I always have to smile whenever I'm walking around Manhattan and come across a Shake Shack. It doesn't seem to matter what time of day or night it is, the line snakes out of the restaurant and down whatever avenue the chain occupies. And yes, it is a chain, something else that always makes me laugh because, you know, New Yorkers look upon cities with chain restaurants with a certain distain. I remember one story, perhaps apocryphal, that a woman who had stood in line for so long decided to give up her tickets to "The Book of Mormon" on Broadway rather than leave. In June, for the company's 10th anniversary, the wildly popular chef David Chang was asked to create a special burger for the occasion. The lines were three-hours long.
Are the burgers that good?
You can decide that for yourself, without even going to Manhattan — or Pennsylvania or Virginia or Dubai or Moscow or any of the other cities that claim a Shake Shack, because we have one right here in our own humble little hamlet of Winter Park, right next to another big city gift, Trader Joe's.
Shake Shack opened a few weeks ago, but I resisted going because, frankly, I refuse to wait in line for food. The last time I did so was at a Magnolia Bakery in the West Village and I felt like the fool I was for waiting more than an hour to end up with a very average cupcake. So imagine my surprise when I finally screwed my courage to the proverbial sticking point and headed for the restaurant, preparing not only for the line but the already legendary inadequately sized parking lot, and not only got a parking space right away but also walked into the Shake Shack and stepped right up to the counter to place my order.
Of course, it was 3:30 in the afternoon, so there's that.
I ordered the Shackburger, the single, a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and Shacksauce, whatever that is. I also got an order of fries, and because the place isn't called Burger Shack, I requested a strawberry shake. I had asked the friendly young woman if the burger could be cooked to order and she said that it would be prepared medium unless the customer requested otherwise. I requested otherwise: Medium-rare, please. But then she said that it couldn't be medium-rare; I could only order it well done or rare. Odd. I went for rare.
She asked for my name — I figured it would be called when my order was ready. But then she gave me a pager that would buzz when the food was done.
And that didn't take long. I soon had my little metal tray and found a seat in the dining room (more about that in a minute).
The burger, a 100 percent all natural angus patty (no hormones or antibiotics), was very good. Hour-long wait good, no, but walk right in and have a bite to eat good, yes. The patty was not too rare (too thin for that, really) but had a wonderful charred flavor, and the Shacksauce, whatever that is, added a nice condimental note. The crinkly-cut fries had a good crisped exterior and an airy potatoness inside.
The shake was thick and creamy. The strawberry flavor was more of a hint than a major component — there was no evidence of actual berries in the vanilla ice cream, but I could taste it.
Now, about the setting. I doubt that many of the Shake Shack locations have one as lovely as Winter Park's. It sits on the shore of Lake Killarney and has a wonderful and serene view. A patio out back would be a terrific place to sit and relax. Some shack! In fact, if they could orchestrate the line so that it stretched to the back of the building, I just might stand in it.
Shake Shack is at 119 N Orlando Ave., Winter Park. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. My burger was $4.95, not exorbitant for this quality, but don't expect a huge patty. The fries were $2.85 and the shake $5.15. The phone number is 321-203-5130.