So it’s been about a week since New York City’s Shake Shack began its Chicago “takeover”.
With the way most Chicagoans are treating this news, you’d think the store sold gold-plated burgers.
The corner of Ohio and Rush Street has been teeming these past few days with eager fans awaiting their first Shack Attack. And although the food is very good, with a half hour wait to place your order and seats becoming available roughly once per ice age, be sure to get your food to go.
But after all the hype, the real question isn’t “is Shake Shack good?” No, what we all really need to know is “is Shake Shack as good as its hashtag?”
The crowd at Shake Shack is young, which means everything in the restaurant winds up on Instagram. Instagram, for those who don’t know, is a food-documenter that sometimes doubles as a photography-based social network. Shake Shack is lousy with these purveyors of iPhone photography. They do this not with smiles, but with an almost dutiful solemnity, like monks engaged in some pre-feast ritual.
Don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into a rant about how millennials spend too much time on their phones and not enough time digging ditches or whatever. And I’m not making fun—it took at least forty-five minutes to get that burger, they deserve to commemorate the occasion if it’s how they enjoy themselves.
But Shake Shack seems like it caters to these serial instagrammers and social media gurus. I mean just look at the receipt:
It’s just strange; who could have predicted that food photography would become the new normal? It wasn’t so very long ago that we were relying on disposal cameras with those scratchy little wheels you had to turn after every shot. Now the internet is roughly 90% burger portraits.
But hey, weirder habits have formed. In Japan it’s so taboo to walk while eating that they put picnic tables near vending machines so people can finish their bags of chips on the spot, rather than disrespect the chips by carrying them somewhere.
Hell, Americans have grilled, barbecued, and fried every organic molecule known to science. Is it really so strange that we’re immortalizing our meals in 140 characters or less?
Still, if you are one of the people who wants to know if Shake Shack is worth the half hour wait for the sake of the food over the hashtag, the answer is: Kinda.
For the record, yes, for a seven to ten dollar burger, the offerings at Shake Shack are exceptional. Tangy “Shack Sauce” marries beautifully with some extremely fresh ingredients. The bacon on the SmokeShack burger is crispy and savory, and the lettuce and tomatoes taste garden fresh. You can also get beer, wine, and even dog treats, of all things (we’ll be sure to get a review of those up as soon as we hire a dog).
Chicago has apparently already decided to trip over itself to give this place the GDP of a small nation, so it really doesn’t matter if we give this place a thumbs up. They’re serving Vienna Beef products though, so these guys seem to understand the almost cult-like devotion Chicagoans have for their hot dogs.
The crinkle-cut fries aren’t all that special, though the dust they’re covered with is yummy. And the shakes are delicious, which is disappointing for me, because I had a hilariously snarky comment ready in case Shake Shack’s flagship product turned out to be a bust. But the shakes are fantastically rich and filling, so I guess you’ll never hear it. Your loss.
When the lines calm down and the weather warms up enough to justify filling your body with cold dairy, Shake Shack is going to be a prime destination. Right now I say give it another week before you see what all the fuss is about, or at least bring a phone to distract you in the line.
Once again, I feel an almost patriotic urge to snark at Shake Shack (there’s a Steak n’ Shake on Broadway but I don’t recall that ever getting a parade), but I can’t deny that a fast food chain with so dedicated a crowd must be doing something right beyond merely good food.
It’s important to remember that restaurants are part of the “Hospitality Industry” and it’s always fun watching eager guests willingly spreading the love.
We’ve got our eyes and cameras on you, Shake Shack. Keep your ketchup off our hot dogs and we’ll get along just fine.