know, I really enjoy it, it's like a family environment I look forward to going to work every day with the people I work with.”

Lindsey Jager is another employee who believes Copperline has been a second chance, one built on a foundation of trust with Abrego.

"He's given me a level of trust that I don't think any other employer would have given me due to my circumstances," explained Jager. "So, it's been a very great opportunity for me."

Copperline Milkshake

If you want to indulge in a Copperline Smashburger visit the drive-thru-only airstream on Custer Avenue or head to the new corner restaurant on 11th Avenue and North Saunders in Helena. View their menu here.