Monday, October 03, 2011

Shake Shack (New York, NY)

Shake Shack Madison Square Park
1 E 23rd St, New York, NY 10010
Mon 10/03/2011, 03:30p-04:20p

Shake Shack Madison Square Garden

On the final day of my last trip to New York (which saw dinners at Kajitsu and wd~50), I was looking for a quick place to catch lunch before flying back to LA, and Shake Shack fit the bill nicely.

Shake Shack was the design of legendary restaurateur Danny Meyer and his vaunted Union Square Hospitality Group, a company that owns some of NYC's most beloved eateries, including Eleven Madison Park, The Modern, Gramercy Tavern, and the place that started it all, Union Square Cafe. Teaming up with longtime compatriot David Swinghamer (who serves as Shake Shack's CEO), he opened the first outpost in July 2004 in the Flatiron District as an homage to the childhood foods he grew up eating in the Midwest. The restaurant was a smash hit pretty much from the get-go, and was named the City's best burger by New York Magazine in 2005. Shake Shack's success meant that Meyer had to decide if he wanted to stay put with one location, or expand; he went with the latter option.

The second outpost opened in October 2008 on the Upper West Side, while another kiosk debuted inside the NY Mets' Citi Field the following year. 2010 saw two Shake Shacks bow in Manhattan--one in Midtown's Theater District and another in the Upper East Side (a stone's throw away from Papaya King)--while two others opened up in Miami's South Beach and at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York. In April 2011, the franchise made its first appearance outside the US, with a location at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai; this was quickly followed by another at The Avenues mall in Kuwait City. Shake Shack moved to Washington DC's Dupont Circle in May last year, and June saw another concession stand debut at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals baseball team. These were joined by further outposts in Westport, Connecticut and NYC's Battery Park City. Yet another restaurant opened last December in Brooklyn's Fulton Street Mall, and plans are underway for a Shake Shack at Grand Central Terminal, as well as one in Westbury, Long Island.

We, of course, had to try out the original.

ShackBurger [$4.50]
This is the burger that built an empire. It all begins with a four-ounce patty of proprietary blend Angus beef from renowned "Meat Prince" Pat LaFrieda, ground daily and formed by hand. The meat is cooked to a medium temperature, and served with a slice of American cheese, green leaf lettuce, plum tomato, and ShackSauce (think Thousand Island or Russian dressing), all on a grilled potato bun. The result, well, is pretty fantastic, with a perfect interplay between the savory, succulent meat and the gooey cheese, all beautifully balanced by the tomato and lettuce and tied together by the tangy ShackSauce. All the elements just worked in unison flawlessly, making this one of the best burgers that I'd had in a while.

Strawberry Shake
Strawberry Shake [$5.00]
Of course, we had to try one of Shake Shack's eponymous shakes, which are hand-spun and available in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, caramel, peanut butter, and black & white varieties. We ordered the strawberry version, and it was exactly what I was expecting, with a pronounced berry flavor and a thick-ass consistency.

Shack-cago Dog
Shack-cago Dog [$4.00]
The Shack-cago Dog is Shack Shack's tribute to the famed Chicago-style hot dog. The star of the show is a Vienna all-beef frankfurter, split in half and griddled crisp. The dog is placed in a potato bun, and "dragged through the garden," topped with Rick's Picks relish, onion, cucumber, pickle, tomato, sport pepper, mustard, and celery salt. This all makes for a pretty reasonable, and tasty, approximation of the Chicago Dog, with all the ingredients coming together nicely. I especially enjoyed the snappiness of the wiener, and the refreshing piquancy of the sport pepper.

Fries [$2.65]
Fires, naturally, were a must, and I really appreciated how the crinkly variety (somewhat hard to find these days) was used here. Made from Yukon Gold potatoes, the fries were spot on, perfectly crisp on the outside, yet with a creamy, starchy interior.

The Arnold Palmer
The Arnold Palmer [$2.15]
A lighter beverage was also called for: a textbook Arnold Palmer, a 50/50 mix of lemonade and iced tea.

Shack Stack
Shack Stack [$8.50]
Not quite sated at this point, we also requested a Shack Stack, which is basically a ShackBurger with the addition of a deep-fried, muenster- and cheddar-stuffed portobello. It was pretty much completely over-the-top in a devilishly delicious manner, with the mushroom-cheese combo adding a profound earthiness, richness, and depth to the burger that complemented without overwhelming.

Shack Attack
Shack Attack [$6.50]
Rounding things out for dessert was one of Shake Shack's so-called "Conceretes," which is a frozen custard blended with various mix-ins. Shown above is the Shack Attack, comprised of chocolate custard, hot fudge, chocolate truffle cookie dough, Valrhona chocolate chunks, and chocolate sprinkles. We're talking serious chocolate overload here--decadent, totally excessive, and sort of awesome.

There's a lot of hype surrounding Shake Shack, but the place was pretty damn impressive overall, serving up the best fast food burger that I'd ever experienced, and easily beating out the likes of In-N-Out or Five Guys. The quality was evident in every bite, and I can only hope that Meyer and company decide to expand to Los Angeles in the future. I'd gladly trade for Umami Burger!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah! Kevin you're back in NYC I see. What other places do you plan on going to this time?

