Even before I moved to New York, I had seen and heard all these rave reviews about Shake Shack. Mostly people I know eating delicious, finger-lickin’ burgers and fries that supposedly rivaled the likes of California’s In ‘n Out Burger, and then posting photos on Facebook for all the world to drool at. Being that I am a glutton for (or, in other words, a great appreciator of) good food, I was excited to try this place for myself as soon as I arrived in New York City. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t live up to the hype.
My Shake Shack experience was somewhat of a let-down from the beginning because my idea was to round up a bunch of friends, grab some Shack-grub, and enjoy it while lounging on a blanket in the fall sun at Central Park. Perhaps also accompanied by some Andre champagne, because I am really classy like that, and because evidently I don’t want to grow up. But everyone bailed on the idea because people apparently have things to do on Sundays besides drink champagne with bubbles the size of marbles and eat greasy fast food. (“Law briefs to write,” “thesis research,” “family brunch,” “fiance visiting the parents” went the excuses.) Ugh. One friend, bless her soul, got a Get Out of Jail card because she spent Sunday afternoon puking and paying for her Saturday night. It was becoming increasingly clear that trying to have Sunday Funday as an adult gets harder every year.
So I resolved to just go to Shake Shack on my own, “because I hadn’t eaten a lot the night before and I had wine hangover to cure,” but actually because I just really wanted some Shake Shack. My good friend Erin was gracious enough to join me for the walk up to Madison Square Park, home of the original Shake Shack. To my surprise, it is actually just a shack. I mean, not made of ply wood and nails, but there is no indoor seating nor a restroom. Also to my great surprise, there was a line literally across the block–the entire avenue block. After the initial shock, I realized that I was the idiot who expected to just breeze right up to a place as popular as Shake Shack, on one of the last decent Sunday afternoons of the year–in New York City. You know what they say (in this saying made up by me just now): Go to Trader Joe’s once around 6pm, shame on you. Go to Trader Joe’s twice around 6pm, shame on me. Turns out Trader Joe’s can be interchangeable with just about anywhere in New York. Goddammit largest city in America.
(Later when I looked up the Shake Shack website, they even had graphics of the long lines prominently displayed… like, Hey check it out, at this restaurant not only do we sell burgers and shakes but you also get to wait in line for an hour beforehand! Lame.)
Luckily Erin felt bad enough for me, seeing as I was so eager to eat this burger, she offered to wait in line with me. Otherwise, I really don’t think I’d have stuck around in the ridiculousness that is the Shake Shack line. Unlike the Trader Joe’s line, this thing does not move quickly. It does not even move at what one might call a “reasonable pace.” It straight up crawls. Jesus, these burgers must be fucking delicious, I thought.
Wrong. After waiting forever in line, this really killed it for me: Upon ordering, you receive a buzzer to let you know when your food’s ready. HOOOLD UP. I’m sorry, did I walk into Olive Garden at the mall during the early-bird special on a Saturday?! How is this considered fast food?! While waiting in line my stomach had basically shriveled up and died. I wasn’t prepared to have to wait even longer. But fine. What’s done is done. Bring on the food.
FINALLY, finally I got my food. The burger, enhanced only by my hunger and sheer desire to consume something food-like, was decent. Does it even come close to touching top five? Not a chance. I ordered just a single Shack Burger, which has “shack sauce”, lettuce, and tomato. The “shack sauce” is akin to mayonnaise, but a little more orangy, for whatever unidentifiable reason (ketchup mixed in?). Luckily they put very little of the sauce on, so I didn’t really notice it. The patty had a sort of hard consistency, and wasn’t juicy at all. On closer inspection, it didn’t really look like quality meat. And, worst of all? It was really just too small, especially after having waited so long for it. In Shake Shack’s defense, I did look longingly at the burgers I saw everyone around me eating, which were much thicker and juicier-looking than mine, some with a huge hunk of cheese oozing out the middle. What burger is that?! Will someone clue me in so that if I ever go back, I might have a better experience?
Then there were the fries. I didn’t get the cheese fries because I frankly hate that yellowy fake nacho cheese goo. I have been told after the fact that the cheese fries are the way to go, but sorry, nacho cheese is really not my cheese. Anyway, these fries were kind of just unmemorable. They are wavy cut, which is kind of unique, except all I could think of were those McCain’s frozen fries. You know, the ones that go really well with Ellio’s rectangle pizza, that all my white friends’ families used to buy and we used to eat when I went over to their houses to play in middle school. (You know what I’m talking about?! Please say you do.) They also got cold real fast because, as Shake Shack does not have indoor seating, I was eating them outside in the chilly fall elements.
For me, it was certainly not worth the wait. I wouldn’t even say it’s worth the 20-block walk to get there. I did not, however, have a milkshake, and I have heard they are great. But sweets aren’t really my jam. I’ll stick with my overly-topped burger and cajun fries from Five Guys.
(And please leave comments if you either agree or disagree with my take, or if you wanna holler at a girl about the McCain’s french fries reference! :))