2000 Sansom St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
It's been a long time coming, but Shake Shack has finally arrived in Philadelphia. Known for its cult-like following in New York, as well as the extraordinary lines that this following brings, this was pretty much my most anticipated opening of 2012.
At 20th and Sansom Streets, it's close enough to grab food and head to Rittenhouse for some good, old fashioned people watching. Or if you are strapped for time, retreat back to the office to abuse your coworkers with smells. As anticipated, there was a line. Quite a long one, actually.
Luckily, the staff was ridiculously prepared, and amazingly friendly. Not to mention, you had plenty of time to pick, rethink, and change your order.
When ordering, there is a line for custard, and a line for anything/everything else.
I was tempted to buy a shirt instead of a burger, oh wait, no I wasn't. But maybe some people are?
After you place your order, you are given a Lone Star Steak House-style buzzer, and sent to fend for a place to sit. It actually didn't take too long to find a table. I am also unfairly adept at beating people to tables that are about to open. I have a lot of experience, and am somewhat neurotic, which means you probably can't out-scan and scoot me to a party about to leave.
It's funny, for as many people as there were waiting to get in, it only took 30 minutes to get food on opening day, and it was not overly packed inside. They control the flow very well. The interior is sleek and comforting. Seeing as how I rode my bike there, I figured two burgers, cheese fries, and a concrete custard should suffice. You are looking at a SmokeShack double, a ShackBurger, cheese fries, and a Liberty Shell concrete.
The SmokeShack boasted a double beef patty, topped with Niman Ranch bacon, chopped cherry peppers, and Shack Sauce. This burger is fantastic. Salty, well-seasoned, ground Angus bursting with flavor, and just enough grease. The bacon was plenty smokey and added a perfect porky crunch to this masterpiece, while the cherry peppers took care of the need for a bit of heat and some vinegar tang, and the Shack Sauce rounded out the bunch with a zippy, creamy, extra dollop of cholesterol. The bun and wax paper combo did a perfect job of keeping all of the accounts in order while I was busy trying not to bite my hand with overzealousness. Is this the perfect bacon cheeseburger? It's one of the best, no doubt.
Did I mention it was cooked to a beautiful medium? Because it was.
The ShackBurger likewise did not disappoint. A perfect example of what a fast food burger should be. Soft bun that can stand up to the task: cheese, lettuce, tomato, and ShackSauce. I am trying to refrain from using more explicit language than usual, so let's just say it was freaking awesome. The meat in these burgers is the kind of thing that reaffirms the fact that vegetarians are generous for leaving all the meat for those of us who truly love to eat. Flavor, fat, and happiness are among the emotions running through my mind (arteries).
The reason why fast-food-style burgers are superior to their more eccentric restaurant brethren is that the simplicity makes them stand on their own. Simple, well prepared ingredients, and fresh vegetables are what makes a burger, a burger. Also, griddling them on a flattop doesn't hurt.
The fries are crinkle cut. Which usually would be a major negative in my book. They just don't come out crispy, most of the time. Well these little potato accordions were crispy, well salted (but not overly so) and smothered in the delicious Shack cheddar and American cheese sauce. Definitely worth a go.
Finally, as though that wasn't enough, I went for a Liberty Shell Concrete. This was comprised of dense frozen custard blended at high speeds, with mix-ins. My version started with vanilla custard, and added in Termini brothers cannoli shells, strawberry puree, and lemon ricotta. What the hell are they trying to do to me? This was another grand slam. The pieces of cannoli added a unique crunch, while the strawberry and lemon ricotta worked together to leave it fresh tasting, with some zing and not overly heavy.
As much as I didn't want to buy in to the hype, this place is damn near perfect. I absolutely loved everything I had, and can't wait to go back and drink beer next time. Yes, they serve beer and wine as well. So be willing to wait, and willing to eat, and you will have one hell of a meal.