In this modern world of web review sites, twitter, facebook, and the like, it’s not uncommon for places to get a lot of hype these days. Sometimes the hype is warranted. Sometimes it isn’t. On our recent trip to NYC, we decided to meet up with my friend Roy and give it a shot.
In the case of Shake Shack, the modestly-sized, well, shack in Madison Square Park in New York City, the hype is substantial. Pretty much every respectable burger blog has talked about (sometimes I swear AHT has an article a week on the place), as well as several magazines. The lines are often daunting as well. But, at least from my experience, the hype is warranted (especially if you know a little line management, such as going off-peak).
Danny Meyer opened the first Shake Shack back in 2004 on the south end of Madison Square Park. Unlike a lot of burger joints these days, Shake Shack doesn’t through a huge amount of toppings on a burger (with some exceptions, however, like the Shack Stack I’ll discuss later), focusing primarily on the beef patty itself. The burgers are West Coast style, focusing on a fairly small patty that’s grilled crisp on the griddle. By using their own beef blend of sirloin and brisket, packing it loosely, and using the “smash into the griddle” technique, they’re pretty much masters of the “juicy patty with nice crispy bits around it.” The patty isn’t all that substantial, but that’s why double burgers figure prominently on the menu. Their primary burger, the “Shack Burger” is true West Coast style: burger, cheese, “shack sauce”, lettuce, tomato, and onion. And it really works. A patty that’s pretty much perfect, and some condiments that complement but don’t cover the burger’s goodliness.
As far as the non-burger items, I was pretty satisfied. I’ve never been a great fan of crinkle-cut fries, but the ones at the Shack are nicely cooked, and certainly don’t detract from the meal. Good, but not outstanding. I did, however, really enjoy my extra-thick chocolate malt, which was a nice consistency, and nicely malty.
I also decided to throw caution to the wind and try one of the more outrageous items: The Shack Stack: consisting of two burger patties, cheese, a deep-fried cheese-stuffed portabello, lettuce, and tomato. Oh, and Shack Sauce. It’s truly overkill, but it actually works. Biting through the monstrosity (which partially collapses in a river of cheese after the first bite), you get a little bit of everything: two cheeses, nice crispy burger bits, nice woody mushroom bits, some of the breading, some crunch from the lettuce, etc. It’s actually quite good, although it’s also very heavy. I’ll probably just do a Double Shack next time instead.
Still, is the place worth the hype? I wouldn’t wait two hours for a Shack burger, but I’d probably do an hour. Luckily, they have a webcam where you can check on the line.
Madison Square Park (and two other locations in NYC)
New York, NY