More than 60 years ago, a woman named Estée Lauder sauntered into Saks Fifth Avenue armed with a perfume that would eventually lead to an international cosmetics empire. Lauder “accidentally” spilled some Youth Dew and people wanted to know where they could purchase the fragrance.
Lauder, who lived to a ripe old age, was famous for creating excitement.
Following her philosophy in the world of restaurants often leads to success. Stephen Starr has been doing this for many years. In New York City, it is Danny Meyer.
I first met Meyer years ago at his Union Square Café. Meyer is a hands-on entrepreneur. He enjoys working his way through the dining room, greeting his long-time friends and meeting new people.
His organization has won 25 James Beard Awards. Although Meyer is famous for the up-scale, he created quite a culinary storm eight years ago when he opened a burger joint called Shake Shack in Manhattan. Shake Shacks are in many American cities with more planned. A few weeks ago, Shake Shack opened at 20th and Sansom streets. Every time we drove by, there was a long line down the block just to get into this fast-food restaurant.
I had to see for myself what all of the fuss was about. Why would people wait in line in the unbearable heat for burgers, fries, hot dogs, shakes and iced tea?
Fortunately for Sandy and me, there was no line to get into Shake Shack around 5:30 p.m. A hostess hands you a menu and you make your way through a winding lane much as you would in a bank. You step up to the gleaming, stainless steel open kitchen and order just as you would at McDonald’s or Burger King except Shake Shack has a license to sell beer and wine.
We landed a table for two in the back of the restaurant where we could watch sports on TV. There are a few booths and high tops as well.
As soon as I lifted the tray I realized these burgers are on the small size. I ordered the single SmokeShack ($6.25), which consisted of a grilled patty made with a mix of sirloin and brisket nestled in a waxed paper mitt. It was topped with a small piece of Niman Ranch all-natural Applewood smoked bacon, which is the brand I buy, a smidgen of American cheese, chopped cherry peppers, which added a bit of a kick, and ShackSauce, a thin Russian dressing. When I bite into a juicy burger, I want some juices dribbling down my chin. This did not happen. The burger was just OK.
The crinkle-cut french fries ($2.65) however, were glorious. Made with Yukon Gold potatoes, they were totally free of grease, slightly crunchy outside and imparted a marvelous, almost creamy potato texture inside.
“They remind me of the cups of crinkle-cut fries we would buy on the Boardwalk,” I said to Sandy.
Shake Shack fries are the best in the city.
Sandy ordered a single ShackBurger ($4.55) with lettuce, tomato and American cheese. We agreed the burgers are so small Edward could easily eat at least three of them.
Homemade iced tea ($2.40) for a large, unsweetened one was freshly brewed and delightful on a hot summer evening. Since Shake Shack does not stock lemon wedges, a woman at the counter gave me a cup of their homemade lemonade that I poured into my tea. It was delicious — I made an Arnold Palmer. The lemonade on its own was not at all sweet and wonderfully tart and refreshing.
I love the burgers at Rouge, The London Grill, Moriarty’s Pub and Cavanaugh’s Restaurant. They are plump and juicy. Shake Shack’s dare to be small and that’s OK, but I doubt I will return.
The line to get in snaked around the block by 6:15 p.m. I wondered if the customers, mostly college students, were first-timers or return visitors.
One tip of the toque to Shake Shack.
20th and Sansom streets