I never thought the day would come, but I have finally succumbed to the meat-crack that is Shake Shack. I remember when Shake Shack first opened in Madison Square Park, by that time I was already entrenched in gluten-freedom and could only admire the burgers from afar, and sometimes up close as it seemed that everyone around me was eating shack burgers. Time went on and I got over it, but I always wondered about the highly revered Shake Shack burgers and the hour plus waits that people endured to experience their beefy goodness. I recently heard through the grapevine that Shake Shack offers gluten-free options on their menu, which includes their burgers, hot dogs and fries, among some of the desserts. I had to give in and finally experience this mouth-gasm that everyone seemed struck by.
Luckily for me, I didn't have to trek all the way to the city to do so since Danny Meyer decided to open a Shake Shack just 20 minutes away from me in Westport, CT. Don't be fooled by the suburban location, the long wait still comes with the cache of the Shake Shack name, although in less painful 30-45 minute waits. If you go at an off time you can probably shave at least 15-20 minutes off the wait. I'm sure lunch rush is a nightmare, and dinner rush is not that much better with groups of families (myself notwithstanding) making up the majority of the clientele, usually including one screeching child, although our toddler is not a screecher (thank goodness), but does like to shake her tiny butt to the dance music they pop on from time to time.
So the question is, are the burgers really that good? Well, to back up a bit, I sure as hell wasn't trying a bunless burger. There is nothing sadder to me then eating a bun-free burger, so I every time I go to the shack (including my first visit) I bring my own bun. I'm not proud, I will unwrap my pre-toasted bun (from home), plop the burger on it and chow down, and yes, the burgers ARE good. They aren't eyes roll back in your head good, but they stick with you, creeping into your mind and making you crave them, so much so that I've been there at least once a week lately. I feel like I need to wear dark glasses and hide my addiction whenever I go, like no you didn't just see me here last week, that must have been some other lady.
The sleeper hit for me though is the Shack-cago dog, which is an all-beef hot dog that's split in half, grilled and then topped with hot peppers, cucumber, pickles, tomatoes, onions and mustard. The unlikely combo makes for a mouth orgy of goodness and while I don't bring a hot dog bun, it doesn't bother me one bit. It's so flavorful that I really enjoy eating it without bread. The fries are where the shack stumbles a bit for me. They are gluten-free, but something about them doesn't do it for me. I think they would be better off making fresh fries and not the frozen crinkle kind, but beggars can't be choosers right?
The best part about Shake Shack (in my opinion) is they serve alcohol, and while yes there is a screeching kid from time to time at the restaurant, it suddenly becomes that much more manageable when you have a cold glass of wine to drown out the noise.