Saturday, November 3, 2012

Shake Shack Food Review

Shaken, Not Stirred

Shake Shack opened to great fanfare (and long lines) last year; but I'm at a loss as to why. The Madison Square Park mainstay knows a thing or two about promotion, but does it know much about burgers and fries? I made my fourth visit to the Dupont Circle location (formerly Burger Chef and Roy Rogers... two hall of fame burger palaces) yesterday; and for the fourth time walked away unsatisfied.

In regards to looks and service, Shake Shack deserves four stars and then some. Spotless (impressive, given the number of people served on a daily basis) and vibrant, it's hard not to fall in love with the place. Once you place your order, a narrow corridor leads to a well-designed dining area (with upstairs seating, which I highly recommend.) Great music plays at an appropriate volume, while a flat screen TV displays sports for those who can't do without. The booths are a little tight (perhaps I'm taste-testing too many burgers lately) but clean.

Service, as mentioned above is top notch. I received an enthusiastic greeting from Brian, who walked me through the ordering process. I ordered my standard issue double burger (maybe those booths weren't tight at all) and fries. I asked for a cup of water, and was offered ice (nice touch) for the complimentary H2O that's available at the condiment station. My bill came to $9.24 (So far, so good.)

My pager went off a few minutes later (It was almost 3:00 PM... I didn't have long to wait.) I grabbed my tray at the front, went back to my seat and chowed down. Cue disappointment. Rule #1 in cooking... Season your food (salt and pepper.) Evidently, the cooks at Shake Shack don't subscribe to that policy (at all.) Worse yet, there wasn't a salt shaker in sight (on any tables, as far as I could see.) Call me extreme, but eating unsalted food should be a crime. The crinkle fries (Nathan's?) had zero taste. Zero! At least they passed the oil test (not too oily, and the oil seems to get changed plenty quick.) Double burger? Doubly disappointing. I've had several burgers in the last 30 days alone, but Shake Shack's meat is the only one I'd label as strange tasting. Not off, mind you... but strange. Fresh lettuce covered two of the smallest tomato slices on record, trapped inside a bun that was equal parts small and soft. If this were a burger eating contest, I'd disqualify myself so I wouldn't have to eat another one. That's bad dude. Real bad.

I've had the dogs before (equally tasteless) and the shakes (OK, not great) and I can't seem to find anything on the menu worth trying a second time. I love the atmosphere, and the service is terrific; but I go to a restaurant to eat... and I don't want to eat here ever again. What a shame.

Atmosphere: A-
Burger: D (At least it was cooked properly; Otherwise, it's an F)
Fries: D (It's like eating frozen, straight out of the pack)
Price: B
Service: A+
Overall: D (Change the menu, and I'll come back)