It started with overhearing someone ask for extra Shack sauce and discovering you can get pickles on your Shackburger.
Waiting at the Shake Shack window in Madison Square Park, you hear interesting conversations among co-workers, couples, Shack-ployees, and last-minute customer requests. One, "Can I have a side of Shack sauce?" inspired a Shack-quest that required above-and-beyond commitment from The Daily Meal's Eat/Dine section: the secret menu.
Secret menu? Shake Shack? Yes. Shake Shack has a secret menu — kind of. No, you can't go up to cashiers at any location, ask for items by name, and have them nod and punch in the order. Well, that's not entirely true. They will, for example, readily make a grilled cheese sandwich by name.
First, some disclaimers and a primer for the uninitiated. If you haven't had Shake Shack but think you love burgers, you don't as much as you think you do. You would have found this one. It's one of America's best fast-food burgers — better than In-N-Out. But that's another conversation. To those who complain the Madison Square Park line disqualifies comparison to In-N-Out: Other locations don't have the lines. Case in point: Miami, Westport, the Upper East and Upper West Sides, Battery Park City, and you'd have to guess, the Middle East.
To those who complain prices at the chains discredit comparison: Consider that In-N-Out is oft compared to Five Guys. Prices can vary depending on location, but let's take a look at how they stack up for a second. According to In-N-Out's site, a cheeseburger costs $4.12 ($3.75 plus tax). Similarly, looking at prices on Five Guys' site and on Menupages, their "Little Cheeseburger" (one patty, the regular cheeseburger is a double) costs in the range of $4.99 to $5.03. For the record, a Shackburger, which includes cheese, costs $4.50 pre-tax. You're gonna argue over a dollar? Same price range — give it a break.
Now that that's over, here's the dirt on the Shake Shack secret menu. There are official, exclusive, special-menu items at each Shack location that you may not know about (even at the seasonal Shacks like CitiField, Saratoga, and Nationals Park, where menus are trimmed down). Most are concretes ("dense frozen custard blended at high speed with toppings and mix-ins"), not secret menu items per se, but checklist orders for the Shack-obsessed (strange to think they once closed during the winter, huh?). Others, like the corndog and the peanut butter and bacon burger, are special offers you have to get while the getting's good. To be clear, we're not talking about these items (click here for that list).
This goes beyond burgers and ice cream. It means using everything on the menu: burgers, drinks, dogs, ice cream, and all sides and fixings used to compose all conventional menu items. It means rethink everything, especially the sport peppers, which may be the most underrated and underutilized ingredient there.
Will they grill onions and put them on fries with Shack sauce? Shake Shack fries "animal-style" if you will? No. And some things, like Primanti-style (with fries) and an ice cream sandwich, require assembly (they'll also ask if you want the bun toasted). There's a Shack-Cago dog (one of New York's best hot dogs, and one of the truest to the Chicago ethos). Why not a Shack-Cago burger (pictured)? Hey, they do one at Wiener's Circle. Does that technically disqualify them as secret menu options? Maybe.
But they will make a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich by name (left). They'll make you a Shandy (beer and lemonade). Shake Shack does cheese fries — what about a cheese dog? Yup. Once without being asked they even cut up sport peppers to put them on cheese fries!
They'll do a double Shack Stack. And you can go bigger than the triple (on the gluten-free menu) and order a quad. Careful, it's a beast. A Shack rep couldn't be reached for comment about special requests, but when asked how many patties they would put together on one burger, an employee at the window responded, "I'd have to ask, but we want to make you happy."
The "secret menu" at Shake Shack is really a combination of Danny Meyer's hospitality philosophy, having Shake Shack "your way," and how into your requests cashiers get. Cashiers are key. Getting one behind you is the difference between Shack-ployees making your special requests themselves (which they have done with many of those that follow) and giving you the ingredients needed to make your special request(s) happen.
Stop thinking about the menu the way you always have: limited to what the print declares. Shake Shack seems happy to oblige requests. Take a cue from The New York Times' former restaurant critic Frank Bruni when he noted that he'd been a blockhead for not ordering a double after complaining forever that the condiment to burger ratio had been off. Consider all the ingredients on the menu at whichever of the 13 locations you're at (it will soon be 15 when the Brooklyn and Philly spots launch.) Think about mixing beverages too (they do an underrated float, which is on the menu). Order Shake Shack your way.