The first Shake Shack London opened last weekend in Covent Garden, and given our interest in transatlantic burger eating, we’ve been eager to hear how it stacks up to the NYC original. Since we only know a few people who A) live in London, and B) have actually been to Shake Shack in New York, we hit them all up to see who would brave the lines—er, queues—for an early word. Sarah Mei (@missmei) boldly stepped up to the plate and filed the following report—British spelling preserved for proof of authenticity.
I learned of Shake Shack from Gary Warnett, who knows everything about everything ever. After I visited for the first time in New York, I realised that this was the place that so many people had told me about—with the queuing and the burgers and the Concrete Shakes and the queuing, I had just dismissed the name because no one’s description had ever done it any justice. But Gary told me about the potato bread and I was immediately interested because POTATO BREAD! As someone who grew up on rice and noodles, I have gone forth in life, flown from the nest, and determined that potato is my carb of choice (don’t tell my mum). Anything with potatoes is a win. Oddly enough, the French fry (or chip, as they are referred to in Inger-land) is my least favourite style of potato; however, the crinkle-cut fries at Shake Shack are in a league of their very own and should be compared to no other fry or chip, ever (except maybe the rosemary salt shoelace fries at the Spotted Pig, but I digress).
So anyway, Shake Shack is one of the New York-y things that I miss most about New York. This may seem like a really cliché thing to miss about the city, but remember: POTATO BREAD. I recall the first time I ate there, Gary took me to the location on Upper West Side where there was a big queue full of tourists and irate New Yorkers. It wasn’t even lunchtime. This was nothing, I realised, once I had joined the standstill queue in Madison Square Park a few evenings later. My first experience was golden and every meal there afterwards was no less worthy of the wait.
My ShackBurger was just as good as any that I’ve had Stateside.
I’ve been waiting for the London branch to open for months now. Man alive did they take their time. But, guys, as we all know, Shake Shack is always worth the wait. Located in the centre (yes, that’s how we spell that word over here) of Covent Garden, with hundreds of people milling about, you’re separated from all the creepy guys standing motionless until a tourist drops a coin in the cap at their feet. There are large indoor, outdoor, and kind of indoor-outdoor areas dedicated for Shake Shack diners, and they’re needed because the queues so far have been substantial.
Since opening last Friday, I’ve had scouts checking the queue daily to let me know how long I’d be waiting for a burger. The average has been an hour and a half and because I don’t enjoy crying in public I decided today that I wouldn’t bother waiting for dinner, and instead headed over for an early lunch. I was in the queue by midday, practically dribbling in anticipation for the flavoured frozen custard.
The London branch does not disappoint. It’s crowded, but lovely, which adds to Shake Shack’s friendly food atmosphere. My ShackBurger was just as good as any that I’ve had Stateside, the patty was juicy and the garnish and sauce did the job. The fries, although a little cold, tasted divine. I know you’re probably thinking that I place a little too much importance in a burger and fries, but POTATO BREAD and CRINKLE-CUT FRIES people, don’t make me tell you again. An icy Coke perfectly complemented the saltiness of my meal and I nearly kissed the waitress who offered me a free large tub of Sticky Toffee Concrete which I ate after the tub of Coffee and Donuts Frozen Custard I already had lined up on my tray. The staff are all super friendly, which obviously does justice to the brand, and everything’s neat and tidy with nothing remotely McDonald’s-y about it.
If you’re in (London) town and looking for something reminiscent of New York, the Covent Garden Shake Shack queue is your port of call. Five Guys is just around the corner too, but the queue there is just as long and they don’t use potato bread for their buns.