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Fat Guy

Shake Shack

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During the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party '04, we got a preview of the Shake Shack, a concession in Madison Square Park run by Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group. The Shake Shack replaces the former Eleven Madison Park hot dog cart and expands the menu offerings to include frozen custard, shakes, burgers, fries, beer and wine, in addition to the same Chicago-style Vienna Beef frankfurters from previous summers.

The Shake Shack is now in soft opening mode. Custard, shakes, frankfurters and crinkle-cut fries are being served, and burgers will be launched on Thursday.

So far I've only sampled the custard. Danny Meyer and Richard Corrain (who is the USHG's chief of operations) traveled throughout the US Midwest and South, visiting the great American custard establishments and studying the equipment and mixes necessary to make this confection.

For those unfamiliar with frozen custard -- and I am very much a novice -- it is not soft-serve ice cream. It is its own category of frozen dairy dessert, with very few examples traditionally available in this region. It is similar in texture to ice cream at its early stages of production, before it has been lowered in temperature and made more solid (after which even when raised in temperature it maintains an ice cream texture, not a custard texture). Custard has a soft, luscious texture and the egg ratio is quite high. It is scooped like ice cream; it does not get put out of a machine directly into a cone. Scooping may be the wrong word, though, because it doesn't quite have the integrity to be scooped -- it is more spooned and manipulated into its serving vessel. It is quite soft.

The custard I tried at the Big Apple Barbecue was terrific, and the custard I tried today had already been improved in terms of its texture and egg-balance. It was evident (and confirmed by management) that Shake Shack is making its own custard mix from natural ingredients -- the custard is not based on a commercial mix. The real vanilla was evident. I believe all the prep for the Shake Shack is being handled out of the Eleven Madison Park kitchen. Chef Kerry Heffernan and pastry chef Nicole Kaplan were themselves dishing up the custard at the Big Apple Barbecue, and Richard Corrain was working the shack today.

In addition to its culinary mission, the Shake Shack has a social one. It employs 7 students from Washington Irving High School -- one of the roughest schools in one of the roughest public school systems -- and it provides nuts-and-bolts management training for externs from the hotel and culinary schools.

Anybody else been to the Shake Shack yet? Looking forward to your reports.

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I agree that their custard at the BBQ was some of the best I have ever had, and I've had some decent custard in my time. Very much looking forward to trying their shakes and some of their other things.

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I have been to the shake shack several times, and the custard is incredible.

I bought it, made myself promise "just one taste" it was impossible not to finish it, I have never had anything like it (a frozen custard novice--) the wonderful eggy richness of good custard, and an absolutely silken(?) texture-not icy or really very cold at all as fat guy said.

it has to be tasted, i still haven't had the chocolate.

I couldn't believe how good the Chicago (gosh I hope its Chicago, some large city not on either coast... erm...) dog was. I only had a quick bite of my brother's but there were various kinds of pickles, celery salt, and tomato on a lousy spongy bun that's only redemption was that it had tasty onion and poppy-seeds, which does a lot to redeem a hot dog bun, don't get me wrong-- but couldn't they just go one step further and make it a bit sturdier (I don't know if this is for purposes of authenticity or what, but the rest of the ingredients were of such incredibly high quality, this doesn't seem like an accident, so I can only assume it's 1. for the fine folks of Chicago--which seems a bit silly or 2. its the preview week and they are struggling with the bun situation) which brings me to the mustard--only yellow was available, this made me sad, am I wrong here in expecting good hot-dog mustard to be brown?

ooh the hot-dog, the hot dog was FANTASTIC! Big and juicy and flavorful, mild, which is how I like them. Really excellent.

I have been missing my hometown hot-dog joint in Providence--Spike's and these are the only hot dogs I've had that even come close.

I love that they are serving beer in the park, and madison square park has got to be right up there as one of the most lovely small parks in Manhattan (really beautiful landscaping, lots of benches, tables to eat at)-- a fantastic place to have a drink after work or on the weekends. This will be one of the big treats for those of us stuck in NYC in the summer. So poo poo all you Hamptons people... I predict that this will be a HUGE draw for the after work crowd, once people figure it out.

