Eating out in New York City is an endeavour with countless options. I had wanted to eat something that is fairly affordable and yet will make my dining time in New York memorable enough. In order to narrow down to noteworthy options, I referred to Pocket Rough Guide: New York City written and researched by Martin Dunford, Stephen Keeling and Andrew Rosenberg.
One of the places that was recommended in the Eating Out options was Shake Shack for its price and outdoor seating setting. Coincidentally, the day before I had visited Shake Shack, one of my new-found friends at the hostel told me he had a meal at Shake Shack.
Shake Shack is very popular. It is in fact a phenomenon! At non-lunch hours, around 3 p.m., there was already a long queue at Shake Shack. I had waited more than half-an-hour before it was my turn to have my order taken. It took another 15 minutes at least to wait for my order to be ready.
Located in Madison Square Park, I love its outdoor setting and the surrounding landscaped park. I later found out that in 2004, a bid was won to open a permanent kiosk in the Madison Square Park. Shake Shack has the company of beautiful trees, a lovely fountain and flowers. In some ways, I think such a natural yet landscaped location makes eating burgers healthier and less sinful.
Shake Shack is known for its grilled burgers and frozen custard shakes. I ordered a single Shack Stack, a Concrete Single Shack Attack and French Fries.
The Shack Stack is a cross between a Cheeseburger and a 'Shroom Burger with crisp-fried portabello mushroom. This delicious burger is topped with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce. Each Shack Stack costs USD$9.49. I particularly like the crisp-fried portabello mushroom that was sandwiched in the Shack Stack. The burger bun was fresh and has a soft yet just right texture. The cheese went just right with the rest of the burger. Overall, a tasty burger. No wonder people are willing to queue at Shake Shack for its grilled burgers.
The Concrete Single Shack Attack (single) is one of the options of frozen custard that is available at Shake Shack. The ingredients in this dense frozen custard ice cream blended at high speed with mix-ins include: chocolate custard, fudge sauce, chocolate truffle cookie dough and Mast Brothers Shake Shack dark chocolate chunks, topped with chocolate sprinkles. It tasted rich and creamy, and fresh! Shake Shack promises that the vanilla and chocolate recipes in its frozen custard items are spun fresh daily with milk from dairy farmers who pledge not to use artificial growth hormones. At USD$4.50, I think it is value-for-money.
Service was considered good given that the Shake Shack outlet in Madison Square Park had a long queue and did not charge service charge. There was a member of the staff who went around serving iced cold (water) and passing out menus to customers who were queuing in the line.
The weather was good on the day of my visit and there was enough shade provided by the trees. I would have to say that I enjoy eating outdoors at seated dining areas. Although Shake Shack is not unique to New York City, it was a unique experience eating delicious grilled burgers and drinking frozen custard right in a park. Furthermore, the Madison Square Park was where Shake Shack was first started.
My learning point: Eating is pleasurable not just because of the quality of the food. The environment also matters. A relaxing and pleasant environment enhances the dining experience.
Madison Square Park
near Madison Ave and E 23rd Street
Subway: N, R, W to 23rd Street
Operating hours: Daily, 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.