Yesterday I checked out Shake Shack with a friend of mine who loved the place when she last ate there in NY. I was excited by the prospect of a burger bar as I don’t go that often and more’s the point I am regularly disappointed by burgers when I have them in restaurants or pubs as they look a lot better than they actually taste.
We arrived at 6pm which meant there was already a queue but it moved quickly and within 10 mins or so we were at the front waiting to order. As we were chatting away the wait didn’t really bother us, although I was pretty hungry by the time we came to order. They do give you the menu about ½ way along the queue so you have plenty of time to study it – although on a menu where the drinks choices far outnumber the food offerings you probably don’t need that long! One of my colleagues coincidentally turned up around 7pm and the queue was so long that they gave it a miss completely. So if you can get there early then do, or have a snack while you are waiting in the queue chatting.
The menu consists of 5 burger choices, 4 hotdog choices and 2 options for fries and that’s it. Then you have Shakes, custard ice cream cones and cups and something called Concretes, which is very deep frozen custard and very filling! The only confusing thing on the food portion of the menu is the difference between the ShackBurger and the Cheeseburger, basically the ShackBurger is the cheese burger with salad and sauce and the Cheeseburger is just the bun, burger and slice of cheese and you can then add the other bits that the ShackBurger has at an extra cost per item (Personally I would just order the ShackBurger and omit the bits you don’t like but that’s just me!). Also on the burgers you can choose a single or double burger.
The ordering process is simple and the staff were friendly and helpful and VERY smiley. You get a little buzzer thing and trot off to your table. There are 2 seating areas, a larger one inside Covent Garden and an outside bit running along the side of the street. We sat on the street side, which was absolutely fine but just meant you had to walk round through general public milling about with your food and the condiments and plastic cutlery are in the main seating bit so again you have to navigate a bit to get to it. I ordered the single ShackBurger with cheese fries and a strawberry shake. My friend I think had the same burger and fries and a different drink.
The food took about 10 mins to be ready and when the buzzer leapt into action I was starving and really looking forward to my burger, which is rare for me. After playing dodgems with some tourists on the way back from collecting food and condiments my friend’s food buzzed just as I got back to the table so I didn’t have long to wait for her and scoffed a few cheesy chips while waiting.
So let’s start with the good point – the cheese fries were nice, its plastic cheese like you would expect but it adds something to just regular crinkle cut chips and there is just enough so you get them all coated but no too much so they all turn into a soggy mess which you would be better off eating with a spoon. Sadly this is where the good things end for me. The wooden fork that comes with the fries is a bit pointless and difficult to pick them up with. It’s kind of like the little forks you get in the chippy but with a longer handle. The burger was dull, it was small, the meat patty didn’t taste of anything and for me lacked decent seasoning and there was too much shack sauce on it which is mayo based. One small piece of lettuce, a slice of plastic cheese and a slice of tomato completed the look. They present it hanging out of the bun so it looks like there is more to it than there actually is when you put it together to pick it up. I just couldn’t get excited about it (my friend loved it of course), but for me it could have been any “diner” style place that has opened in the last few years, nothing about it stood out as different! I was really disappointed by the size, I had to actually restrain myself from finishing the burger in 4 good sized bites, and for those that know me I do struggle with burgers due to size usually and have to deconstruct it to eat it!
Maybe I should have gone with the double burger choice but to be honest it was obviously a little bigger but still the size of the burger itself is pretty small. The Shake was also pretty ordinary (my guilty pleasure is MacDonald’s milkshakes and to be honest I would probably vote that better than this one). I cannot comment on the Concrete as I didn’t try it and maybe it’s amazing – I hope so!
Overall I would say the service was very good, it didn’t make you feel rushed, they leave you a reasonable amount of time before clearing your tray so as not to appear rude and want to boot you out. But you are conscious of the growing queue and if you are sat chatting away without food in front of you or at least a drink then you feel the eyes of everyone in that queue willing you to move on – which is fair enough really, if I was standing there for 30 minutes or more and people were just sat chatting at a table I would probably go and sit on their laps if it meant I could eat my dinner (would introduce myself first of course!).
I don’t see the fuss, maybe I’m missing something about the authentic American burger experience but if that is a good benchmark then to be honest, it’s doing nothing to make me want to try again. Interestingly the colleague who looked at the queue and walked away ended up at Five Guys and had a similar observation about the burger – so maybe this is the norm. Either way, if you fancy trying it for yourself, get there early as it’s not worth a long wait, probably go for double burger option and if you’re a foodie don’t expect the taste to rock your world, because it won’t.
Let’s go 5/10 for the sake of the good service and tasty fries.