:wub:

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I'm so jazzed about having a real frozen custard stand in the City. Grew up down South eating exemplary frozen custard. There's nothing quite like it, and a frozen-custard-based *milkshake* is truly a thing of wonderment. No accident that they've named their park stand the "Shake Shack" - the custard milkshake is a culinary WMD (Weapon of Massive Deliciousness.) :wub:

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Is there any way we can do a compare-and-contrast with Custard Beach? Although that might not be fair, because it seems to me that CB is now basically an ice cream stand, not frozen custard (it's been a while) since I had it, though.

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speaking of frozen summer treats, there's also an ice-cream sandwich stand now set up outside Olives, at the corner of 17th & Park Ave. One could indulge at the Shake Shack and then waddle over to Olives for "dessert."

Anyone know the hours for the Shake Shack? Is it open in the evenings?

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speaking of frozen summer treats, there's also an ice-cream sandwich stand now set up outside Olives, at the corner of 17th & Park Ave. One could indulge at the Shake Shack and then waddle over to Olives for "dessert."

Anyone know the hours for the Shake Shack? Is it open in the evenings?

it closed by nine last night.. how do i know?? because i got there at nine o'five and they were locking up..

they are selling wine as well..

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They plan to be open until 10:00 most nights, but that'll be once they're in full operation mode. I'm a big fan of frozen custard, having tried many different places across the Midwest, and I think the Shake Shack's product is spot on when it comes to maximizing the flavor, feel, and unctiousness of the custard. They're working out some minor kinks with their current machine (they're getting a second -- and better -- one soon), as I discovered a couple of ice crystals in my sample yesterday. However, the new machine and some additional experience should solve any problems remaining.

I am amazed at Danny Meyer's operations. I managed to have lunch at 11 Madison Park, followed by a sample of the Shake Shack's custard, and then dinner at Tabla. Each of those establishments set the bar so high with respect to product, service, and customer satisfaction. When someone can hit a home run on hot dogs, custard, barbecue, and fine dining, we need more people like Danny.

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As a fellow former-St. Louisan of Danny Meyer's, I think I can shed a bit of light on the so-far uncommented on "concrete" listed up on the roof along with the Shake Shack's other offerings. The frozen concrete is the specialty (and I believe invention although I'm not an authority on the history) of the somewhat world-famous Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in South St. Louis. Every summer evening the extended sidewalk in front of Ted Drewes's dozen or so serving windows is packed solid spilling out into the street with people waiting in line for their delicious frozen custard sundaes and concretes. (This day shot gives an idea of the place. From maybe 9 to midnight on a nice weekend night or after a Cardinals' home game that area would be completely filled: probably a constant 150 or so people waiting for custard, plus a crowd that size hanging out eating in the parking lots on either side. Sort of like the BABBP, except the line actually moves really fast!)

This isn't enrevanche's frozen custard "milkshake", which the Shake Shack is currently selling in Vanilla, Strawberry and Chocolate varieties: there's no added milk, and the consistency is quite different. The closest equivalent I can think of is a DQ Blizzard--a tall cup of the frozen confectionary base with one's choice(s) of add-ins blended thoroughly throughout--but of course there you're talking soft serve versus frozen custard. Perhaps the best way to put it is to say the name "concrete" is well chosen. At Ted Drewes they traditionally emphasize this with a bit of culinary showboating: if you're lucky your server will hold your concrete upside-down for a few seconds before passing it through the window. (Of course on my first visit to Ted Drewes my older brother modified this tradition into he had to grab me and hold my concrete upside-down over my head, and of course it was already beginning to melt by that point and... :unsure: )

Comparing Shake Shack custard to Ted Drewes is a bit difficult at this point, since I've only had the plain vanilla sold at the BABBP, and only concretes and a few bites of sundaes at Ted Drewes. (Yes, you can get plain vanilla custard at Ted Drewes, but why?) My impression is that the Shake Shack version was probably "higher quality"--more pronounced natural vanilla, certainly eggier. Whether those qualities will make for a better concrete I wouldn't care to predict.

