Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Don't Eat It - Shake Shack, 1111 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach, FL (305)434-7787


Dare I be so bold? But Shake Shack is supposed to be the best thing since sliced hamburger buns!

It's just ok. It's only worth going there if you think you have to try it because you're an extremely handsome food blogger and you've read about it for years and even saw Danny Meyer interviewed on Plum TV by Jonathan Tisch (a fellow Jumbo, btw). He seems like a lovely fellow. Danny, not Jonathan. Jonathan is probably kind of a dick. I just get that impression.

Anyway, I must admit to having an aversion to the whole idea of "the critic." This guy, Danny Meyer, is a doer, and I feel bad criticizing him. He makes stuff and he does stuff. People who consider the product valuable can spend their hard earned dollars on it. I'm just typing away, no sweat involved, no capital investment, no risk. It's easy to criticize. It's a lot harder to start a restaurant, hire lots of people, deal with payroll, slip and fall lawsuits, contractors, inventory, etc. Seriously, why does anyone get into that business?

On the other hand, I do think that it makes sense to have trustworthy people to give you advice about the things on which you spend those dollars. It's just that I have a hard time being too critical of a restaurant unless I have had a really lousy experience.

That's why I give practically every restaurant I review an "Eat It" designation. And since those aren't particularly interesting to read, I tend to throw in a silly statement about a certain restaurant located on West Avenue on South Beach that likes to put dry ice in a martini glass and consider that justification for a $30 price tag. Excuse me, I just checked on line and their martinis cost $32 (plus tax and tip). I was waaay off.

So, as I was saying earlier, Shake Shack is just ok. It's not as good as 8 oz. or Burger and Beer Joint. And I don't think it's even as good as Steak n Shake or Johnny Rockets. Someone who tells you otherwise is probably pretentious and thinks that the Shake Shack burger is better because other people that they think are really cool told them that Shake Shack is, like, the bomb, yo!

I will hand it to them that the place is fairly well run. The food takes a little longer to prepare than I expected, but the restaurant is tidy and the employees are conscientious and polite. That's a luxury in South Florida, as we all know. They hand you a buzzer after you place your order and you can go and find your seats until they alert you. The seats are just stools, though. Pretty uncomfortable, Shake Shack!

This part is going to sound a little weird. I went to Shake Shack twice last week. That might seem contradictory to my review, were you not privy to the fact that, before my first visit, someone lit a plant on fire in my vicinity that may have had an effect on me when I breathed in. That effect made evaluating the dining experience something of a challenge, and I felt the need to return to have a more lucid night.

In case you've never watched Kat Stevens, please enjoy this clip -

Oops, that was Cat Stevens, and I actually meant to say Kat Williams -

So, I didn't think I had a proper frame of reference from which to review Shake Shack the first time. When a friend of mine, whose name sort of rhymes with "Tall Umbrella," asked me if I wanted to meet him there for a bite 3 days after my first foray, I agreed to give the place another shot.

Let's talk about ambiance. This is one of the coolest-looking fast food spots in which you will ever eat. The tables are made out of re-purposed bowling alley wood, which is actually kind of gross, come to think of it, but it looks cool. I hope they heat it up really hot so all of the germs from people's hands and bowling balls are killed. I'm all for finding new uses for old stuff, since I hate waste and think recycling should be done in spite of its cost (I'm looking at you, Mayor Bloomberg). We can't keep throwing everything out and turning the entire planet into a garbage dump. Do you know about the Pacific Gyre? It's a mass of plastic the size of Texas and it just swirls around in a huge, expanding mass, like something evil you'd see in a Star Trek movie that grows when you shoot photon torpedoes at it. They did that in one of them, didn't they? Maybe I'm thinking of the Fifth Element. That's probably the best movie of all time that's not actually very good.

The walls have a similar look as the eating surfaces. Darkened bowling alley wood, kind of zigzagging along the walls. There are some hanging plants up near the ceiling. It's laid out so the line doesn't get in the way of the diners. There's some outdoor seating that'll be nice when it cools down in November. I didn't check out the bathrooms, come to think of it...

The food. Shake Shack is supposed to have great burgers and shakes. People in NYC line up around the block to taste them. Well, I don't get why they do. The Shack Burger is just a normal burger. It's like 5 bucks, which isn't bad, but the Double is 8 bucks. I got the double the first time, because I knew that the single wouldn't be enough food, but it costs so much more than the single that it's a better deal to just buy two singles. The second time I ate there, I decided to try the Shack Stack, which is a single burger with a portobello mushroom stacked on top of the beef patty. It's a combination of their classic burger and their veggie option. It would probably be pretty good, but for the fact that it's a deep-fried portobello. And it was too greasy and overwhelmed the taste of the meat. I'd pass on that one.

The fries. Oh my, the fries. They are terrible.

At first I thought that their potato man must have broken down on the way from Brooklyn, or something. That reminds me of a clip from the Simpsons when Homer had to sneak into a U2 concert -

So, back to the potato man. I assumed that he must not have delivered his special Shake Shack french fry potatoes because they seemed to be serving crinkly McCain french fries that you could buy in the freezer section at the supermarket. Well, it turns out that those are their fries. It offends me as a food snob to have them served to me at a place that claims to be serving exceptional food.

The milkshake just tasted like melted vanilla ice cream, which isn't bad, per se, but it's nothing about which to get excited (like a shake at Steak n Shake!). And it was too expensive. A rather small one costs $5.25.

The location is great. No doubt about that. It's just off Lincoln Road, a block from the movie theater.

With all of these things in mind, I've come up with an idea for a kind of "super fast food restaurant." It's a little like Voltron or those Ocean's Eleven movies. You take the decor and location of Shake Shack, serve In n Out burgers, Steak n Shake shakes, McDonald's fries, and staff the place with waitresses from Lucky Strike. It'll make billions (assuming we end up with hyperinflation after this second round of quantitative easing by the Fed, this is almost a certainty).

In closing, it'll cost you about 20 bucks if you're a decent eater, and it's not good enough to justify that kind of price. My advice is to go somewhere else for your burger.