Sunday, May 12, 2013

Shake Shack: Philadelphia Review

Growing up in NYC and having worked in the city for 5+ years, I consider myself pretty well versed in all things Danny Meyer. One of the most important restaurateurs in America, he oversees the Union Square Hospital Group. Under that umbrella includes the oft-acclaimed Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, and the 3 Michelin-starred EMP, which offers an innovative and amazing tasting menu. Despite the accolades, Meyer caters to more than the fine dining crowd, because he knows that everyone loves a good burger. Here is where Shake Shack comes into play.

East Coasters who have been to California often lament the fact that we don't have an In-N-Out. Granted those animal-style burgers and fries are delicious, but in 2004, Danny Meyer answered the call for a great 'fast-food' burger that can actually deliver, with Shake Shack. Initially just a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park in NYC, the success turned into the interminable lines which require a web-cam to properly plan out your meal. It's that good.

With six locations in NYC and outposts up and down the East Coast from Massachusetts to Florida, I was extremely excited when Shake Shack - Rittenhouse opened up in June of last year. But enough talk - let's get on with the food!

Smoke Shack ($6.25 Single / $8.80 Double)
Cheeseburger, Niman Ranch all-natural applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry pepper, ShackSauce

One of the best-sellers is the Smoke Shack, which features their standard patty, typically cooked around a medium/medium-well temp. As long as the quality of the beef is great, I prefer my burgers medium-rare. However, I could care less how these patties are cooked - they're incredibly juicy and flavorful regardless. This is because we're talking about a baller Pat La Frieda blend. The Niman Ranch bacon was smoky and added extra heft to the single patty (Sue me, how was the rest of my meal was going to fit in the belly of this pig?). The chopped cherry peppers added a bright, vinegary tang to balance out the weight of the meat. The buns on these burgers perfectly house the innards and don't detract or distract from the highlights within. 

'Shroom Burger ($6.75)
Crisp-fried portabella mushroom filled with melted muenster and cheddar, lettuce, tomato, ShackSauce

One of my favorites (a loaded term since pretty much everything on the menu is a favorite) is the 'Shroom burger.A gorgeous portabella? Check. Fried perfectly? Check. Cheddar and muenster working perfectly in harmony to create gooey innards? Double check.

Be prepared though on that last bullet point - it comes with a warning! 

Just look at that hot, gooey mess. Nothing wrong with that.

Shack Stack ($8.85)
Cheeseburger, 'Shroom burger, lettuce, tomato, ShackSauce

Go big or go home. If there's an amalgamation of menu items on said menu, it's a safe bet that I'll be ordering it. This monstrosity almost goes overboard, combining a regular ShackBurger and the 'Shroom burger. Just be prepared for a siesta and a few hours in the gym after this
goes down your gullet.

Fries ($2.70)
Crinkle-cut Yukon potatoes

I'm usually not a fan of crinkle-cut fries since they remind me of frozen fries. But these are perfectly fried fresh, providing the right texture to balance out the delicious, yet smooth umami of the bites from the burger.

Liberty Shell Concrete - ($4.25 Half / $6.50 Regular)
Vanilla custard, Termini Bros. cannoli shell, strawberry puree, lemon ricotta 

You'd be remiss if you didn't try Shake Shack's custom concretes. Specific to each city, this one is clearly a blend of Philly's best. The rich custard blends nicely with the strawberry puree and the consistency of the lemon ricotta. The Termini Bros. cannoli shell adds a nice textural element to the concrete. This one's a half-size, considering what I had already consumed.

Since opening up last year, it's no surprise that Shake Shack has developed a loyal following in Philly. In fact, Shake Shack is expanding further, with locations in University City and King of Prussia being planned. And if Shake Shack wants to take over the rest of the world, you won't hear any words of protest from me. 

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