Blackstone Pizza Oven video: taleggio, fior di latte, sharp provolone, thyme, scallion
Peck Peck Korean Style Chicken: Teaneck, NJ

Shake Shack: Paramus, NJ

  Shake shack burger

The backlash was inevitable, wasn't it?

Whenever something rises to mythical levels, people line up to tear it down. In mobs. Usually on Yelp, and almost always using the curious phrase "over-hyped," which is apparently universally loved by lazy writers, and those who don't understand that some people like things and others don't.

I'm not one to jump on backlash bandwagons, as that type of behavior is for sheep. But after a recent meal at Shake Shack, I can't say that I walked away very excited. Indeed, I may now, as of this moment, be a part of the backlash.

The fries.

Many words have been typed into the internet regarding those twice-cooked fresh-cut fries of theirs. Mostly negative words. It seems that people like the frozen crinkle fries better. I can't recall the frozen crinkle fries from my meals at the original Madison Square Park location, but I can imagine that I would like them better than these here fresh-cut fries.

Shakeshack fries

But, BUT, that's not to say they were objectively bad, or cooked improperly. They were actually executed quite well. I couldn't help but think they would be delicious next to steak au poivre, soaking up some creamy peppery sauce. They'd be right at home on that plate. But next to the burger, for some reason, which I cannot explain, they just don't work very well. Maybe it's that I'm looking for more of a fast-food type of fry. You know, frozen. See, the thing is, there's nothing wrong with frozen french fries--although many will disagree.

Some burger places have taken to offering 2 sizes of fries: huge and extra-huge. The smallest size at Shack Shack is clearly a serving large enough for two people. I would really, really like the option of a smaller order, because the fact of the matter is I will mindlessly eat them all. This is not preferable.

But what the hell is with this burger?

A burger of this style is, for me, almost all about the sauce and the composition. Small 3 ounce patties cooked on a flat top will not have red juice running out of them. Hell they aren't even going to have much flavor. Crust, salt, vaguely beefy meat, that's about it. That's not to say they will be dry, but they always benefit from some special sauce, and other wet toppings, all hopefully leading to a somewhat messy affair. It is a messy burger, but perhaps for the wrong reason.

Oddly, weirdly, and I have to think most, all, of the reason is cosmetic, but for some reason they front-load these burgers. Visually appealing? You betcha. Looks like the freakin' ideal burger. I mean just look at the photo up above. The photography, first of all, simply outstanding, you'll agree. See how I aimed the camera at that burger? Spot on. So yeah, visually appealing? You betcha again. An effective way to build a burger? No, I don't think so. All tits, no ass (not preferable).

Shake shack burger2

Look at the cross section here. The ingredients are clearly at the "front" of the burger. My first bite indeed contained a mouthful of cold pickles. My preference is tasting pickles all the way through. Or at least in more than 1 bite. Thow me some ass, Shake Shack.

Same goes for the tomato, which are, mercifully, plum tomatoes, and not beefsteak or whatever those unripe, flavorless, hard, dry, pink things are that just about every restaurant uses. One bite and the tomatoes were done (although a piece of one escaped and slid its way to the bottom of the bag).

The thing was just out-of-balance and silly. Smashburger does it correctly: place the burger down, place the toppings on top. See how that works?

Smashburger beats Shake Shack at their own game. 

<yelp>I'm deducting one star because I don't know if they wash those buzzer thingies that tell you when your order is ready. I'm then adding a star because the staff is very nice. Additionally, 4 extra stars will be awarded, but with a deduction of 3, and then they earned an additional star. I really wish they had half stars, as it's very difficult to render an appropriate and dead-accurate star score with this set-up.</yelp>

Shake Shack : 479 Rt 17 South (btwn Ridgewood Ave and Midland Ave) : Paramus, NJ : 201.241.2381