Saturday, July 13, 2013

Shake Shack, London Location

I'm sure you've already heard and formed an opinion about Shake Shack (& Five Guys) coming to the UK, so I don't need to explain to you that the two fast food uh...semi-titans have made it over the Atlantic. What is less than a titan but more than a human, anyway? A golem?

Okay, the two fast food golems, then.

Anyway, unless you are a recently animated golem yourself, you've heard about these two and you probably think they're all hype, or they're great, or maybe some combination of the two. Most people at least seem interested in trying them...

 Exhibit A: an enormous line really late at night on Friday, a week after Shake Shack opened:
Now, as I suggested earlier, both of these chains aren't exactly everywhere in America, particularly Shake Shack. While I could find a couple Five Guys in my state and enjoyed their giant portions of Cajun fries, there were sure as hell no Shake Shacks and I had only ever heard a little bit about them.

Keep in mind that I am the sort of person who knows a lot about fast food places that I have no hope of ever trying. For instance, I've known the In-n-Out 'Secret Menu' for ages, and I've never been within 1,000 miles of one. Shake Shack, I had a vague knowledge that they had frozen custard, but I was firmly in camp Ritters and was unconcerned with some east-coast hippy tycoons' take on what I viewed as a Midwestern classic. I've long said that the next thing to divide America was going to be frozen custard, I was just on the front lines.

Anyway, even though I had no loyalty to Shake Shack going in, I was still very interested because I love cheeseburgers, frozen custard, and I am a red-blooded American. So we waited in that really long queue, cue 'fast food' jokes.

The prices aren't amazing -it's that classic move where they've just replaced the $ with a £- but hey, in the USA the beef probably would've been injected with growth hormones and punched by a cowboy before it was slaughtered, so if you are particularly ethical about meat you should be happy. It kind of depresses me more to think that a cow was really enjoying life before I started eating it, though.

So, I got a single SmokeShack, cheese fries, and a Big BlENd frozen custard. It was about £15, which isn't bad for all that food, but it just grinds my hamburger to know how much cheaper it is in America.
My associate got himself a double Shack, cheese fries, and the Concrete Jungle frozen custard. It's all presented very nicely, particularly the burgers. Here's a closeup of his double Shack:
The lettuce and tomato is nicely stacked so it looks like it's just bursting out of the bun, and the cheese has an eerily symmetrical melt.

The most interesting thing to me about these burgers were that both of ours were cooked to be pink in the middle, which shows a lot of confidence for a fast food chain, who generally cook all of the potential for illness and flavor out of their beef.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a closeup of my SmokeShack, as we had been waiting in line for ages and I was quite hungry. You can kind of see it in the tray photo, it's behind the foreground burger. The SmokeShack has bacon, 'shack sauce', and peppers - pimentos, specifically. The bacon was amazing, crispy and not just loaded down with fat, it really did taste smoked and carefully prepared - not just that limp, pink & fatty stuff that is often on fast food burgers. The shack sauce is your classic 'special sauce', mayonnaise based and tangy - this is maybe a bit tangier than the average, but I could've just been tasting the peppers.

The peppers were really nice - they were sweet more than hot, kind of like a red bell pepper, and had a vinegar-hit to them as well. I was happy that the bun was very soft, a bit sweet, & reminded me of the average bun from America. I'm actually not nuts for the brioche bun trend, sometime they're a bit dry and 'big' compared to the kind of bun I grew up with, which was always just enough sustenance to make it so that you could eat beef and cheese without getting it all over your hands. Over-all, I was very pleased with my ShakeShack burger. If I was in the area again, I'd want to eat it.

This was the part of the meal I was most excited about, though-
I think it's a real shame that cheese sauce isn't a widely accepted condiment here. For instance, most everywhere where nachos are served in the UK, they're just tortilla chips with melted cheddar cheese on them. Sometimes jalapenos. It is the cheese sauce that makes nachos special, you know? It's the cheese sauce that makes french fries special, too.

I'm not usually wild about crinkle cut, usually it's a sign that the fries you're about to eat are very much just from a big freezer bag, but these were quite nice and crunchy with a soft inner belly. The cheese sauce was perfect, with that patriotic yellow taste, a hint of cheddar, and a lot of Velveeta. All it needed was more if it. I'd happily buy jars of this, Shake Shack would be smart to offer that as there really isn't a similar cheese sauce for Americans looking to make nachos, cheese fries, or cheese dogs. Or just eat semi-liquid cheeseproduct on a bagel or something. No shame.
I ordered the Big Blend, which is vanilla custard, chocolate custard, hazelnut brownies, and brown sugar biscuits. The two mix-ins are provided by St. John's Bakery, of really great doughnut fame. They don't disappoint with their non-fried bakery treats, the brown sugar biscuit tastes heavily of brown sugar and stays crunchy, even in custard! The hazelnut brownie is also delicious, fudge-y with a deep cocoa taste, and chopped hazelnuts. Both of them would've been nice outside of frozen custard, which is quite amazing, especially since I went so late at night I was a bit worried they'd have been stale by nighttime.

The custard itself is outstanding, it's been ages since I had frozen custard, so it really was nice to have some again. Frozen custard, in my opinion, tastes much richer than ice cream or gelato, and it carries vanilla as a flavor particularly well. Shake Shack's is no different, the vanilla was delicious - so rich and creamy, super premium stuff. The chocolate was very strongly flavored too, but I'm never that crazy for chocolate ice cream/custard/et cetera, but if you are this is a great semi-dark tasting variety.

I'd definitely come back to Shake Shack, especially for the frozen custard & cheese fries. I think once the lines die down, it will still stick around. It would be nice if they brought the prices down a bit, since it is still fast food, East Coast America exclusive or not-- but eh, at least it's tasty.


  1. I am really looking forward to trying this place although I have never been to Shake Shack in the USA. BUT I have eaten A LOT of burgers when I have been across the pond and for some reason burgers from the USA taste so much better, I don't know if it is the beef or what but they just have a certain taste and I haven't found anything as good in the UK. I will be interested to see if this matches up but hey if an American tells me this place is good then I am not going to argue and just get down there and try it for myself.

    1. In general I'd agree, burgers in America taste quite a bit 'better' than they do anywhere else! Shake Shack is definitely very good, I think you'll love it if you like burgers! Don't pass on the cheese fries, either. ;)

    2. You have convinced me! Hubby and I are going to brave the queues on Saturday...those cheese fries look amazing!

  2. Chelsea, thanks so much for visiting our new Covent Garden Shake Shack, and for your kind words. We're thrilled to be open in London!

    Our team can't wait to see you again soon at the Shack!

    Brandy, Shake Shack