I just returned from the beloved city of New York after visiting family for a few days of pre-Christmas merriment. I love New York and always will for more reasons than I can discuss. Given The City's vast expanse, its replete with overlooked greatness. If you go to New York, you'll find amazing restaurants representing every style of cuisine. And if money's not a big issue during your stay, you'd be a fool to waste it making fast food a part of any meal. An exception to this suggested moratorium is the Shake Shack.
Simply put, the Shake Shack has the best fast food I've ever tasted. It blows away the big 3 burger joints and their progeny. The burgers and fries are of unbelievably high quality. The fries are crinkle cut. I believe they are fried in duck fat. They have a delicious savory flavor to them that stays on your tongue for a few seconds longer than other fast food fries - even those considered to be of top quality such as Five Guys - whose flavor seems more fleeting. The burgers come in a great bun, also savory, that has a trademarked pocket on one end and is pleasantly crispy on the edges and inside. The burgers themselves are downright seductive. They have a certain freshness and a lean, juicy quality, and are a bit crumbly but hang together nicely. With food this good you can almost eschew all condiments, but the lettuce and tomatoes are quite fresh. The namesake milkshake was creamy, dense, but never clogged the straw and was rich. I happened to get a vanilla.
Yet, as a beer fan, one of my main purposes in visiting this establishment was to try Brooklyn Brewing's Shackmeister Ale, a beer which I have known for years to have been brewed specifically for the Shake Shack. The Shack sells you a pint of Shackmeister for around $5. That's reasonable. During my first of two visits to the Shack, I dined at the 8th Avenue location. The line was short when I got there and grew incredibly long as I waited on my meal, snaking around an airport ticketing type of adjustable canvas rope divider. I drank my Shackmeister while waiting out my to-go order.
Shackmesier is a decent but unmemorable brew. They served it cold and I could feel the chill and the condensation on the clear plastic cup housing it. Its nose was nonessential. Noble hops hit you for a second up front before giving way to a rather hollow bready malt base with a touch of melon and maybe a hint of citrus. The flavor dissipatess quickly. Shackmeister's purpose is to refresh you and not get in the way of your amazing food. It is not a beer worthy of much study. I would call it lager like. It has a reasonable 5% level ABV and a spare mouthfeel. I wouldn't describe the finish as crisp. Perhaps exiguous is the right word. Anyway, it's meant to be insubstantial and get you along to your next bite of food and dispense with your very last morsel, and in that regard it's perfectly functional. Try one.
So, on the next night of my trip I had the pleasure of visiting the Madison Park location which is in the park northwest of Madison and 23rd. It really is nothing more than a shack in the park and is the color and style of a rest area stop. I've attached a photo of it. There's one walk up window and one take out window. They give you a vibrating device for your wait. The Empire State building looms in the background and the words "Shake Shack" sit atop the building in art deco. As I approached the building a rat scurried past the tips of my shoes. Lovely. That's New York. Not even that could have diminished my enjoyment of my aforementioned shake that I ordered at this locale. The shake was far more memorable than the Shackmeister.