I have traveled all over this great county of ours and sampled burgers of all different makes and shapes: from the highbrow New York gastro pub burger to the greasy spoon variety of Sid’s Onion Burger outside of Oklahoma City. Yes, I have embarked on a personal quest to find what I believe to be is the best incarnation of this American culinary darling. It’s part of my life’s work. Let it be known that I am not above fast food when it comes to my quest: I have sampled burgers from such establishments as Five Guys, In-N-Out, Mooyah, and Whataburger. But none of these places, nor their burgers, hold a special place in my heart as do the epicurean beef delights served up daily at Shake Shack.
Of course such things are a matter of taste and opinion: I prefer the layering of multiple thin patties to one colossal hunk of meat. I prefer a soft warm potato bun to crispy Texas Toast. And under no circumstances do I like ketchup on my burger. In my humble opinion, adding this condiment is a deep betrayal to the essence of the meat. Am I being dramatic? Some would argue, yes. I say: hell, no. But that is another type of article altogether. Moving on…
Shake Shack! First established in 2004 at a stand in Madison Square Park, Shake Shack comes to us from the mind grapes of Danny Meyer. It is part of the restaurateur’s Union Square Hospitality Group, which also includes Blue Smoke (hello, yummy BBQ) and the fancy schmancy Gramercy Tavern. Shake Shack serves up a variety of delicious burgers, hot dogs, crinkle-cut fries, along with a selection of beer and wine. It also offers, as the name implies, shakes. The offerings from the frozen custard part of the menu include: floats, concretes, milkshakes, and cup or cone servings of frozen custard (special seasonal flavors can be found on their online custard menu). The place is truly an epicurean wonder to behold.
Shake Shack’s signature burger is the “ShackBurger”, which includes lettuce, tomato, American cheese, special ShackSauce (NOT a beef betrayal), all layered upon the starring ingredient: the meat. Real hormone-free, antibiotic-free meat. No fillers or anything that makes your burger taste less like beef and more like grey mush (*cough couch* McDonald’s). In 2009, Saveur even published a wonderful piece on Pat LaFrieda and Shack Shack’s custom hamburger blend in its mouth-watering “Burger Issue” (Issue #122). All burgers are cooked to medium, unless otherwise specified. Whenever I make an indulgent visit to the Shack, my usual preference is the Double Shack Burger. However, one time I was so famished and, thus, so bold as to order a Triple Shack Burger. Yes, I did eat it all. And yes, it was everything I hoped it would be. Bulging post triple-patty-burger-belly included. But during one recent visit to the Shack, I was chatting with one of my girlfriend’s and failed to focus when I got to the cashier. I mistakenly ordered the “Double Shack Stack” as opposed to my usual selection. Happily, I found that in the case of Shake Shack burger orders, change could sometimes be good. And delicious.
If you are unfamiliar with the “Shack Stack”, let me enlighten you: it is a combo Shack/’Shroom burger. The Shack part: well, that’s been covered, but with two patties. All I can do further is eat it for you, which I would be happy to do. The ‘shroom part: deep-fried Portobello mushrooms filled with cheddar and Muenster cheese. It is crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside. Combine this deep-fried ‘shroom with the juicy meat and you have a little taste of heaven. Cheese-filled, beef-flavored heaven. Now the “Double Shack Stack” is not something I would order upon each visit – my heart simply couldn’t take it. But is definitely something worth trying. Consider it the Mount Everest of burger eating. Well maybe not Mount Everest, but it is at the very least, of Mount Whitney proportions. Just be sure to grab extra napkins.
Shake Shack has multiple locations throughout NYC: the flagship Madison Square Park stand, the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, Times Square, and at Mets home at Citi Field. Lines can be long, especially during business lunch and traditional dinner hours. But here’s a little gift for you: check out the Shack Cam. It’s a special webcam on the restaurant’s site monitoring the line outside the Madison Square Park location. You can use it to check the crowds so you can run over for a quick burger fix when the time is right. You’re welcome.
The original Shake Shack is located at the Southeast corner of Madison Square Park in front of the Flatiron Building. It is a short walk from Union Square and is easily accessible by the N/R or 6 subway lines. It is open daily from 11am-11pm. Check out www.shakeshack.com for other locations and operating hours.