Shake Shack well worth wait


Carolina Sanchez

The SmokeShack has natural applewood smoked bacon and chopped cherry pepper topped with Shack Sauce.

By Assistant Arts & Culture Editor

With a 20-minute waiting line out the doors, Shake Shack, the New York City-based hamburger chain, finally opened its doors in Chicago on Nov. 4.

If the dozens of eager customers wrapping around the freezing city streets is any indication, the new River North location at 66 E. Ohio St. is sure to sell delicious hamburgers galore.

Officially founded 10 years ago by New York restaurateur Danny Meyer in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park, the burger chain has quickly grown from its humble beginnings as a hot dog street vendor. With its growth in popularity, the burger hotspot has not only expanded across the country, but now has locations internationally and even received a shout out in a 2013 “Saturday Night Live” sketch.

Chicago—a city known for its abundance of meaty foods and an even larger appetite—is the perfect landing spot for the newest Shake Shack location. But why would the Windy City need yet another burger chain when it is already home to Portillo’s Hot Dogs and The Billy Goat Tavern? Shake Shack stands apart from the competition by offering a high-quality take on lowbrow food, something evident from the restaurant’s quaint dining room to its juicy hamburgers.

The new Shake Shack location, which took the place of a Harley-Davidson store, adheres to the franchise’s classic menu with a few local favorites thrown into the mix. The restaurant is known for its milk shakes, but its frozen custard “concrete” dessert items, with local ingredients from favorites Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits, 2051 N. California Ave., and Glazed & Infused, 30 E. Hubbard St., give the signature beverage a run for its money. Shake Shack’s Salted Carame‘L’ ($4.30 for a single) references Chicago’s famous rail system, blending together vanilla custard, banana slices and a Glazed & Infused old- fashioned salted caramel doughnut that is perfect for any dessert, even in sub-zero temperatures.

While the restaurant’s desserts are a major selling point, Shake Shack’s succulent hamburgers are the real stars. Made with 100 percent all-natural Angus beef, whether it is the ShackBurger ($4.95), a classic hamburger with all the usual fixings, or the SmokeShack ($6.45), a cheeseburger topped with all-natural applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry pepper and the chain’s signature Shack Sauce—a blend of mayo, ketchup, mustard as well as several other spices—the restaurant is sure to hold its own in the fierce Chicago burger sphere. 

Shake Shack’s beer and wine bar sets it apart from other chains as well. Not everyday can you get a glass of red wine for $8.50 at a burger joint. Shake Shack has something for everyone in the family—dogs included. The “Woof” section of the menu offers “treats for those with four feet.” Even the dog treats sound delicious, like the Pooch-ini ($3.85), including ShackBurger-flavored dog biscuits, peanut butter sauce and vanilla custard.

In addition to its hamburgers and Yukon potato Crinkle Cut Fries ($2.90), Shake Shack also throws its hat into Chicago’s food ring with its appetizing Flat-Top Dogs. Each hot dog is made with 100 percent all-natural beef, split and griddled to a crisp with no added hormones or antibiotics. The pun-inspired Shack-cago Dog, ($4.00) includes a crispy hot dog, “dragged through the garden” with Rick’s Picks Shack relish, onion, cucumber, pickle, tomato, sport pepper, celery salt and mustard, which could rival any hot dog in the city.

While the food is delicious, the long wait for a simple hamburger meal might be too much for some. The close-quartered lines and cramped waiting area are a bit of a hassle, but Shake Shack’s large dining area, with all wooden booths, is a comfortable dining haven.

From its buttery buns to its creamy custards, Shake Shack is sure to please the hearty appetites of any Chicago burger fan. The restaurant’s high-quality twist on simple food staples makes Shake Shack a must-have for any Chicago burger aficionado.