Looks like London has Shake Shack fever, burger fever in general actually. The American burger invasion is now officially on. Both Five Guys and Shake Shack opened their first locations in the U.K. on Thursday in London’s Covent Garden. There were reports of a line, er, queue, around the block for Five Guys, but initial indications are that the nearby Shake Shack may have won out when it came to drawing the largest crowds. According to the burgeoning burger empire's CEO Randy Garutti, people began queuing beginning at 5 a.m. to guarantee themselves a spot before the 10 a.m. opening of the American roadside burger stand (you may recall that Shake Shack was number 11 on The Daily Meal's 2013 list of 101 Best Restaurants in America).
When reached for comment at about 8 p.m. on Thursday, Garutti, whose vines and tweets included some impressive looking crowds, called the Covent Garden location, "one of the most exciting openings we’ve ever had in the history of Shake Shack," adding that the new location had between 100 to 175 people on line for the better part of the last eight hours.
"We’re thankful," said Garutti, "It sounds like London wants to give us a shot. We had a great party last night. Some incredible chefs who really made a connection with our fine dining roots and Danny Meyer and all the great chefs here from London, people from Hakwsmoor, St JOHN, and many others. We’re just incredibly honored to be part of this exciting food scene and Covent Garden just is one of the most special exceptionally good feeling places that we could imagine a shake shack bringing people together."
The Covent Garden spot serves the standard menu, but according to an official release, "The majority of ingredients and menu items are U.K.-sourced.” The burgers are being made with freshly ground 100 percent Scottish Aberdeen Angus beef, the SmokeShack features free-range Wiltshire cure smoked bacon, and the flat-top dog section features a London-only Cumberland sausage handmade by Sillfield Farm using a rare breed of pork from Cumbria.
And of course, like every other Shake Shack, there are a few location-specific concretes. These made with locally sourced baked goods and chocolate mix-ins from Shake Shack’s London partners St. JOHN Bakery and paul.a.young chocolates:
Lastly, there’s the Big BlENd (chocolate and vanilla custard, St. JOHN Bakery brown sugar biscuit, and chocolate hazelnut brownie). Shake Shack will be donating 5 percent of sales from the Big BIENd to the Covent Garden Dragon Hall Trust, a community centre serving disadvantaged youth, families, and
the elderly. "For years we’ve been looking for a reason to spend more time in London," said Union Square Hospitality CEO Danny Meyer, "and it feels great to have found a golden ticket."