If you pay attention to this sort of thing, you probably know that Shake Shack, the way hyped New York-bred burger chain, is coming to LA in 2016. I'm sure some of you have already tagged all of your friends on Facebook and agreed to visit once it's open. I'm just going to tell you all now: You need to calm down about Shake Shack, 'cause honestly, it's not that great.
I mean, have some dignity. You're in Orange County, home of In-N-Out. I'm just going to call it now: Shake Shack West Coast is going to flop and flop hard.
I first and last visited the Shack during my trip to New York last December to visit former Weekly Intern Michael Chin, during which I legitimately tried to eat every hype-worthy food in the city. It was day six or so, and by then I had already had five kinds of buns, two kinds of pizza, two bowls of ramen, some number of bagels, and one really awesome plate of Jamaican food. Michael, the Press Telegram's Greg Yee, and I decided to kill two birds with one stone for lunch and visit both Shake Shack and Smashburger (because I'm dumb and didn't realize that there's one in LA).
And you know what? Shake Shack was fine. A perfectly decent burger. Slightly on the fancier side not unlike Umami Burger, but a few dollars cheaper (and correspondingly, a few dollars worse). But that was it. There was absolutely nothing memorable about it. I actually enjoyed the cheaper Smashburger much more and honestly that meal was probably the worst of my entire trip (including the ones I had hungover).
That's the fatal flaw with Shake Shack: There's absolutely nothing special or memorable about it. It awkwardly fills a niche that barely exists between Umami Burger and In-N-Out. If you use your imagination and average those two, the ShackBurger is what you get. I mean, what's the most special thing about it? The bun? Feh. It's just a potato roll. The quality? West Coast's been doing quality since 1948.
There's a reason that (New York-born) Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay both love the Double Double. It's consistent, it's delicious, and it's the most value-packed burger you can get — I'm calling it — anywhere. What's Shake Shack got on that?
So, try Shake Shack if you want, but don't be disappointed when it falls flat because it will. And don't be afraid to stop by an In-N-Out on your way back, because it'll be worth it. (Do get the crinkle fries though, they're pretty awesome.)