Shake Shack: What Is It About This Burger?
Shake Shack has about as much hype as the 2010 World Cup, Rio de Janeiro, the iPad, and everything Google touches; it’s uber-restauranteur Danny Meyer’s money-maker; it’s been heralded as New York’s best burger on occasion and has so many fans that an entire page of their website is devoted to post-it note comments from them; the Shake Shack universe could really be considered a cult. Get the point? Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack rules Manhattan’s burger scene like the football quarterback rules high school.
Now, the obvious question is whether or not it’s actually that good, whether Danny Meyer’s machine has managed to whip up such a fuss that the hype alone carries the burger. Well, it’s good. Actually, it is very very good – while smaller than many burgers, it’s also far more satisfying than most. After every bite, I asked myself: what IS it about this burger? Is it the ‘special’ sauce (which, by the way, appears to be some sort of slightly spicy slightly sweet mayo)? The hot griddled potato bun that manages to be fluffy and soft without seeming mushy? The unique ShackBurger blend of meat from Pat LaFrieda? Most likely, all of above come together to transform what looks like your typical cheeseburger into something truly special.
Shake Shack itself is really a brilliant concept – something totally unique in Manhattan. Danny Meyer took the concept of a roadside burger stand, of the type you’d find along your local route, and modernized it into a trend-setting and beloved New York establishment. The plain contemporary grey building in a corner of Madison Square Park has an order window, a pick-up window, and is surrounded by a sprawling set of green park tables. The notion is simple, easy, and cheap – and wildly popular. As soon as the weather gets nice, the lines start. During peak hours, the line for a ShackBurger can wind around the park and down Madison, creating wait times of an hour. Locals, tourists, businessmen, students, yuppies, hippies, and burger fanatics alike line up for their fix.