When you think of the United States of America what do you imagine? Towering skyscrapers? Sunny Beaches? Famous faces? How about a good ol’ American cheeseburger? The burger is an iconic American food, even recently honoured in the movie The Founder telling the story of how McDonald’s came to be. But don’t worry, I won’t be reviewing McDonald’s today (that hype is way out of my league), instead I’ll be taking a look at a more recent import: Shake Shack.
In the US, where the burger reigns supreme, creating a new burger brand which captures the public’s attention is no easy feat. However that is exactly what Shake Shack has done. Since its founding in 2004 it has been one of the fastest-growing food chains, amassing 136 locations as of October 2017. Shake Shack has all the makings of a classic fast food outlet: a relatively simple menu, including the essential burgers and fries, and food served exceptionally quickly. However in comparison to the more long-standing fast food chains, Shake Shack delivers up a quality meal, with fresher ingredients from “like-minded artisanal producers” (yes this is actually a quote from their website).
“In the US, where the burger reigns supreme, creating a new burger brand which captures the public’s attention is no easy feat”
In 2013 Shake Shack opened its first London location in Covent Garden, and has maintained a steady hype around its brand, allowing for a further three locations to open in the city and four more in the UK. As the favourite burger of the east coast of the US I began to wonder: is Shake Shack really worth the hype?
To get the most authentic experience I visited the original London location: Covent Garden. Covent Garden itself has a palpable buzz, off which Shake Shack was cleverly feeding. The main seating area is centred in the middle of the vibrant market building piazza while the food is ordered and prepared inside the building opposite. The ordering room was smartly decorated with a simple colour scheme, including dark blues and the bright dark green of the Shake Shack logo. The menu itself was quite straightforward and focused on burgers and hot dogs. To get the full experience I ordered a selection, including a ShackBurger, the famous ‘Shroom Burger’ (raved about by all the vegetarians I know), and crinkle-cut fries. After placing our order we were given a little buzzer – I imagine this was to build the anticipation for our food. To be fair it did work: when the buzzer rang a few minutes later I practically leapt up from my chair and rushed to the food widow where I was given a sturdy steel tray laden with the steaming vibrant food. The smell of the fries and burgers had me practically drooling but the key question remained: how would it taste?
I decided to start with the classic ShackBurger: a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and ShackSauce. Taking my first bite, I was not disappointed. The taste was a mix of the squidgy slightly sweet bun, the melty cheesy, and the thin meaty patty. It certainly tasted like a burger, but was a huge step up from the classic fast-food chains. The burger patty actually tasted of proper meat and had a slightly crunchy outside, with a nice texture which balanced the super soft bun. However, before I felt I had even started I had finished. The burger is quite small, especially compared to other burger restaurants which have much larger meat patties making the burgers feel like a proper meal. But not to worry – I had plenty more to get through.
“The taste was a mix of the squidgy slightly sweet bun, the melty cheesy and the thin meaty patty”
As a ‘palate cleanser’ I decided to go for the crinkle-cut fries. The crinkle-cut is certainly a novelty, and gives the fries an extra crispy coat. They were exceptionally good, perfectly crisp and soft in the middle, with the right balance of salt.
Now for the ‘Shroom Burger.’ This was probably the one item I was most excited for, as I had never seen a vegetarian burger like this. The burger is made from a portobello mushroom stuffed with oozing melty cheese and fried. My god did it look good. My first bite transported me to a food paradise: the hot cheesy middle rushed into my mouth mixing with the juicy mushroom and its crispy coating. If this is what the vegetarian revolution is bringing, then sign me up.
Worth the Hype?
Shake Shack has been raved about in the US, and now that it has set up a sustainable UK base its hype will only get bigger. The offering of tastier “artisanal” fast food has certainly attracted a large pool of followers. Having tried its offerings I can agree that the hype is certainly worth it.
Burger: £5.50 Fries: £3
That mind-blowing vegetarian burger
Size of the normal burger