Monday, November 02, 2020

Menu of the Plague Year: Shake Shack

Fuck you, Shake Shack.

To put it bluntly, my introduction to Shake Shack did not go well. Despite the fact that I ordered online, I endured a harrowing half hour wait for these hype burgers, buffeted by a freezing gale, because my food had fallen between the cracks of Shake Shack’s abysmal pickup protocol. I got totally fucked over by “The Board,” a bizarre monitor that keeps track of peoples’ food orders, but which runs on its own internal logic that scientists cannot understand. I have never harbored more hatred for a tv screen, which is a damn shame, because tvs are among my favorite kinds of screens. I documented my misadventure on Twitter, so if you want the horrific backstory of my cursed quest to eat some fucking crinkle fries, follow me @surlygourmand. You’ve been warned: waiting 30 minutes for a hamburger is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Anyway, fuck The Board. Let’s talk about the food.

The ShackBurger is $5.99. That’s honestly not a bad price for a cheeseburger these days. Plus vegetables are free. So, to the ShackBurger’s default accoutrements of lettuce, tomato, cheese, and a smear of Shake Shack’s legendary ShakeSauceTM, I opted to add onions and pickles. This lettuce and tomato situation sucks. Just lettuce and tomato? Why the fuck? Of all the hamburger toppings, lettuce is the least flavorful, and tomatoes are the most likely to be shitty. It’s like they picked the wrong answers on a multiple choice test. It’s ALMOST correct, yet not quite right. This is like when you go to a foreign land and get homesick, so you try to order something american, like pizza, but you discover that the most popular pizza topping in Peru is CANNED CORN. If “What ingredients are on a cheeseburger?” was a question on Family Feud, lettuce and tomatoes are the last two answers that nobody guesses.

Given all of the breathless blowjobbery surrounding Shake Shack, I was expecting a cheeseburger so good, that if I started choking on it I’d keep taking bites of it before I died. When I opened the bag, however, my burger was smeared across the bottom, having fallen out of its paper winding shroud. No big deal; I just reassembled it. Besides, the burger’s deconstruction gave me a chance to inspect the ingredients.

The patty itself was pretty unobtrusive: a rich mahogany, it was obviously formed by hand. A skein of melted American cheese clung tightly to every crevice. The vegetables were quite fresh, even the tomatoes. Despite fall’s encroachment upon the land, the tomatoes were red and juicy. The green leaf lettuce was vivid and crisp. The pickles offered a refreshing snap when bitten into. There were way too many raw onions, but whatever; I like onions. The secret ShakeSauceTM, obviously one of those classic mayonnaise-and-ketchup style diner sauces, had a salty depth of flavor without the cloying sweetness that too often plagues this stuff. The bun was soft and golden; I think it’s a potato bun but it could just be yellow food coloring.

Taken as a whole, it’s a decent cheeseburger.

It’s the fries that are a blatant fucking ripoff. An order of Hot Spicy Fries is $3.99, and you don’t get a super huge portion of them and also, they’re fucking CRINKLE FRIES. Yeah yeah yeah, we all know the inescapable online chatter about Shake Shack’s french fries: originally an afterthought on the menu, they’re frozen. Shake Shack tried to switch to hand cut fries a few years ago, but for some reason customers rebelled, and they reverted to the original frozen ones. These customers who complained are dumbasses. I suppose the stupids prefer ridged french fries to overcompensate for their smooth brains.

Crinkle fries are easily the worst of all the fry shapes. Even Jack in the Box’s curly fries, voted “most likely to snap off and smear ketchup on your fucking shirt” by esteemed burgerologists, are better. One of the main raves about crinkle fries is that the corrugations retain more sauce. Too bad that doesn’t actually matter. You can put gallons of any fucking condiment onto a crinkle fry and they somehow remain elusively, maddeningly bland.

So with this in mind, I ordered the Extra Hot option, hoping to counteract the flavorless potato zigzags that I knew were coming. Besides, I never trust chain restaurants that offer food claiming to be “hot.” Everyone knows that, hoping to preserve their economy of scale while remaining mindful of pitiful midwestern palates, most chains dumb down the heat a few clicks. I’m no showoff, but I can handle a little bit of heat: I store my contact lenses in Taco Bell Fire sauce. So my expectations were low.

I admit, however, that the Hot Spicy fries are legit. They’re not painfully hot, but they can hold their own. The problem is that the heat isn’t evenly distributed among the fries: some fries were almost completely devoid of spice. Others were caked with seasoning, wallowing self-destructively in the maroon powder like they were trying to reboot Scarface with an all-fry cast. Yet despite this heaping pollination of spicy dust, the fries were STILL SOMEHOW BLAND. Yes there was pepper, but where the fuck was the SALT? The menu promises a ramekin of ranch dressing with your fries; my sauce was sadly missing.

To cool my burning tongue, I downed a chocolate milkshake ($5.49). Unlike its crinkle fries, Shake Shack shakes its milk in house, from frozen custard that they churn on site. It was a pretty solid milkshake; I have no complaints. Then again, I have a low bar for milkshakes. Unless they’re made of poisonous chemicals like McDonald’s shakes, they’re all pretty good. But on the bright side, I ordered only one milkshake but was inexplicably given two.

Color me a provincial rube, but I don’t see the Shake Shack appeal. I don’t give a fuck that it’s the same company as Eleven Madison Park and Granercy Tavern. It’s a solid cheeseburger, but how good do you need it to be, really? I’m not denying that the ShackBurger is objectively better than a Quarter Pounder; it sure as fuck is, but the main reason that McDonald’s exists is so that you can obtain valuable hangover-killing fat and salt as efficiently as possible. Convenience is the main reason that fast food is even a thing! Taste is explicitly coincidental. A cheeseburger that comes with a half hour wait is FUCKED.

And as I previously mentioned via my epic Twitter bitchfest, I certainly don’t appreciate the ordering system, which is a clusterfuck. Shake Shack is so densely clustered a fuck, in fact, that it collapsed in upon itself into a ShackHoleTM, which sucks your entire lunch hour into it, never to be seen again. The last thing you see before you vanish into nothingness is the aforementioned The Board, the frustrating flat screen tv I complained about at the top of this review. As your corporeal form gets pulverized into spicy fry dust by the mass of all the wasted time at the center of the ShackHoleTM, you notice that, due to relativistic effects, your order is frozen onto The Board in fifth place for eternity.

Maybe they’re understaffed. Maybe they’re struggling with the new rules imposed by the Department of Health since the plague descended. I’ve been writing reviews with kid gloves on lately, since the ‘Rona has put so many excellent restaurants in jeopardy and I don’t want to kick the industry while it’s down. But fuck that; Shake Shack is no struggling mom-and-pop. My disdain for ShakeShack is merciless: not only did they unapologetically bungle my order, they also hogged $10 million of Paycheck Protection Program loans. Although they DID return the loan, to their credit, the low interest PPP loans were intended for delicious local burger stands like Zippy’s to keep employees on the payroll while COVID cripples the economy.

So in conclusion, fuck you Shake Shack, you bunch of scammers. Nobody needs to go there.

Rating: 3 PPP’s out of 10

Shake Shack is located at 2115 Westlake Ave.

To place an order online, which won’t be ready until like a million years after you send it in, go to

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