"You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars." Charles Kuralt

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Shake Shack

For the last few years I’ve been hearing about Shake Shack. The popular word is that it is a piece of hamburger heaven tucked away in the corner of a small park near the lower end of Midtown Manhattan. When enough people say that it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever had, I start to pay attention. Now, to be honest, although I get into the city a few times a year, I usually have a pretty packed itinerary and never enough time. As a result, it’s taken me this long to finally try it out for myself.


Before going I downloaded a .pdf of the Shake Shack menu and also made note of their hours of operation. It’s a good thing that I did. Normally open through dinner, the day I was going they were scheduled to close at 3pm due to a special event in the park. It was going to be tight, but I was determined to get there. After a series of minor but time-consuming travel mishaps that required a complete retooling of the day's plan, I hit the Holland Tunnel and slid into a miraculously available metered spot directly across the street from my destination. It was 2:45.

It’s a good thing that I checked the menu online before I went, because the large menu boards on either side of the Shack don’t offer descriptions of the individual offerings. If you’re not sure something is when you get there, you’ll need to ask. Instinctually, I went right for the biggest, baddest looking thing on the menu: The Shack Stack. A sandwich of 2 cheeseburgers and a ‘shroom burger served with lettuce, tomato and shack sauce for $8.75. A ‘shroom burger is a crisp-fried portobello filled with melted muenster cheese.

I’m not usually a big mushroom fan, but I figured, “What the heck?”. So, I queued up on the A-Line, placed my order, and received one of those little buzzers that restaurants give you to let you know when your table is ready. In this case it would go off when my order was up. I took the time to wander around the park a little before laying claim to one of the small tables arrayed al fresco around the Shack. Before long my buzzer was doing its thing, and I got my burger and fries at the pick-up window.

The first thing I noticed about my Shack Stack was that it was tall and cheesy. I could tell that this was probably going to get a little messy. When I took my first bite cheese went everywhere, but I was too busy enjoying my burger to give it much notice. I had been dubious about the mushroom thing, but too be honest it was definitely okay. If you like fried mushrooms this is something that you really need to try. I ate about half the ‘shroom before hitting my maximum fungal tolerance level and peeled it off. This let me concentrate on the flavor of the burger itself.

Very few places do it just right for me. I like my burger a little juicy, but not underdone. I shouldn’t have a river of grease running down my arms, but it had better not be dry. The addition of a soft, slightly squishy bun usually makes it just right. The burgers here at Shake Shack seemed to offer all of this. My burger went down way too easily. If they hadn’t closed down right after I ordered my first round, I would surely have gone back for another. My personal pick from here on out is the Double Shackburger, which is basically what I had just eaten sans the ‘shroom.

If burgers aren’t your bend, you can get a variety of dogs and brats as well. And don’t forget the aforementioned veggie-friendly ‘shroom burger as well as a variety of ice cream treats. It is called Shake Shack after all. Another perk is that they serve beer and wine. Although I chose to abstain on this visit, I can easily imagines relaxing in the park over lunch and enjoying a nice cold bottle.So there it is, all you burger gourmands out there. It’s time to put Shake Shack on your lists. So, the next time you’re in New York make your way down to Madison Square Park at the corner of Madison Avenue and 23rd Street, because in a city filled with burger joints of varied quality, here you’ll find one of the best. My only regret is that I waited so long to get there.

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