Adventures of a Gastronome in Training (GIT)

One amateur foodie's quest for culinary enlightenment. Musings on cooking, dining, food products, basically all things edible are fair game.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Shake Shack vs. Pop Burger

On July 1, Danny Meyer opened Shake Shack in Madison Square Park after debuting it at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. Since then Egullet has been keeping constant vigil, with one guy eating there five times in the first week. There have been complaints about the weekday lunch lines and some bugs in the food delivery system, but that seems par for the course during the opening stretch.

Shake Shack serves burgers, hot dogs, frozen custard, and fries as well as beer and wine. It sits in a stand in the south end of the park surrounded by small tables and chairs. We’re talking pure, no-holds barred nostalgic summertime atmosphere, folks.

Overall, the basic burgers ($3.50) are a standout for the genre of upscale fast-food. Juicy, kinda greasy, and FULL of flavor; I could just about throw down two or three of these every day. The potato bun is soft with a bit of sweetness and the accoutrements are first-rate. I have not tried the “Shack Burger” that is a more upscale version that is also served. Crinkle-cut fries are mediocre, though, and suffered from over salting on my initial tasting. Not too crispy, not too mushy, just kind of solid, “direct from your grocer’s freezer” fare. Frozen custard is a bit new to the NYC scene. It’s a fattylicious Southern/Midwestern treat, which is richer (more egg-y) and thicker than your traditional soft-serve.

Contrast Shake Shack with Pop Burger, another of Manhattan’s high-end, on-the-go burger joints. Pop is located on 9th avenue near the Meatpacking district (between 14th and 15th Streets). Set in a minimalist, modern space, remarkably delicious mini-burgers and knock-‘em-dead fries are served to an eclectic—though mostly young and a bit sauced—crowd (we usually hit this spot before or after visiting a favorite local bar, Passerby, on 15th Street near 10th Ave.).

The mini-burgers (2 for $5) are juicy, meaty and reasonably filling. With or without cheese, they come dressed with good, fresh tomato and a tangy squirt of Big Mac-like sauce. These are satisfying burgers. The real standout, though, is the perfectly crisp on the exterior and pillow-soft on the inside French fried accompaniments.

All in all, Pop gives you the best “burger and fries” combo meal with hip digs in a hot neighborhood. Narrowly, Shake Shack serves the superior burger in a more tranquil setting. Throw in a tantalizing dessert treat, the signature frozen custard, and you’re going to be feelin’ pretty good.


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Jennie/Female. Lives in United States/Jennie Auster/New York, speaks English. Eye color is blue.