“This is SO GOOD.”
That’s pretty much the going sentiment for anyone who has checked out the newest shack in town: Shake Shack, a popular burger joint with a cult-like following that opened on Chapel Street last week. I was assigned to review the new restaurant, a task that I accepted vigorously and carried out with pride, observing my surroundings between mouthfuls of food.
When I first stepped into the restaurant, I was struck by the burger joint’s clean and welcoming atmosphere. Every employee seemed genuinely happy to work there, and every customer seemed equally happy with their purchase. One of the waiters enthusiastically greeted me with huge smile and a “Hey! How was your day?” Before I had a chance to respond, he asked me whether I wanted a menu before enthusiastically greeting other customers in the restaurant.
The place was crowded. I recognized about a quarter of the audience — all Yale students — and immediately had to wait at the end of a relatively long line. It was about 8:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night, which typically isn’t a busy time for restaurants, but I still had to wait about 20 minutes. That said, Shake Shack’s service was amazing, and the food came quickly. While waiting for my order, one of the servers came up to me and asked whether I wanted a glass of water before my food came! I did. (I didn’t even realize I was so thirsty).
I ended up ordering a ’shroom burger, cheese fries, half-and-half (half lemonade and half iced tea drink) and a “Skull and Cones” concrete, which is just a fancy name for a frozen custard. Each was equally delicious.
I’ll start with the burger. The ’shroom burger is, hands down, my favorite part about the Shake Shack experience. It’s crispy, crunchy, and satisfies your cravings. The burger is made with a fried portobello mushroom stuffed with melted cheese and topped with lettuce, tomato and “Shake Sauce” (I still don’t know what that means). When I took a bite, my mouth was immediately filled with muenster and cheddar cheese that oozed out of the fresh mushroom as I crunched away. It was satisfying, if slightly small. For somebody who eats as slowly as I do, I was surprised that I finished my burger in roughly 15 minutes.
Next came the cheese fries (I tend to eat my food in order). The fries come pretty much as expected. Unlike most straight, narrow fries that you might see at McDonald’s or In-N-Out — which is functionally Shake Shack’s rival on the West Coast, where I’m from — Shake Shack’s fries are jagged. Made out of Yukon potatoes, these golden slices are the perfect way to cap a feast; they’re easy to eat, relatively light and a great way to keep the conversation going if you’re sitting in at one of Shake Shack’s tables.
New Haven’s Shake Shack is also particularly fun because of its Yale-specific menu. Two of their food items, the “Skull and Cones” concrete and “Handsome Dog” hot dog, are clearly tailored to a Yale audience. The Skull and Cones concrete was delicious; it’s chocolate and vanilla frozen custard with peanut butter sauce, chocolate truffle cookie dough and a shattered sugar cone. Though it may be a bit too decadent for any given day, it worked well for my meal, since I haven’t had ice cream for a while and was craving a cold drink to cool my mouth after finishing up the cheese fries.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the Handsome Dog, which I had the opportunity to try at Shake Shack’s pre-opening party last week. For me, the Vienna all-beef dog topped with cheese sauce and “Shackmeister Ale”-marinated onions had a bit too much flavor, but I encourage any Yalie visiting the shack to give it a go regardless.
All in all, my experience with Shake Shack was a very positive one. The atmosphere was inviting, the serving staff was enthusiastic and the food was delicious. Once my food coma settles down and I get another burger craving, I will most certainly go again.