Everyone in St. Louis (or at least everyone I know) has their favorite concrete to order at Ted Drewes, and with 25 flavors to choose from and 2- and 3-flavor combos common, the combinatoric possibilities cause a great deal of thoughtful flavor theorizing. As for me, after a few years of flitting around I eventually sort-of settled on hot fudge-banana. It's not, in the end, the perfect concrete--it's too sweet and turns slightly cloying by the end of a large order--but way the flavors of the fudge and banana blend so smoothly into each other is a thing of joy. I'll be taking my place in line Thursday lunchtime to see how the Shake Shack's hot fudge-banana concrete stacks up.

(The full Shake Shack menu was on display Saturday before the start of the BABBP. Their concrete flavors are a bit cut down compared to Ted Drewes--I'd guess there were around 12 to 15--but I was happy to see hot fudge and banana both made the cut. :smile: )

Meantime, it's nice to see Danny finally start to show some hometown culinary pride after leaving us behind for the bright lights of the big city lo these long years ago. First Fitz's, then snoots (to the total puzzlement of, what, everyone?), and now frozen concretes! What's next: toasted ravioli at Modern? :huh:

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I'm having dinner at 11 Madison Park tomorrow and if the Shake Shack is still open afterwards (and if I can stomach some dessert), I'll stop by and try the custard.

As a (reluctant) (part-time) St. Louis resident, I have had Ted Drewes on multiple occasions, and have even had their (quite good) plain vanilla custard at least 5 times. I'll post the results of my comparison tomorrow (or whenever I get over to the Shake Shack).

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Dave H, thank you for that enlightening analysis. If my custard-novice senses are not mistaken, the egg percentage was reduced a bit between the Big Apple Barbecue and yesterday. This appeared to be the case both according to color and flavor. And I think it worked better: the eggs moved into the background while still providing lusciousness and richness.

Total bummer, though: tonight I went by at 9:30pm based on the representation that the place would be open until 10pm. It seems they had closed earlier. Pastries at Veniero's had to suffice.

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I'm older than most of you, and I remember a lot of frozen custard from my youth. Unfortunately, I don't remember exactly where I had it. Coney Island seems a natural, but where else? I can't really say. Maybe Woolworth's, they always had a soda fountain and maybe some place in downtown Brooklyn. It's hard to remember exactly when frozen custard disappeared and I suppose with ice cream around, I never noticed it was gone. As best as I can remember, if was always served soft out of a machine and into a cup much as most frozen yogurt is now. It was always very smooth, or so I remember. I had the custard at the Shake Shack on Saturday and Sunday of the bbq block party and it brought back a memory of the old stuff. The texture was harder in the cone, but it was closer to what I remembered in my mouth. I liked it a lot and consequently am glad to hear it's all natural.

I recall reading about the difference between frozen custard and ice cream. My guess is that

That the Shake Shack sells beer is an added bonus as this is my grandson's local park and playground. I suppose there are some limits as to how far away from the Shack I can carry my beer without breaking the law.

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It was really great after ingesting a lot of heavy, spicy barbecue at the block party. I need to go there after Blue Smoke, I think. I actually had lunch recently at 11 Madison Park, and was a little disappointed. Admittedly, I was on a date and so didn't order particularly lustily, but the four things I tried were all very nondescript and pedestrian. But the custard afterwards was awesome! Amazing to eat vanilla custard without either dip or jimmies. A first for me.

Josh

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A good time was had by all at the Shake Shack this afternoon as we stopped by for a quick photo shoot and tasting.

On the burger front Richard Corrain (chief of operations for the Union Square Group) demonstrated the preparation of a Shack Burger. The burger is a blend of sirloin and brisket. The patties are four ounces. The beef is ground in the Eleven Madison Park kitchen each day. The Shack Burger procedure is as follows . . .

