Prior to this most recent visit to New York, we had never had the chance to visit one of the Shake Shack branches whilst in the Big Apple; however, since we launched James vs. Burger, many of our readers have e-mailed us and contacted us on Facebook and Twitter to tell us that we hadn’t tasted a truly great burger until we’d had one from Shake Shack. That was all the recommendation we needed, so it was high on our to-do list on this recent trip stateside.
We had planned to visit the original Shake Shack located in Madion Square Park; however, with the weather turning out to be a huge letdown, we decided to head to 8th avenue so that we could sit inside as the thought of enjoying a burger in the pouring rain was less than appealing! The 8th Avenue branch is located just a few minutes walk from Times Square and is the perfect lunchtime spot if you are out taking in the major tourist attractions in the city. There are now six Shake Shack branches in New York City alone with others having popped up in Connecticut, Florida, Washington DC, Pennsylvania and even Dubai! With reports of wait times of up to one hour for a burger, we were hoping for something special.
We had passed the Shake Shack theatre district branch the day prior to our visit and were fairly gobsmacked at the size of the line. It literally came out of the entrance and stretched along 8th avenue. Despite already hearing about the large lines, it’s still hard to believe when you actually see it for yourself. Fortunately enough, when we arrived the next day, the line wasn’t quite as long. It still spilled out on to the street, but we only waited around 20 minutes as opposed to an hour, which is common for a lot of visitors, especially during summer. Even if you have to wait a while, members of staff will come outside and hand you a menu so that you can drool over all of the burgers on offer. The ordering process is fairly simple – walk up to the counter, tell them if you are sitting-in or ordering to go, place your order, give your name and pay. You’ll then be given a Shake Shack buzzer that will vibrate when your order is ready so that you can go find a table and then head back up to the front counter when your food is available to collect. We were lucky enough to snag a table just as another couple left; however it was absolutely filled to the brim with customers and many were waiting a long time to get seated with a few people even opting to stand and eat instead.
On to the burger itself, we opted for the double shack burger – a double cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato and Shake Shack’s secret ShackSauce. The first thing I noticed before I even took a bite of my burger was the sight of a McDonald’s restaurant across the street. Shake Shack could be described as premium quality fast food and I wondered how it would compare to the fast food burgers I was used to.
Presentation wise, Shake Shack looked outstanding. The burgers are served up almost peering out of a paper wrapper, allowing you to see exactly what you are about to eat even before you unwrap it. The two patties almost merge together as a result of the lashings of melted cheese and shack sauce that cover them and the bright green lettuce and striking red of the tomato finish off an excellent looking burger. In terms of fast food, you won’t find better presentation than this. In terms of the taste, Shake Shack definitely delivers. The fresh ground beef really shines here and despite the fact that you’re eating fast food, it’s easy to tell that what you are eating is fresh and of the highest quality. To maximise flavour, Shake Shack don’t shape the meat into patties before cooking. Instead, the meat is formed into round balls and then pressed – a process that I would never have imagined making any kind of difference, but if this burger is anything to go by, Shake Shack have discovered the perfect way to cook up fast food burgers. The patty practically crumbled apart in my mouth and was incredibly soft and tender. The lettuce and tomato gave the whole thing a nice extra crunch and added a little more depth to the overall flavour. What I was most impressed with; however, was the secret Shack Sauce. With each bite, I tried to figure our exactly what was in it. I was certain I could taste wholegrain mustard, lots of mayo, American mustard and a little hint of onion, but after a while I decided to give up and just enjoy the taste. If you could buy this stuff in bottles, I’d order several cases today. It’s that good. Despite the fact that I’m not a huge fan of McDonalds. I do love their Big Mac sauce; however, Shake Shack’s secret sauce tops it in every way.
All burgers at Shake Shack are cooked medium unless requested otherwise. In our opinion, there’s no need to request it any other way. Ours was perfectly cooked and gave off a nice smooth, charred, juicy flavour, which was complimented by the secret Shack Sauce perfectly. Much like the burger we sampled at the Le Parker Meridien, Shake Shack serves up their patties on no-frills buns. You find brioche or sourdough here – just good old fashioned quality patties at a great price. When the beef is this good, it really could be served on just about anything and I would still sing it’s praises to just about everyone I know. Some people have complained about the burgers not being very big; however, I felt that they were a perfect size for the price and the fact that if you throw in some fries and a shake, it is doubtful you’d have room for anything bigger. In addition, the burgers are easy to eat – not overly messy but the shack sauce and melted cheese provide just enough of a great look and texture that you are always reminded that this is a burger that doesn’t skimp on it’s toppings. The bun tasted good, held it’s own and didn’t fall apart and that is all you can really ask for.
We opted for one of Shake Shack’s frozen conrete shakes – dense frozen custard which is blended at a high speed with an assortment of mixers. We went for the ‘Great White Way’ consisting of vanilla custard, marshmallow sauce and rice crispies blended together. It was my idea of a perfect shake. So thick that I ate most of it with a spoon and the marshmallow sauce taste was so good that I wanted to order another one to take out as we left (I didn’t!).
Unfortunately, there was one thing I didn’t rate at Shake Shack – the fries. Shake Shack offer the option of basic fries or cheese covered fries and I wasn’t really impressed with either. The fries are crinkle cut and resembled fries that I could buy from my local frozen food store and make at home. They tasted fairly average and were nothing to write home about, considering that in New York City, most burgers are served with delicious handcut fries, or even better – sweet potato fries. The fries being a little substandard is forgivable though, when you take into account how good the burgers at Shake Shack actually are. Here, every last bit of love and care goes into producing the best fast food burgers you could ever hope to find and the fries are simply an after-thought; however, when the burgers are this good you most likely won’t even care. If you aren’t a big eater, I’d recommend skipping the fries completely and instead get a large shake or fozen concrete with your burger instead.
For the excellent price, outstanding flavour and quality of meat on offer, Shake Shack is unbeatable. You need it in your life. Now.
Price: $7.10 (fries $2.65 extra, frozen custard shakes/concretes $5 – $7)
Have you tried this burger? Did you love it? If so, let us know!
Talk to James on Twitter and tell us what you thought of this burger! You can also leave your own review and comments below. We want to hear from you! You can also leave a message or join in on the burger chat on our Facebook page.
Shake Shack (Theatre District)
691 8th Avenue
New York City
Phone: (646) 435-0135