3 Stars for Shake Shack

Owner Danny Meyer has done an exceptional job of keeping the quality 
top notch at the 2-month-old, already-slamming Shake Shack on Lincoln Road, 
his first foray outside of New York City. There’s nearly always a line, but it moves quickly as families and young couples flock here for truly exceptional hamburgers, pretty good fries and — woohoo! — a selection of wines and beers that is beautifully suited to these hot, juicy babies. The menu makes its case by keeping it simple. There are basically just two burgers, one size of fries, beef or chicken hotdogs and a bunch of creamy concoctions made with the Shack’s “concretes” (frozen custards). Vegetarians are offered a decadently deep-fried portobello mushroom stuffed with Muenster and Cheddar cheeses — not exactly health food, but as Meyer says, “This will never be the place to get your favorite salad.”

After ordering, you’re handed a buzzer. On our various visits we’ve waited from 10 to 25 minutes to get our food, but it’s never been boring. We’ve enjoyed watching locals get into the Shack culture — chatting with each other, comparing notes and, best of all, actually seeming to relax. Ambience: Counter service is brisk and generally knowledgeable, the space — high ceilings and lush plants inside, basic patio furniture outside — is comfortable, and the glorified parking garage in which it’s housed, by architects Herzog & de Meuron, is, of course, stunning.

What Worked

  • A basic cheeseburger with an exceptional quality of the meat, a mix of sirloin and brisket devised by New York purveyor Pat LaFrieda
  • The double signature Shack Burger – two perfectly seared, thinnish, 4-ounce patties — along the lines of a West Coast In-N-Out Burger — with gooey melted American cheese and a smoky, tangy, spicy, mayonnaise-based sauce
  • Amazingly puffy, buttery, grilled potato buns
  • First-rate toppings – a perfectly sized sheet of crisp leaf lettuce, sour pickles, thin-cut onions and sweet, red tomato slices
  • Specially all-American cheese
  • Usually hot, golden and snappy fries – they’re cigar-thick, crinkly-cut Yukon Golds but taste more like well-cooked Ore-Idas
  • A just-right vanilla malt shake
  • Superb drinks – a house shiraz, Brooklyn Brewery tap beer and Louisiana’s own Abita root beer
  • A sweet, custardy chocolate overload concrete blend-in dessert

What Didn’t Work

  • Too-big-to-get-your-mouth-around Shack Stack – a beef patty with a Portobello
  • Unimpressive Chicago-style Vienna hotdogs served on steamed poppy seed buns with neon-colored relish
  • Velveeta-like sauce cheese sauce for fries
  • Too sweet and/or too thick to suck through a straw shakes