The patty is placed on the griddle and pressed down, firmly, once. It is never again pressed upon. The Shake Shack is not that burger place where they lean into the burgers every ten seconds squeezing all the flavor out of them and into the grease trap. The single press at the beginning is the final shaping of the patty and serves to create a broad flat surface that has good contact with the griddle.

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The patty is well seasoned with salt.

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After something like 2-3 minutes the edges show signs of doneness. At this time the burger is flipped.

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The burger is beautifully browned and cooks on the other side for just a minute to finish.

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Cheese is added, the burger is placed on a buttered toasted-on-griddle Martin's potato roll, condiments are added and the burger is wrapped for handheld eating.

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Meanwhile the happy young employees of the Shake Shack were assembling some very colorful Chicago-style hot dogs. These are Vienna Beef hot dogs with many condiment choices. (The photo at the end of this post depicts the standard presentations; but if you ask for mustard these are some artistic possibilities.)

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Depicted here, a Shack Burger and if memory serves a "Taxi Dog" (right) and a variegated "Chicago Dog" (left).

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The crinkle cut fries were not available at the time of our shoot; they were just arriving when we had to leave for our next appointment. Custard photos too will have to wait for another day. But we'll be back, as Fat Guy has proclaimed the Shack Burger "Totally outstanding for its type."

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Holy cow, Chicago-style hot dogs too? This is just an embarrassment of riches.

Lovely photo essay, Ellen. I love that bright green relish on the hot dogs - that is a shade of green that does *not* occur in nature, but totally typical and necessary for a Chicago dog! :biggrin: I see they've got the tomato wedge, sport peppers, and other necessary accoutrements. Though I didn't see it mentioned, given Mr. Meyer's quest for authenticity in all things I'm sure there's a dash of celery salt on there too.

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The burger looks like a cross between In-n-Out and Steak-n-Shake.

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I'm older than most of you, and I remember a lot of frozen custard from my youth.....

It's hard to remember exactly when frozen custard disappeared and I suppose with ice cream around, I never noticed it was gone. As best as I can remember, if was always served soft out of a machine and into a cup much as most frozen yogurt is now. It was always very smooth, or so I remember.

Probably not much older than me but then again.... not that many eGulleteers are :laugh:

Custard never went away in central NY (which I like to refer to as "the real Upstate").... it just took a less prominent role. It's always been available in a dish but was customarily served as a soft serve cone. I imagine it does come from a commercial mix but is indeed softer, smoother, creamier and more eggy (in a good way) than soft serve ice cream. Gannon's here in Syracuse sells it as do most of the seasonal soft serve ice cream stands outside the city on county highways and byroads. We also have a regional custard chain called Abbott's with about a dozen locations in the Rochester area and one or two in Syracuse. It's the descendant of a business that started in Rye Beach NY in 1902 and once had many locations before the founders sold the Rochester location to the present owners. At one time Abbot's was in many resort areas along the East coast and may well be the custard that Bux recalls from Coney Island. I haven't tried their product but perhaps GordonCooks can weigh in with some info direct from Rochester.

Abbott's Custard

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I've been thinking over whether to apply for a chemistry teaching position at Washington Irving HS. Its proximity to the Shake Shack may swing my decision.

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I've been thinking over whether to apply for a chemistry teaching position at Washington Irving HS. Its proximity to the Shake Shack may swing my decision.

Good to see you've got your priorities straight.

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The burger looks like a cross between In-n-Out and Steak-n-Shake.

I believe Steak n Shake was the model upon which they relied (and improved, I'm betting).

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I've been thinking over whether to apply for a chemistry teaching position at Washington Irving HS. Its proximity to the Shake Shack may swing my decision.

My guess is that the Shake Shack is a seasonal operation. they also only serve beer. You may need a stiff drink some days. I always keep my eye on the upper floors for chairs flying out the window when I pass Washington Irving H.S.

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