Where: Southeast corner of Madison Square Park, at 23rd Street
The brain-child of NYC restaurateur Danny Meyer, Shake Shack serves up high-end burgers, dogs, shakes, ice cream and drinks to a mix of lunch-hour office workers, tourists, and generally beautiful and stylish New York City park-goers that seem to be in the business of…well, being generally beautiful and stylish.
Since I am there so infrequently, I decided to order a mashup meal: the Shack Stack®. This sandwich combines their standard ShackBurger®* with the muenster and cheddar-stuffed fried portobello from the ‘Shroom Burger. The latter seems to assume that being a vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean that you give a crap about your cholesterol level.
This is the type of sandwich that you hold in your hand and wonder how you can possibly unhinge your jaw to actually take a bite. The mushroom is conspicuous: about an inch-and-a-half tall, and two-thirds the circumference of the burger and bun. Your first bite pierces its crispy shell, unleashing the ooze of cheese within and collapsing the sandwich just enough to make additional bites much easier. And ooze it does.
The portobello is clearly the star of the show. The burger — ground fresh daily, cooked to medium and topped with American cheese — is simple, tender and spice-neutral. You don’t really need to mess with the flavor of quality beef. The slices of plum tomato and leaves of lettuce are almost superfluous, and the ShackSauce# is nearly imperceptible. But that might just be relative to the fact that each bite is dominated in taste and texture by the flesh of the mushroom, its crispy coating and velvet interior.
I was left satisfied and pleasantly surprised by how “light” the meal felt. Don’t get me wrong: this is not a side salad by any means, but I didn’t need a ShackNap^ or looser ShackPants^ when lunch was done.
Next time, I’ll dine in the park with a beer in hand and soaking in the sights and sounds of beautiful and stylish New York.
* There are lots of registered marks dotting the menu and liberal use of the word “Shack” as a prefix with camel-capitalization to name the products.
# See what I mean?
^ Trademark pending