BURGER DAYS team returns from scouring DC for BEST BURGERS around with their special OFF SHOT column of SILF which we’re calling BILB (classy, we know)
I’d heard the stories of Shake Shack for years.
Friends in NYC would tell me tales of the Shack in Madison Square Park; how they would wait in impossibly long lines for a Shack Burger, and how, when they were done, they often contemplated getting in line again. By the end of the stories, I’d be drooling and lusting after that burger.
I wanted it.
I craved it.
I needed it.
Then I heard the news that Danny Meyer would be bringing those lust-worthy burgers to D.C. and I was elated. I could barely contain my excitement as I tweeted and emailed and let my friends know that soon we would be able to revel in the Shack burger goodness.
Then, as months the days drew nearer to the opening of Shake Shack on the corner of 18th and Connecticut and the D.C.-area hype grew to a fever pitch, I found myself actually turned off by the amount of attention it was getting.
It was one thing when only a few of my buddies and I knew about the awesomeness of Shake Shack (and still, this was before I even had a taste of it), but when every D.C.-area food and dining blog –the ones who fawn and gush over every Food Network-celeb, whose authors routinely Tweet back-and-forth during whatever new episode of Top Chef is airing that night, the same ones who could give two shits about burgers six and-a-half days of the week– when they started writing endlessly about the impending opening, without a hint of burger appreciation in their posts and just because it was the “it” thing, well, it dissuaded me from wanting to visit.
So Shake Shack opened to much fanfare this summer and I stayed away.
Sure, we covered the opening here at Burger Days, but I no longer had that longing desire to try it. Just two years ago I was ready to board a Chinatown bus and make an impulsive visit to the spot, but now, when it was just a short Metro ride away, I had little interest. (And it didn’t help that I felt some animosity towards the new joint for essentially replacing our hometown boys in Nats Park.)
But we finally ventured into the Shack on a lazy Saturday afternoon last month and while I was once again eager to try it, it was nowhere near to the rabid fever-pitch of burger yearning that I had once prior.
Then I ate it.
And, holy shit, what a burger.
There’s only one on the menu you should order: the Double Shack Burger: two patties of Pat LaFrieda beef, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and Shack Sauce.
It comes wrapped in a paper bag, already soaked through with grease and the sight alone is down right drool-inducing.
My first bite was met with a blast of gooey, salty, melty, cheesy, and about 50 other y-ending adjectives, wonderfulness. The warm, white, squishy potato bun completely enveloped the burger, and as the meal wore on, the grease permeated the inside of the bun, making it more and more malleable, completely forming itself to the patties inside. It was spectacular.
And while that first taste was about the best I’ve ever eaten, its reign didn’t last long. Mere bites from finishing the burger, I was greeted with gobs of unbelievable goodness –a mouthful of the ultimate and most perfect combination of beef, grease, cheese and sauce that was ever thrown together. It was sweet, heavenly burger bliss.
This is exactly what a fast-food burger should be. It’s what the onslaught of recent new burger concepts have tried, but failed, to achieve.
Five Guys, Z-Burger, Elevation– those are Shake Shack’s most direct comparisons, and while I do like me some Five Guys and Z-Burger, they don’t come close to the Shack.
And excuse me, but I’m about to go on a mini-rant here:
To the crowd that doesn’t like their fast-food burgers “greasy” or wants a burger they can feel good about eating: just go away. I’m so sick of the recent “healthy” burger trend. I’ve never had blander burgers than the ones I’ve eaten at Elevation, yet people continue to eat there because they think it’s better for them. Well guess what? The burgers at Shake Shack are also 100% Angus beef with no hormones or antibiotics. It’s everything Elevation Burger is and more, just with taste. A shit-ton more taste. And who in their right mind eats a burger for their health? If there are people like that, keep them away from me because I’d like to kick them in the teeth.
I go by the credo of Gordon Gekko (that is, if he ruled burgers and not Wall Street):
After telling people of my new-found obsession with the Double Shack Burger, I heard things like “but they have no toppings,” “underwhelming,” and “it’s no Ray’s.”
Well, screw that.
This is not Ray’s. This is not BGR. This is not Palena. But it’s not trying to be.
But, here’s the thing: you can like, hell, you can love them all. And it’s okaaay.
The Shack Burger is a totally different style of burger.
Sure, they’re all ground beef and a bun, but this is a burger all about the salty, greasy simpleness.
The beef is a secret-blend from NYC-meat man extraordinaire Pat LaFrieda, delivered fresh, every day to the D.C. location. The lettuce and tomato are crisp and ripe– no wilted produce here. The slices of American cheese are completely melted, oozing their way over the salted and crusty smashed-thin beef patties. The Shack Sauce isn’t fancy, just your average mayo-ketchup-mustard-blend with some added spices and pickles thrown in, but don’t get me wrong– it’s good and essential to the Shack Burger experience. The bun? It’s a Martin’s potato roll.
And that’s it. Nothing more.
There’s no bacon. There’s no fried onion straws. There’s no egg. There’s no fancy-ass aiolis. And there shouldn’t be.
Any of that would take away from what this burger is trying to be.
And what that is, is a greasy, gooey cheesy ball of beefy delight.
(Rant con’t: Then there’s the people who don’t like Shake Shack because of their fries. Well screw that, too. I’m not here for the fries. Stop lumping the burger in with that crinkle-cut shit. Yeah, I’m not too thrilled with them either, but they don’t take away from the magical awesomeness of the burger. Having said that, there are a few members of the Crew who love those Ore-Ida-lookin’ spuds and can’t get enough of them. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.)
Shake Shack | 1216 18th Street NW | DC | shakeshack.com