Monday, September 23, 2013

Shake Shack (New York)

Burger reviewed: The Double Shack

Venue: Shake Shack

Date: 17 August 2013

Continuing on the Burger Friday Fellows journey around America, our next stop on tour is the Shake Shack.

If you like burgers and have not heard of Shake Shack then you might as well have been living under a rock. Nine years ago, New York's, and arguably the world's, hamburger landscape changed forever when an unassuming shack began serving up humanely raised 100% Angus beef.

Started by Danny Meyer in Washington Square Park in NYC, this little roadside burger cart grew into a hospitality group and a cultural phenom, and the rest is history. Since then, Shake Shacks have been popping up worldwide developing a market, alongside companies like Five Guys, into what is now known as the Better Burger market (i.e., above your McDonalds or Burger Kings, but below your gourmet burgers). As the Fellows like to dabble in cult phenoms, as well as food which falls into the Better Burger market, Shake Shack was high on our list of food to try in NYC. This and the fact that almost all of the fellows burger loving friends were continually yabbering about it before we left.

So while in NYC, the Fellows headed to the original Washington Square Park site on what was a glorious summers day to try the most talked about burger in the world to see if the hype lived up to the bite.

Greeted by a line curling around the Parks walkway, the Shack almost blends into the surrounding greenery, with the only give away being the connecting fairy lights and the hundreds of people mingling around in excitement. After about a 30 minute wait to order and another ten whilst it cooked, our food arrived.

In true Burger Friday tradition we ordered the signature Shack burger and decided to do it with a double pattie because, as with beef and beer, two is always better than one. The Shack burger is a 100% Angus beef pattie served with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles and a special Shack Sauce, all squeezed between a marshmallow-like soft bun.

The incredible simplicity of the ingredients listed above, belie the complexity of the flavourings and sensations that exploded in my mouth on that very first bite. While almost everyone I know has talked up this burger as being almost orgasmic, i had found it hard to believe the hype until I could taste it to prove it. So after that first bite, I was a believer. This is a great burger.

The burger literally melted into your mouth with every morsel, dissolving into a beefy and savoury remnant. I would say that this is without doubt the softest burger I have ever eaten. Think of velvety cake like substance that just happens to taste like burger.

While small in size, it was extremely rich in flavour and by the end I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed by choosing the double.

Although it may seem sacrosanct to criticise the burger, and that this act may cause Shack devotees to seek me out for directed acts of revenge, I did have some things I did not like about the burger.

The hero and the villain for me was the Angus beef pattie. Cooked to a perfectly juicy medium from reportedly ground fresh daily beef, it was so buttery soft that it hard to determine where it stood on the liquified to hockey puck pattie cooking ratio. For mine if it had an offsetting somewhat less soft bun, it would have been perfect. Ala the M&M effect. Or, alternativel,y with the bun it had, I would have liked to have seen the pattie charred to give some contrast in texture. (What's soft on the outside and hard on the inside? - maybe avocado?)

The super soft bun, plus the soft pattie meant that there was too much of the sameness, and towards the end of the burger it got a bit blah.

The other thing which I thought it could have also used was slightly more tang. Whilst the Shake Sauce was zesty, I found myself adding American mustard which was freely available from the condiments stand.

The accompanying chocolate shake and crinkle cut fries were both solid and a good addition to the burger, in flavour and at making sure my daily calorie intake was met in a single serving.

In light of the hype, and the overwhelming softness of the burger, I am going to dub this the Wayne Gretsky. Like Shake Shack, Gretsky is universally known as one of the all time greats. While it might be hard to argue that he was truly soft, rumour has it that whilst teams usually have an enforcer who fights your battles on the ice, Gretzky supposedly took it a bit further by having a bodyguard roam the rink just in case things got too out of hand. Regardless it is still a hall of fame burger and I can testify the hype.

If in New York, or a Shake Shack is near you (they are expanding at a rapid rate), definitively go try it out to see what the fuss is about for yourself.

Burger Friday rating: 42/50

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