Shake Shack: Hamburger Heaven
By Victoria Pesce Elliott
FROM LEFT: Shake Shack's CEO, Danny Meyer; the dining room at Shake Shack's Miami Beach outpost.
Renowned as much for their characteristic impatience as for their discriminating palates, New Yorkers nevertheless have been known to wait more than two hours for a ShackBurger fix from the original Shake Shack in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park. But why?
“It’s as much about bringing human beings together as it is about really good food,” says Danny Meyer, CEO of the New York City-based Union Square Hospitality Group, which owns the not-so-fast fast-food phenom. Miami scored when the Shack team decided to open its first gourmet burger joint outside of New York on Lincoln Road in the 1111 building. They are striving to emulate the success of the original, where loyal fans log onto the Shack Cam—a webcam—to monitor the lines.
If anyone knows the restaurant business, it’s Meyer. In addition to three other Shacks in the city (with two more on the way), the 52-year-old restaurateur has seven fine-dining spots in the Big Apple—including the perennially top-rated Union Square Cafe and Eleven Madison Park—as well as cafes, a jazz club, a barbecue joint and a catering company.
On South Beach, with about 2,200 square feet and a large outdoor terrace lush with trees, Shake Shack is “meant to look like a park,” says Randy Garutti, the chief operating officer. The green space—complete with tables made from wood formerly adorning old bowling alleys—encourages guests to linger and relax.
And even if the funky interior with soaring 33-foot ceilings isn’t exactly the same, the menu sure is close. Featuring such new creations as an only-in-Miami custard dubbed the Shark Attack, it’s still a near replica.
In addition to Shake Shack’s signature burgers, split griddled hot dogs, crinkly fries, dense frozen custard and homemade lemonade, there is a connoisseur-worthy selection of wines by the glass or half-bottle. Beer fans can chug the Shackmeister Ale, made by Brooklyn Brewery, while keg selections also include root beer from Abita, the Louisiana brewing company.
As enticing as this all sounds, it’s the lusciously charred and juicy burger made with hormone- and antibiotic-free 100-percent Black Angus beef that draws the oohs. Its preparation, naturally, is a closely guarded secret. “The proprietary blend is literally locked away in a box,” says Meyer. “But it all starts with the selection of the beef.” The restaurateur hired third-generation New York butcher Pat La Frieda to come up with the cut combo, size of the grind, weight and even temperature at which it is ground. We do know the pair of four-ounce patties (go for the double) is cooked medium, sandwiched into a toasty potato bun and topped with good old American cheese, lettuce, tomato and their creamy pink sauce.
It may not be healthy, but vegetarians can even get a deep-fried, breaded portobello. (Shake Shack also makes dog-biscuit-topped custards for pooches.) “But don’t expect to find your favorite salad here,” says Meyer. Regardless, with no menu item over eight bucks, it’s easy to see the mass appeal.
“We really are the anti-fast food,” explains Meyer. “As anyone knows who comes to Shake Shack, there is nothing fast about it.”
TOP RIGHT: The Shack-cago Dog is “dragged through the garden” with onions, relish, cucumber, pickle, sport peppers, tomatoes and celery salt on a poppy-seed bun; TOP LEFT: Shake Shack’s Shack Stack: a ShackBurger and ’Shroom Burger along with fries and a black-and-white shake
Photographs by greg clark