Admittedly, I have a bit of an axe to grind. After years of drooling, the famous New York-based Shake Shack finally opened an LA location where the lines are insane. Naturally they waited until after literally selling out with an IPO. While they were small and still private, they had a Dubai location, but snubbed LA. So when there are two locations inside malls walking distance from each other near my inlaws on Queens Boulevard, I feel like the LA wait was maliciously intentional. But, they don’t have In ‘N Out, so not sure if that balances out.
I was not expecting the high school cafeteria cut and the cheese looks like nacho sauce, not the slice of grilled American I figured they’d be copying. Nonetheless, the fries were addictively crispy, and the sauce had a satisfyingly cheesy flavor. The wooden fork is necessary not for keeping your hands clean, but rather to force the fries down into the pool of sauce forming at the bottom of the basket.
I selected a double SmokeShack burger, two beef patties, bacon, and a mountain of cheese squeezed onto a far too small bun. The patties are a bit on the salty side, so when combined with the bacon, this was over salted for my west coast tastes. The sauce didn’t seem to add any flavor, just moisture. I had a hard time finding the cherry peppers, but they did add a pleasant spice and pickled flavor to every bite that cuts through and balances the cheese. Overall a pretty good burger.
So what about their namesake? Even December, I feel it’s my duty to have a shake.
Figuring it’s best to go with what’s not common, I grabbed the coffee shake that proudly brags to be fare-trade. On first sip I was shocked. Though the color belies it, this shake had more coffee flavor than any I’ve previously had. Coffee is tricky in a shake because the ratio is already up unbalanced compared to a latte. Add too little coffee and you get no flavor at all, too much and it gets icy instead of creamy, use powders and it will turn grainy. This suffered none of those flaws. It was smooth, creamy, rich, and was a perfect latte in milkshake form.
Overall, Shake Shack seems to be a great choice if you are nearby, and if there’s no wait. But at a price tag of over $20 for the above meal, I’d rather go elsewhere to In ‘N Out or any of the hundreds of gastropubs in LA that feature better burgers and better prices. We’re just spoiled that way.