Young and Hungry

Y&H Gets an Unexpected Preview of the Shake Shack Concept Heading Our Way

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Little did I know when I walked into Shake Shack last week in Miami — the first non-New York outlet in Danny Meyer's budding burger empire — that I was getting a preview of things to come in D.C.  But while I was away, Washington Business Journal's Missy Frederick reported that Meyer will open a Shake Shack in the former Fuddruckers space off Dupont Circle.

Some have suggested that the last thing we need in D.C. is another burger joint, and I'd be inclined to agree with that position — if I hadn't sampled the burgers myself.

From my initial tasting, I'd dare say that Meyer's joint is doing the Five Guys concept better than Five Guys. The Shack's 80-20 patty of freshly ground beef — which A Hamburger Today claims is a mix of sirloin, chuck, and brisket — is simply griddled and topped with American cheese, lettuce, two slices of ripe plum tomatoes, and a secret sauce (which this enterprising writer tried to recreate at home).

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The Shake Shack in Miami

The first thing that stands out about the Shack burger is its appearance. The sandwich is so vibrant with color — neon orange! ruby red! forest green! golden brown! — that it looks like something a food stylist would prepare for a magazine shoot.  I was mesmerized by its sheer, sexy all-American, all-beef glamor — and I still am every time I look at the picture I snapped above.

Fortunately, looks aren't everything with the Shack burger. Its flavors are just as vibrant. The fresh ingredients are obviously a key element, but so is Shake Shack's grilling technique. The cooks clearly know not to play with their meat. The fat is allowed to render onto the griddle without undue spatula manipulations, which lets the grease crisp and flavor the exterior of the patty. Without that fatty crust, the burger would be little more than a tired, gray disc of beef, reliant upon the toppings to provide flavor.

But don't overlook the joint's namesake shakes, either, which are hand-spun and come in a limited number of flavors, none of them (thank God) too idiotically exotic. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Z-Burger, and your ridiculously long shake list, most of which, I'd venture to guess, are flavored artificially.) We tried the chocolate and salted caramel shakes, and they were so rich and delicious and naturally flavored that we dared not finish them.

We still had to don our swimsuits, after all.

  • Keith B

    Those fries look like Ore-Ida.

  • Will Atwood Mitchell

    I want to eat this. You would know better than I, but my feeling is that burgers half-wrapped in paper are sorely underrepresented in our region. And my favorite burger dive (Brinkleys in Falls Church) appears to have closed after decades of 24-hour service, so I'm in need of more options.

  • Missy Frederick

    I have to say, hearing your take definitely makes me more optimistic.

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