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Friday, March 19, 2010

Shake Shack

Years ago, on a family vacation in a lakeside cottage rental, I had a hankering for a grilled cheese sandwich, which I rarely eat. A friend on the trip who loved cooking indulged me. It was extraordinary, and soon, my family members, jealous of my ravings, all clamored for their own. The secret? Just using better ingredients than what you typically find in the standard fare. Good bread, decent cheese and tomatoes. Voila. Gourmet American comfort food.

This is the formula for the Shake Shack, located at Madison Square Park. Take American fast food favorites - burgers, fries, shakes, and frozen custard - and let a gourmet restaurant owner take it to the next level. The New York Times describes the burgers as made from "whole-muscle, no-trimmings, fresh-ground, antibiotic-and-hormone-free, source-verified-to-ranch-of-birth, choice-or-higher-grade Black Angus beef."

I don't like waiting in lines in New York City for food, and lines at the Shake Shack can run over one hour. But if I ate burgers, I'd wait. (Shake Shack even has a live Shack Cam on their website to monitor the line.) Everyone I have spoken to that has eaten here raves about the food. At the online review site,, there are currently over 1,000 reviews, with an average of 4 out of 5 stars. See more photos here.

Shake Shack is the brainchild of Danny Meyer, no stranger to the food business. Meyer's company, Union Square Hospitality Group, owns 11 restaurants, including the Union Square Cafe, Blue Smoke, Eleven Madison Park, Gramercy Tavern, Tabla, and The Modern - a fine dining restaurant located in the Museum of Modern Art.

Meyer spent parts of his childhood studying food and hospitality in France and Italy. His first foray into business as a restaurateur was in 1985, at age 27, when he opened the acclaimed Union Square Cafe. This restaurant has repeatedly topped the Zagat Survey as the number one most popular restaurant in New York City.

Starting in 2001, Meyer's group ran a cart in Madison Square Park selling Chicago-style hot dogs. In 2004, the Shake Shack was born as a permanent seasonal kiosk. The distinctive structure, with its English ivy covered shed roof, was designed by the award winning architectural firm SITE (Sculpture in the Environment).

There is outdoor seating at the Shake Shack. On a warm evening, sitting amidst the trees in the beautifully landscaped Madison Park with views of the Flatiron and Empire State buildings is about as good as it gets. I'll get a shake or frozen custard. See you at the Shake Shack :)

Note: Shake Shack now has three locations in New York City, with more planned to come nationwide. They have made an effort to go green - wind energy, on-site composting, low voltage LED lights, and construction of their Upper West Side shop using sustainable materials. See their website here.


Anonymous said...

Always interesting stories and great photos!

Kenon Thompson said...

That's awesome! Sounds like a nice relaxing place to go to. Great photos by the way!

Anonymous said...

I used to work nearby and always thought of the Shake Shack on rainy days when the line was shorter - and
checked the web cam before. Great hamburger! There's even a dog treat if you happen to have one with you.

Thérèse said...

It sounds like a really good new concept. A great website too.

kawa said...

Your blog is a never-ending guide of NYC. I'll be visiting city this summer and I'd really love to see all the things you write about, but I'm afraid there will be not enough time :(

Anonymous said...

Read something about them expanding in the Times a while ago because of their phenomenal success.
Had no idea just how successful till your pics.