I'd love to see your review on places like Barbuto or Spotted Pig. But I know you're probably also going to hit up a 3 star Michelin like Eleven Madison or Daniel.

And I definitely think you'd appreciate Sushi Yasuda, which is my favorite sushi spot in the city. I've eaten at alot of sushi places including Masa, Urasawa, etc. But for some reason Sushi Yasuda just seems to be the only place where you can get that super pristine flavored salmon in New York.

Anyways, happy travels, and I look forward to seeing where you venture in this great city.

Friday, January 27, 2012 1:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well apparently I'm illiterate, as you just mentioned this is your last day in town. :(

I just wanted to add one thing. Five Guys sucks. Overrate, the meat pattys aren't seasoned, and it just tastes like your uncle in a hawaiian shirt, backyard grilled burgers.

Friday, January 27, 2012 1:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice write-up, Kevin, but if I'm honest, I'm eagerly awaiting your reviews of starred establishments. Hope New York treats you well.

Friday, January 27, 2012 8:18:00 AM  
Blogger 12345 said...

It's a strong comment to make that it's the best fast food burger, but I'd have to agree. We went to NYC this past year and tried a Shake Shack burger; I thought there is no way NYC has better burgers than LA. Well at least we still have Mexican.

Also, we tried a bunch of other places..our favs on the last trip were Brooklyn Fare (no photos allowed), Del Posto (tortello and gnudi were amazing), DBGB, Ai Fiori and Keste.

On our previous trip together, favs were Marea, EMP, Artichoke Pizza (Sicilian Slice), Momofuku Ssam Bar, Jean Georges, Blue Hill at Stones Barns (we were split on this one), Russ and Daughters, and Momofuku Milk Bar (Candy Bar Pie)...very disappointed by Babbo and Le Bernardin.

Most or all of which you have heard of. I would push for you to try Del Posto and Artichoke

Friday, January 27, 2012 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger daniel s. kim said...

shake shack's awesome!

but i don't know. i'd still eat in-n-out anyday.

Friday, January 27, 2012 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben @Focus:Snap:Eat said...

How long did you stand in line? When I was in New York, the line just seemed too long, circling the park. The Shake-cago dog looks good though.

Friday, January 27, 2012 1:30:00 PM  
Blogger thngotiatr said...

I would definitely choose Shake Shack over In-N-Out but I think that in part has to do with the fact that I've been eating it for 25+ years. That being said, you gotta get the cheesy fries on your next trip back.

Saturday, January 28, 2012 1:05:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Anon: Well I gotta admit, EMP and Daniel *are* at the top of my to-eat list in NY. How's Yasuda holding up after Chef Naomichi left? As for Five Guys, I think the "uncle in a hawaiian shirt" taste is part of the appeal. ;)

Andrew: I went to a couple of those, but unfortunately my stay in the City was brief this time around.

Waleed: Ha! Don't we still have Korean and Thai too? Thanks for the recommendations--a lot of them are already on my list, but a few new names as well; Artichoke looks promising.

Daniel: Well In-n-out is a lot cheaper, but if they had Shake Shacks here in LA, I think I'd gravitate toward them more.

Ben: The line was surprisingly short; I'd say about five minutes. And I even went back in line for the Shack Stack.

Vinh: Yes, I should! I hear you about eating In-N-Out for 25 years, but when it comes to Five guys vs In-N-Out, I think I'd still go with the latter despite the novelty of the former.

Saturday, January 28, 2012 6:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Rich said...

Hmm I was not as impressed by Shake Shack as you were. Perhaps the hype made me extra-cynical and looking for faults. But I do agree that it is better than In-and-Out. Have you tried the Burger Joint? It's another hyped up burger place in New York. It's not bad, and the location is quite fun.

Saturday, January 28, 2012 8:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice reveiw, if you go there again try the off menu "Peanut Butter Burger" & wash it down with "Shandy"

Sunday, January 29, 2012 11:21:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Rich: Nope, I've not been to Burger Joint. How does it compare to the Shack? And what's your favorite fast food burger?

Dason: Hmmm...I was not aware that Shake Shack had a "secret" menu.

Thursday, February 02, 2012 2:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would gladly trade kevineats for a real food blog....

Thursday, February 09, 2012 7:04:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Is that you, Adam?

Monday, February 20, 2012 12:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Dtrea said...

Shake Shack is more than twice the price of In-N-Out, and you've got to wait in line for hour. If I'm spending nearly $10 on a burger, I'd rather skip the line and go to Umami Burger which is the ultimate burger experience. Otherwise, day-to-day, I'll stick to In-N-Out for $3.

Monday, April 16, 2012 10:00:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Dtrea, the standard burger here is $4.50, which isn't anywhere near $10. Also, I spent mere minutes in line.

I agree that In-N-Out is my choice for day-to-day burgers, though I'd hardly call Umami the "ultimate burger experience."

Sunday, April 22, 2012 3:05:00 AM  

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