Shake Shack is synonymous with long line. Not even the new Brooklyn branch escapes this infamous blessing/curse, though the wait time is significantly less than its older Manhattan burger brethren. Optimally located in the crux of the downtown BK bustle, one would think it would be crazier than it actually is - especially if you’ve experienced the all too lengthy coil at the original in Madison Square Park with a reputation that precedes it.
So with a Burger King right around the corner where you can get the same grub for fewer bucks, why are people still waiting in line and paying top dollar for a combo meal here?
For starters, the aesthetics. Smooth dark gray stone panels the walls, top the tables, and line the floor to ceiling windows as an eating bar, while pointedly casual yet rustic wood slabs serve as bench seating. The retro cursive font on the illuminated menu fondly hearkens to the fountain shops of old, wrapping a soft cushion of nostalgia around that pricier dollar sign.
Also, quality is touted as a step up with all natural, hormone-free angus beef, trans fat-free fries, and artisan custard shake flavors like thin mint, red velvet, salted caramel, and cinnamon cream cheese. With a selection of wine and beer to boot, Shake Shack is ironically no shack at all - but rather raises itself from burger joint to gastro-grub.
The anticipation index is amplified at this location with a buzzer you receive when placing your order that vibrates when it is ready. As soon as those blinking lights flash, there is nothing more rewarding than trading it in for what you really came for. Mind games? If it enhances the enjoyment, so be it.
My taste buds were elated with my combo complete with a standard hamburger adorned with the requisite veggie fixings, crinkled Yukon fries, and the fancy Fair Shake (vanilla custard combined with fair trade coffee - it was Sunday brunch after all.) The flattened palm-sized burger patty was greasy but flavorsome layered with tomato slices, softened onions, tart pickles, and a fresh curled lettuce leaf. The bun was a sweet surprise, perfectly understated as a thin plush pillow to hand-hug the ingredients.
The fries were nothing to write home about (mine were on the soggy side, but my guest got a crispier batch), but adequately functioned as the salty foil to the creamy custard shake. Thick at first (perfect for fry-dipping), once that cream defrosts it slides up your straw at a speed your tummy may regret later. But in the moment, it feels so right. The Fair Trade is definitely fair game for the coffee-lover, but the blend of strawberry and chocolate my guest whipped together was a winner. (Yes, you can combine any plain flavors that please your palate.)
When you get down to it, a burger with fries and a shake is fast food combo staple that satisfies to the same degree, no matter the price tag or wait time. Shake Shack elevates both above the status quo, but you will be content with what awaits you at the end of the queue.
(Burgers $3.55-$8.60, Fries $2.65-3.65, Shakes $5-5.50)
409 Fulton Street (between Willoughby Street and Adams Street)
Photos: Rebecca Kritzer
All you need in life is good food and good company.