Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Shake Shack

When NYC import Shake Shack opened its doors near Dupont Circle last month, the lines stretched down the block. We decided to let the opening craziness die down a bit before checking out DC's newest in a long line of patty purveyors.

Shake Shack has drawn comparisons to local favorite Five Guys and California native In-N-Out. We decided to do our own taste test, and ask two burger experts (my parents) who are familiar with both Five Guys and In-N-Out, to join us for our first Shake Shack run.

Here are their thoughts:


Mom: I thought it was a good burger, but there are a limited number of options on it compared to Five Guys where you can get mushrooms and lots of other stuff on your burger for no charge. I loved the bun at Shake Shack - soft and not cut all the way through - very clever.

Dad: See Mom’s comments - there's a reason we've been together for 38 years.


Mom: I liked them better than Five Guys, but they were mushy on the inside. I love In-N-Out’s fries, but only if they are well done. I don't care for Five Guys fries, so I think Shake Shack's were better than that.

Dad: A bit mushy but I'm a crinkle-cut fan. I do like the spice on Five Guys Cajun fries.


Mom: Really good for the first couple of sips - chocolate peanut butter, but the second half was bitter and didn't have any peanut butter flavor - just dark chocolate, which I don't like. Not blended well, maybe?

Dad: Much more interesting than In 'N Out, but they need to be thicker. Not a fan of the bitter edge of dark chocolate. The many options at Shake Shack give it the nod.


Mom: Shake Shack wins this one. Place is cute and more interesting than the others.

Dad: Don't really care. I'm there to eat. It was fine, but that's not a deal-breaker for me.


Mom: Seems more expensive than the other two but has more choices on the menu as well as

Dad: Seems pretty much in line. Fifty cents to a buck difference won't make me choose one
over the other.

Rank the following: In-N-Out, Five Guys, Shake Shack

Mom: I like different things about each one, but I still think I would go to In-N-Out first, then Five Guys, then Shake Shack.

Dad: I know it's sacrilege for a native Californian, but I've never really been impressed with In-N-Out burgers. I like their shakes and fries, but the burger patty is just too small - even with a Double-Double. I really like the variety of toppings at Five Guys - and their patty is substantial. Big minus for no shakes though. The Shake Shack burger was much better than In–N-Out, and I love the not-fully-split bun.

Any Other Words of Burger Wisdom?

Mom: Shake Shack didn't wow me, but I would go again and try a different shake. Since it's
called Shake Shack - the shakes need to be excellent and mine wasn't.

Dad: If I'm going to splurge and have a shake instead of a Diet Coke - I would go to the Shack... but I would ask for the shake thick. When I'm not looking for a shake I'm heading to Five Guys for the choices of toppings. Everyone should take the hint and don't slice all the way through your bun though. However, not sure you could get all your "topping goodness" in the partially-split bun.

Thanks Mom and Dad! I generally agree with their comments on Shake Shack. The burger was good, but nothing extraordinary, and I like the variety of free toppings at Five Guys. The fries were just ok. Instead of a shake, I ordered a Concrete - a mix of frozen custard and toppings. My Presidential Sweet Concrete featured vanilla custard, peanut butter, marshmallow and caramel chocolate chunks. The first few bites were fantastic but after I ate the very top layer, I was left with a lot of vanilla custard and no toppings. Either the blender wasn't working or the custard to toppings ratio is off. I'll likely be back to Shake Shack to give their shakes a go, but it needs to be a mind-blowing shake to tear me away from my favorite Milky Way Malt at Good Stuff Eatery. Only time (and my shake-loving tummy) will tell.

Second Thoughts From B

In case Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) and his Oversight Committee are reading this, let me start by disclosing any possible conflicts of interest: I've been eating In-N-Out burgers, fries, and shakes for 20+ years and even own a t-shirt. The unique aroma of In-N-Out is my personal Pavlovian bell. In fact, I'm salivating right now. (T.M.I.? Sorry.)
Still, my overt bias towards the burgers of my homeland does not prevent me from acknowledging the merits of Shake Shack and Five Guys.

Like everyone else, I loved the Shake Shack bun and appreciate the partial split. I thought the shakes were high quality, but not worthy of the franchise's name, and the fries were disappointing.

As for my burger, I loved it. It is that odd looking mass pictured above. You may be wondering what that fried meatball-looking thing is. Ironically, that would be a vegetarian "patty" made of mushrooms and cheese, and then deep fried. Placing it on top of a standard cheeseburger makes it a Shack Stack and adds a powerful flavor punch.

Unfortunately, after inhaling this caloric monster with much vigor, I then looked at the bill and saw that it cost $8.75! Compare that to my beloved In-N-Out Double-Double for under $3 or a Five Guys burger for around $5. What's more, any burger on the Good Stuff menu can be had for under $7 and the greatest burger in the world (according to me anyway), Ray's Hell Burger's New Jack Zing, is served for around the same price.

So after spending all this time comparing Shake Shack to In-N-Out and Five Guys, should we instead be comparing it to the city's burger elite? Sure, I ordered the most expensive burger on the menu, but the double Shake Burger is still $7.25. In the league of fast food burgers, I think Shake Shack holds its own (though I'd personally opt for both In-N-Out and Five Guys, in that order). But when compared to Good Stuff, Ray's, and other upscale burger places, I feel Shake Shack is in over its head.

Perhaps New Yorkers have the same primal attraction to Shake Shack as I do for In-N-Out. Barring that, I don't see how it competes at this price point.
Shake Shack on Urbanspoon


nathanmathias said...

another blogs analysis plus five guys


silverthief2 said...

I like the Shake Shack burgers much more than Five Guys, especially the Shack Stack, but they're going to remain an occasional stop because the one location isn't too convenient for me and Five Guys is ... well, everywhere.

On ambience, Shake Shack wins a hundred times over, especially relative to the Five Guys near my work in that poorly converted bar space in Georgetown.