By Sara Newberry
In 2001, the first Shake Shack opened in New York City’s Madison Square Park, after opening seasonally as a wheeled cart, intended to raise funds to rebuild the park. After three successful summers, the first permanent Shack opened in the same park, and quickly became a destination for New Yorkers and tourists alike.
The first Texas location was in Austin, and the company expanded to Dallas and Houston not long after. At this point, there are more than 200 Shake Shacks worldwide.
Burgers are the thing here, and they are made with 100 percent Angus beef, topped with American cheese and Shack sauce (the ubiquitous mix of ketchup, mayo and mustard that every burger restaurant seems to think is still a secret). They’re served on the same pillowy soft potato rolls that have been used since the inception of the first cart.
Burgers are cooked on a flat-top, to get the crispy browned edges that the best fast-food burgers have. Basically, Shake Shack is serving standard old-fashioned fast-food burgers, except prepared with much higher-quality ingredients than you might find at a normal fast-food establishment. My husband described them as most resembling “a really good Wendy’s burger.” This description is surprisingly apt. These burgers are smaller than most fast food versions, and I was happy not to feel uncomfortably full after having a burger and fries. I wondered if I would be able to tell the difference between a burger from Dairy-ette or Keller’s (or Prince’s back in the 90s) and an identical Shackburger.
A ’Shroom Burger is the Old Town location’s vegetarian version (Uptown has a veggie burger and a vegan burger), and it was, in a word, weird. The mushroom has been sliced and stuffed with cheddar and Muenster cheeses, a mixture that closely resembled beer cheese. The cheese was rich and messy, but the mushroom itself didn’t have much flavor. Chik’n Bites, by contrast, were so salty I couldn’t finish them.
Fries are Ore-Ida-perfect crinkle-cut and fried gorgeously golden and crisp. You can get them plain or topped with cheese, or cheese and bacon.
The eponymous shakes are thick and rich. Black & white is my flavor of choice — a little more intense than vanilla, but not as overwhelming as full-on chocolate. A Creamsicle float was a lighter, but no less satisfying, option.
I was a customer at that original Shake Shack location, and I can tell you that the burgers are basically the same as they were nearly 15 or so years ago. It’s a burger that seems reminiscent of an earlier iteration of fast food, when fast and quality were not mutually exclusive in many cases. It’s a good burger. I’m still on the fence as to whether it’s a great burger.
5500 Greenville Avenue
Sun – Thurs. 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Fri. – Sat. 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.