Shake Shack is one of those eateries in NYC that I tend to revisit again and again. I used to always go to the original location in Madison Square Park, and no matter what time of the day, there would ALWAYS be a long line! It was rather irritating. One time, it was so short like maybe 10 people deep and I was feeling so fortunate that I took a picture to announce it on Facebook. Then it turned out that Shake Shack wasn’t even open yet and people were just lining up to wait for over 30 minutes before any patty would be put on the grill.
Anyways, Danny Meyer has since expanded his empire to now include multiple Shake Shack locations, and since Pdho had heard such wonderful ravings from myself and Ckoh, he was curious to see what these tasty little burgers were all about. We headed up to the Upper West Side location on 77th and Columbus, and upon arriving at 11:15am we were greeted with absolutely no line!
The French fries are pretty good. They are thick, crinkled cut and cooked to a nice crisp on the outside while still retaining the potato taste inside. They are much more refined than McDonald’s and far better in taste than In-N-Out’s. (On a side note, In-N-Out seriously may have some great tasting burgers but they have to have the absolutely worst French fries in the industry.) The true surprise of the meal was the cheese that topped the French fries. It was delicious! They used a combination of American and Cheddar cheeses which turned out to be light in taste and really added some nice flavor to the fries. None of that Velvetta stuff there, but instead, a more refined tasting mix of melted cheeses. Unfortunately, it wasn’t like the fries needed any more decadence, but as tends to be the theme of adventures… it was all in the name of “just trying it”.
At this point in the meal, Pdho noticed someone famous sitting behind us. Although Ckoh and I couldn’t absolutely confirm, Pdho insisted it was Betty Nguyen from CBS’ The Early Show. I have since confirmed it via CBS website that it was her. I didn’t think it was that interesting, but he felt it was worth mentioning. She is a pretty attractive looking lady. Anyways… back to the food.
I ordered their signature burger, the Shack Burger, which was a hand-formed patty made from a blend of beef ground fresh daily and topped with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and this special sauce. The actual bun is one of the most memorable aspects of these burgers. It’s a potato bun, and it’s so soft and fluffy, and somehow just melts right into the patty. The beef patty is so delicious, and I love the fact that it is cooked perfectly to medium rare.
Ckoh had convinced Pdho to get the Shack Stack (which I had never actually tried before). It is essentially a combination of the Shack Burger and ‘Shroom Burger, so in addition to the regular fixings of the Shack Burger, they added a deep-fried, cheese-stuffed portobello mushroom. The cheese filling was a mix of Muenster and Cheddar cheeses. Honestly, it looked pretty huge. In fact, Ckoh’s Frenchie friend looked rather appalled when he saw it and seemed completely stumped as to how to attack it. He was probably thinking, “Crazy Americans! It’s no wonder they are so fat when they eat something that looks like this!” However, in spite of it’s rather overwhelming look, it was pretty darn tasty. The portobello mushroom added a nice crunch to the burger. I think there was a little much cheese for my liking which made it hard to eat. One bite of the mushroom sent much of the cheese oozing out into the burger, but aside from that, I really did like it.
Many people I know (for whatever reason I’m not sure) tend to compare Shake Shack to In-N-Out. For example, I’ve asked people if they like Shake Shack (without even a mention or comparison to In-N-Out), and they’ll respond with, “I like In-N-Out better.” I can see that both burgers share a slight resemblance because of the fresher tasting ingredients, but Shake Shack is far and away a higher quality hamburger as clearly evidenced by the taste and cost of the entire menu. In-N-Out is hands down the leader amongst its truly fast-food burger competitors like McDonald’s and Burger King. Nevertheless, Pdho also agreed that it’s an unfair comparison.
Shake Shack is still as good as I remember and probably even better now having tasted other equally delicious tasting things on their menu. Although we didn’t have to deal with a long wait, by the time we finished our meal, there was already a line running outside the restaurant and a number of people eyeing the few tables available to sit. It seems that they weren’t aware of the seating downstairs. Oh well! I guess it shows how popular Shake Shack is. It has already spread its wings and set up locations in Florida (Miami and Sarasota Spinggs), but I heard that Shake Shack is also looking to expand into California, so it will be interesting to see when it happens and how it will fair.
366 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10024
PAFO Ratings for Shake Shack:
Price 2½ stars
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 4 stars
Overall rating 3½ stars