For my return journey to Shake Shack, I decided to challenge the prevailing assumption that the lines are too long, so I set my stopwatch the moment I stepped into line. It wasn’t until I had successfully navigated the line, ordered, waited for my order, sherpa’d it over to a vacant bench, taken my time noshing, drenching every second bite with ketchup so I could taste the smoked bacon half the time, disposed of the wrapper like a dead drop, walked two blocks over to Credit Suisse, grabbed a Citibike, crossed the island to 1st Ave, gone into Gracefully, filled up a small basket of groceries, and lined up for the register that I remembered to check the timer.
One hour even. Not bad.
Standing under the eave with dozens of other patrons crazed from the aroma of roasting red meat, clutching the taser-shaped, Olive Garden/Cheesecake Factory-style “vibey coaster”, it occurred to me – Shake Shack is like the Paseo of New York. Or maybe Paseo is the Shake Shack of Seattle. The comparison is an obvious one – both cities offering up something they do particularly well, in an outdoor setting, with a small army of loyal customers queued up every day.
And, if I may be so bold, Shake Shack has it’s crowd-management s@#$ together in a way that makes me proud to be a New Yorker. Long lines don’t in-and-of-themselves stress me out. It’s not knowing how much longer you’ve got, and the fear that people who arrived after you are being served before that get the heart racing. Shake Shack is like a well-oiled machine.
Anyway, you’re probably wondering about the burgers.
I returned to Shake Shack at the urging of several friends who challenged my assertions that Corner Bistro belonged in the Best Restaurants series. Shake Shack, they said, was more deserving. Topping it off, Tony Bourdain gave them a shout out in The Layover. “Alright – this has to be good,” I thought.
Verdict? It is. Obviously, I ordered the biggest, most obnoxious thing on the menu, the Double Smoke Shack. A “cheeseburger topped with Niman ranch, all-natural applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry pepper, and Shack Sauce.” Times two. Luckily, the patties are fast-food-style slim, so the double was just slightly smaller than double-quarter-pounder sized.
Photo by Simon Doggett
So is Shake Shack the best burger in the city? That’s a little like asking if Louis CK is the best comedian. There are a lot of great burgers, varying vastly in style, and luckily we get to have them all. Shake Shack, which aims at fast-food style, hits the mark, achieving better taste than Micky-D’s or Wendy’s (though not by much – POWerful Wendy’s) all with ingredients you don’t have to google. Corner Bistro hits their own mark, as does Korzo, which I’ve reviewed elsewhere, and I’ll review soon for this blog, and Landmarc, a joint you shouldn’t sleep on just because it’s in the Ritzy Time Warner Center.
New York is a great burger city. It’s hard to go wrong here if you know what you’re looking for.
Normally I display a map with the location, but since Shake Shack has multiple locations, I’ll link to their site. (The flagship is in Madison Square Park.)