Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Restaurant 18: Shake Shack

LOCATION: Madison Square Park, SE Corner
DATE: May 9, 2005
FOOD: “Shroom” Burger, Hopscotch Concrete (hot caramel sauce, chocolate toffee, vahlrona chocolate chunks) w/ salted peanuts.
PRICE: $11.50

April is the cruelest month – for the weather, but also because Shack Shake’s extended hours didn’t start until May. That meant Danny Meyer’s Madison Square Park burger joint was open while I was at work, closed when I left (while the stand was open on weekends, the lines are notoriously long). But April showers bring May’s hours and my first visit to Shake Shack.

NY Metro, TimeOut NY, bloggers galore, seems like everyone and their mother loves Shake Shack’s burgers and numerous outlets have named it the best in New York. Sucks for me. The hot dogs are all beef as well, so that left the ‘Shroom Burger as my only option. In the end though, I was the big winner. I’ll leave the cows to the rest of y’all. This was the best non-beef burger I’d ever had.

Portobellos are meaty mushrooms. But facts are facts and most Portobello burgers I’ve tried in the past, are, well…they leave something to be desired (like meat). Not so Shake Shack’s. One of Meyer’s gastrointestinal savants must have figured out that non-beef eaters don’t like their burgers to have a mushy outside anymore than the rest of society. But most veggie burgers are as soggy as an Englishman’s disposition. The answer to this situation? Like so much in life – the deep fryer.

Fried like a crab cake (and using the same concept as Dinosaur’s fried green tomatoes), the Portobello burger is surrounded by a firm coating which provides a crunch missing in others’ veggie renditions. But the inside makes this burger, a luscious combination of chopped mushroom, onion, seasonings and melted cheese. The cheese is an insightful addition, bursting forth upon first bite. It gushed out, saturating bun and mushroom in its semi-liquidity. Throw in Shake Shack’s thousand island dressing like special sauce and this is a burger even Dr. Atkins could love. I should have ordered a second, but in a rare moment of self-control decided against it.

Along with my burger, I ordered the Hopscotch concrete with salted peanuts slapped on to boot. The vanilla custard was solid, neither too runny nor too thick. While the chocolate chunks were too bulky and the chocolate toffee got lost in the shuffle, the concrete as a whole was delicious. The custard of Kopf’s in Milwaukee and Ted Drewes (review upcoming) in St. Louis are better, but Shake Shack did a noble imitation of a very Midwestern dessert.

So as the temperatures climb and the days outlast the night, Shake Shack becomes a more and more appealing way to spend a summer night. I know I’ll be back for the burgers – the Portobello burgers that is. And to all those clamoring for cow, I’ll paraphrase Marie Antoinette and say, let them eat beef.

RATING: 7.7/10

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