Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Shake Shack, Madison Square Park

Shake Shack, Madison Square Park
Open 11 am – 11 pm

I love watching the Food Network, but it’s a dangerous late-night activity since their shows always make me hungry. Last night, “Unwrapped” was doing a special on hamburgers - they ran a segment on the original Shake Shack, and all restraint went out the window! Shake Shack is a casual, walk-up shack in Madison Square Park (two blocks from my apartment!) that serves burgers, hot dogs, shakes, fries, and custard. A quick survey of reviews on Yelp.com re-assured my hungry roommates and I of its greatness, and a glance at the online “Shack Cam” promised a short wait - good news, given their reputation for hour-long lines.

We all opted for Single ShackBurgers, but if I’d been hungrier I would have jumped on the Double Stack - a ShackBurger topped with their ‘Shroom Burger. The ‘Shroom Burger is a lightly fried Portobello mushroom filled with both muenster and cheddar cheese - both burgers come topped with lettuce, tomato, and Shack sauce (a “secret” mix of mayonnaise, ketchup, chipotle, and other ingredients). Shake Shack serves wine and five kinds of beer, but we opted for vanilla milkshakes, made with soft serve and ice cream. Two orders of cheese fries and five minutes later, we sat down with our food at one of their park tables.

Despite my strong aversion to processed cheese and the congealed mess that melted cheese becomes as it cools, Shake Shack’s cheese fries kept me eating even after they were no longer hot - a huge compliment in itself. The fries themselves are slightly disappointing, though. They’re missing a crucial dose of salt and are awfully similar to Ore-Ida’s crinkle-cut fries - one fry even had a slightly cool center that reminded me of impatiently making these same fries at home.

Picture courtesy of New York Magazine

The burgers are ... good. As a loyal devotee of Five Guys, I may be a little biased, but Shake Shack’s burger did little to woo me over. A mixture of ground brisket and sirloin, I was expecting more flavor here than from their ground chuck competitors, but I didn’t notice any real difference. The tomato slice had good heft, but a burger bite that was mostly tomato revealed a disappointing lack of flavor, especially compared to the lovely Jersey tomatoes I grew up with. Their use of American cheese was perfect, though, echoing Shake Shack’s laidback, summer vibe and recalling childhood memories of backyard cookouts. A more liberal amount of Shake sauce (or even ketchup) would have been nice, but the burger was still juicy, and didn’t soak through its soft bun.

Shake Shack serves a decent, respectable burger. It’s not worth an hour’s wait, and definitely not on a hot, sunny Saturday! But on a warm, summer night, with the Square’s fountain running, Shake Shack’s Edison bulbs dangling from the trees, and Manhattan’s traffic at a low rumble, it was almost like being transported to your favorite Jersey Shore boardwalk stand. On a night like last night, I’d absolutely walk those two blocks over - especially to try that Double Stack.

(see full menu here)

1 comment:

  1. It's a bummer you didn't enjoy the Shake Shack so much. Their shroom burgers are the best! I think the wait is part of the charm, so if you want faster Shake Shack food indoors, you can try their other locations - *much* shorter wait time.