Shake Shack – New York City, NY

Shake Shack
Madison Ave and East 23rd St.
Southeast Corner of Madison Square Park
New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-6600

I recently went on a quest to find the best burger in New York City. For the rest of the week, you’ll have my breakdown of what I discovered. This is post #1 of 5 related to trying out some of the best that New York has to offer. Hope you enjoy the series.

Looking for the best burger in New York City was a pretty easy proposition to get behind. There’s a lot of existing intel out there on burgers, they are relatively affordable, and they taste pretty good. After all, who doesn’t love a good burger? With a theoretical clean bill of health, I started with the Danny Meyer institution, Shake Shack.

No burger place in New York is more divisive than the Shake Shack. On one side, you have the raving fanatics who love the fresh, hand formed Pat LaFrieda patties, American cheese, basic condiments, and secret Shack Sauce.

On the other side, you have people who despise the long long lineups, the one hour waits, and the “good, but nothing special” aspect to the burger itself.

I had to find out for myself.

I showed up, post lunch, around 2:30pm hoping to dodge some of the legendary lineups. I’d been told that if i want something around lunch time, i had better show up before they opened at 11am, or else im looking at 30-45 minutes. Minimum. Weekends, more. The wait ended up being roughly 10-15 minutes to order. Not bad. Another15 minutes for our burger to arrive, we got in and out in under 30 minutes. Great timing.

They’ve separated their lineups into an A and B line. B line can get custards, paraphernalia, and milkshakes. Hot items, stay in line the long (A) line.

When looking over online reviews of the Shake Shack, one of the most common associations was to In N Out Burger.  Both in simplicity of composition, and in taste.

The burgers themselves are a combination of brisket and sirloin, different than ground chuck used by most burger joints. Cooked to medium, they are available cooked to order. Unfortunately, my medium rare to medium, ended up being more medium well.

The patty itself was pretty similar to In N Out.  A bit fattier, there was a definite richness and a nice flavour to the burger itself. Cooked at what must be a high temperature, there was a decent char on the outside, while maintaining a juicy, delicious interior.

A great part of the burger was the proportion – it was the right amount of bread, to lettuce, to tomato, to beef. The patty was ground reasonably coarse, but had a pretty smooth texture. The size of the overall burger was a bit disappointing.

Fries, which are not very well regarded in reviews, were exactly so. Nothing to write home about. The milkshakes and custards are supposed to be much better. I didnt have the stomach room, but they are almost universally lauded.

Overall, I thought the burger was pretty skimpy – especially for the wait, and the price ($4.75 for a single, $7 for a double). The flavour was nice, and the quality of the ingredients are not in question, but the difference between the Shack Burger and a Double Double doesn’t justify the 40% difference in cost, and the extra 20-80 minutes of wait time . This was a good hamburger, but not a great one. I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve tried some more of the competition.

For overall experience, I would still recommend it. If you are in NYC, and wish to have an interesting experience, it’s worth trying. Eating in Madison Square Park, getting buzzed by Pigeons and Squirrels aiming for your fries is a fun way to spend a lunch hour! If you’re just looking for a great burger with minimal hassle, try one of the next estabishments…

Next up: Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien

Shake Shack (Madison Square Park) on Urbanspoon

8 thoughts on “Shake Shack – New York City, NY

    • Hey HP – I am actually a big fan of In N Out Burger, just not of their fries.

      In terms of comparison, the patty is thicker when compared to a standard hamburger, and definitely has a richer beef taste. There seems to be more fat in it as well, as it definitely purges a lot more juices than an In N Out Burger does. Compared to a INO Hamburger, it’s a bit bigger – to a double double, it’s smaller in size. The accoutrements (lettuce, tomato) are a wash.

      The “big fuss” item I don’t get is the Shack Sauce – it was decent, but didnt really add much to the entire experience.

      I guess I would say people who will really enjoy Shake Shack are burger purists. Taste is better, but the price and quantity are not. People who just want a very good burger for a very good price will prefer In N Out.

  1. Awww, Shake Shack. Was in NYC earlier this year and burgers (presumably quicker fare to obtain) are perfect when you’re run down from walking around a lot! We did visit the Shake Shack on the Upper West Side and the boyfriend who is really a carbs guy who doesn’t care too much for meats/burgers really enjoyed his burger! I had the hot dog (dumb choice, huh?) and he scarfed his burger down and I never got a taste, haha. I thought the shake was alright… not nearly enough to share between two people when you’re tired and hungry!
    Gosh, I wanted to visit the Burger Joint but we didn’t get around to it. =S

    • Wyn,

      I love burgers on the run too! Though lately, it’s been french fries for me. Easier to share a tasty load of frites, and they arent quite as messy if you forgo aioli or other sauces.

      Great intel on the shake btw – it was a between meals meal, so i didnt have the capacity to try one. What flavour did you get?

      Sounds like your boyfriend really enjoyed Shake Shack – has he tried any of the other American staples so we might compare to see just how selective he is about his burgers? 🙂

      As for Burger Joint – stay tuned to see if you chose the right place to try a burger!

    • Ah 🙂 No worries! The fries were not great. Pre-frozen, they were crispy, but the inside had that creamy, mealy texture I find frozen fries often have. I’ve been told the potato they use is Yukon gold as well, which would explain the texture.

      There are many other places i’d rather eat fries. If the custard or shake is as good as people say, i’d just get one of those instead.

  2. (I really wanted to comment on this post when it originally came out but chose not to because I was there around that time…)

    When I was in NY, I saw that line and my thoughts were… Are these guys nuts??? Sure, there is that possibility the burgers are good but, c’mon… If I am an out of towner, I would rather spend one hour walking/looking around than standing one hour just to get a burger! Thanks for letting me know it was a good thing I did not line up.

  3. Pingback: New York, New York! | I'm Only Here for the Food!

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