Is the Atlanta locale the only Shake Shack in the world without a line? For years I’ve read about people waiting gleefully for hours in various lines in Manhattan, and I have difficulty reconciling those tales to my experiences at the Buckhead venue, where I have never been beyond fourth in line upon arrival. The Streets of Buckhead, or whatever the hell they’re calling that over-priced outdoor shopping mall/soulless see and be seen high-end chain restaurant destination these days, may not be the best the spot for a fast food burger shop, but what do I know? But I’d bet you a c-ntoe that if Shake Shack was in Virginia-Highland, maybe replacing Yeah! Burger, the worldwide cash-cow Shake Shack would be far more successful, and also a good bit tastier and more consistent than Meh! Burger.
Not that I love Shake Shack, but it does the trick. They’ve got beef that tastes like actual beef in a price range where that’s rare. They feature crispy crinkle cut fries (divisive, I know, but I can get behind them if they are HOT), cold and audibly crunchy burger toppings, efficient service, shakes that make momma happy when I bring them home, and a few acceptable beers. The bun is a squishy potato bun, which I typically like, though I find theirs to be a bit too doughy.
A good fried chicken sandwich is up there with a righteous burger, so I did run out quickly upon the release of the new Chicken Shack sandwich when it released a couple months ago. Apparently Danny Meyer and Co. had been planning this chicken sandwich for two years. Not surprising, knowing a bit about Mr. Meyer’s track record and proclivity for perfection and quality, but still, impressive.
So long story short, I tried it. I enjoyed it, quite a bit. I’ve not had the David Chang Fuku sandwich (which apparently is the tits), and I’m not going to go all “best fried chicken sandwich I’ve ever had” on you, but I think Shake’s chicken sandwich is done quite right. It doesn’t feel as manufactured as a Chik-Fil-A sandwich, with a crust you can tell is hand dipped to order. The exterior is a craggly effort, full of spice, and tends to fall off a bit in pieces, you know, like a real piece of fried chicken is wont to do.
The Chicken Shack is antibiotic-free breast meat (I’m a thigh guy), though it certainly wasn’t rubbery or blasted to dry protein hell. It features enough salt, plenty of spice, and a happy crunch of lettuce and pickles, all contrasting nicely with that super squishy bun (more acceptable to me in this application) which has a nice smear of mayo. There will always be times where I find myself in the mood for a quick burger, but I will say this – I will be hard pressed to order the burger over this chicken sandwich on the two or three times I’m likely to end up in Shake Shack in a year. Toss on some hot sauce and a cold beer, double dunk some hot and salty as I can get ’em fries in a bunch of ketchup, and then I aim to inhale it all quickly while everything is still at the right temp and texture. For about $15 all in (with the beer), I’ll be a right happy diner speeding in and out during a casual Friday lunch.