Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Rate-A-Restaurant, #132 in a series

Restaurant: Shake Shack

Location: Madison Square Park -- Madison and 23rd (New York)

Type of restaurant: Burgers and shakes

We stipulated: My Manhattan lodging, the Hotel Roger Williams, was right around the corner from Madison Square Park and the Shake Shack. So is the New York branch of Variety. All week I not only heard about the Shake Shack, but I passed by the interesting building and the long queues of hungry New Yorkers waiting in line for a burger. By the final day of my trip, I knew I'd regret it if I didn't finally wait in line myself to see what the fuss was about.

What they stipulated: To keep the long lines moving (well, sort of) during rush periods, a second express line is available for people ordering simple, fast items. But in general, unless it's 11 am or 10 pm, you're gonna be waiting.

What I ordered: Shack Burger (lettuce, tomato and Shack Sauce, minus the American cheese) $4.75.

French fries, $2.50

Hand-spun shake: Black and white, $2.95

High point: It was starting to rain, so I grabbed my goodies to go and walked back to the hotel. Talk about the longest wait, sprinting back into the rain in order to take a bite. And man, it was worth it. The hamburger was moist, thick, and tasted like one worth twice its price. I slowly savored the burger, then bit into a fry. Chunky with a bit of a crispy outer texture, it meshed well with the burger.

Then, the real test. How could I go to Shake Shack and not get one? The people in line next to me strongly recommended the Black and White shake -- and again, it was a wise choice. Surprisingly a bit too thin for my taste (I like shakes that are thick -- but still flow-y enough to side through a straw). But the vanilla ice cream shake, mixed with fudge swirl, was still the perfect complement to the rest of the plate. The shake was so rich that for the first time I can remember, I didn't even finish it.

Low point: I went at 11, so the line wasn't too bad. But it's a hefty wait during normal dining hours. Also, eating outside is a problem when rain forms. And I'd love those shakes to be a bit more thick. But that's nit-picking. This was a fantastic meal.

Overall impression: Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group opened up the Shake Shack in 2004, and deserve the accolades they've been given. It reminds my of Taylor's Refresher, the drive-in joint in Napa that was made over several years ago by another gourmet chef.

Chance we will go back:: The second I'm back in New York!

(For our complete list of over 130 restaurant reviews, visit our companion Rate-A-Restaurant site.)

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