The Incredible Adventures of Gourmet Gal

Thursday, September 21, 2006



Madison Square Park southeast corner
Enter @ Madison Avenue and 23rd Street

It seemed like I was the last person on earth who had not been to the Shake Shack. When I revealed the destination of my next review, even J blurted out surprisingly, "You've NEVER been to the Shake Shack?" ? He stared at me as if I were some evil clone of his lovely wife. Fine. Be that way. Let's just, go now.

We arrived at the park on a Monday night. The air was crisp with my favorite autumn breeze and the line to order was miraculously short. I was told that during the lunch rush, people wait on line for up to 45 minutes before even getting their food, giving them only fifteen minutes to eat and get back to work. Under the precious Manhattan trees, couples and groups of friends occupied the metal chairs around the shack munching heartily out of big cardboard boxes, while their waiting dogs licked their mouths anxiously. The whole scene had the feel of a happy zoo outing. I instantly loved the casual atmosphere.

The menu displayed five kinds of burgers, three types of hot dogs, and two varieties of French fries; very straight forward and all at reasonable prices. We settled on the order quickly.

LARGE COKE ($1.85)

No shake?!

I'm glad you're paying attention. After carefully studying the separate board of countless shakes, floats, concretes (frozen custard blended in high speed with homemade mix-ins), and the "custard calendar," I decided to come back later for dessert.

The service was pleasant and relatively fast. It was a nice night, we stood under the swaying trees pretending it was our first date. Ten minutes later, before J was able to put any moves on me, the food was there.

Everything came neatly packed in a cardboard box. We dug in eagerly. First impression? Friendly. Friendly, in that happy American way. The Shack burger had lettuce, tomato, American cheese, and shack sauce on it. I could barely taste the shack sauce, which according to the cashier, was supposed to be a blend of mayonnaise + ketchup + mustard + ground onion + lemon juice. Although juicy, tasty, and even with a hint of my favorite charcoal smoke, the meat patty was a little too thin to my liking. But I guess that was why they had the double stack version.

The fries were the thick, wavy-cut types, and they turned out to be perfectly seasoned and crispy. Very nice. The Chicago Dog was an all-beef dog on a poppy seed bun, topped with lettuce, tomato, sport peppers, green peppers, pickles, onion, neo relish, cucumber, celery salt and mustard. ("Drag it through the park!" the menu exclaimed). I took a giant bite in order to get all the hot dog's entourage in my mouth. Hmmmm. It tasted like, like an 80's wild party. All the savory mysterious meat danced abundantly with spicy peppers and relish, while the rascally sour pickle seduced straight-jacked lettuce & tomato, with mustard as his partner in crime. A handful of life force partied ecstatically under the poppy seed roof.

I hate the 80's.

Growing up in Taiwan, my memory of that whole decade was filled with endless exams and unbearable pressures to get into top schools, instead of decadence and fun. I also like my hot dog only with mustard and nothing else. But this ..., I curled up the corners of my mouth and savored all the characters inside. This totally took me by surprise. This was great! I thought about how much my teenage years must have missed by burying myself into books and took another hearty bite for revenge. J tried it and instantly nodded his head and widened his eyes, "Wow, this is GOOD!" I knew it. Of course he liked it. The 80's was like the best time for him. No worries, no grown-up crap, just plain fun. God, I hate American kids! They don't realize how good they have it.

After the satisfying meal, I was in full gear for my frozen custard. Today's flavors were, vanilla, chocolate and cinnamon toast (Yikes!). J is lactose intolerant, so I went ahead.


The custard was amazingly dense and fine-textured. The exuberant taste of fresh dairy was so creamy that I fantasized about smearing it all over my body for nourishment. It was just what one needed after a robust burger! I also loved the fact that it was not too sweet nor watery (That's right, I'm talking about you "Tasti D'lite"!). It turned out to be one of the best frozen custard I have ever had.

We strolled down the street after I licked the last bit of cream off of my finger. The air was still pleasant and cool. I leaned against J's chest and felt blissfully content. Before we entered the subway, J caught my glowing eyes and slowly leaned forward, "Can I have that kiss now?" I closed my eyes and let the thrilling little tingles run all over my body.

Yeah, I missed out on the 80's, but I make up for it by living my life right now! And guess what, on the custard calendar, it said that every Wednesday of this month is FIG SHAKE!!!! MAJOR GODZILLA-SIZE... YUMMM!


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