Shake Shack worth navigating long lines, occasional chaos

G.A. Benton
Double ShackBurger and fries

Shake Shack, a New York-based chain, is such a sensation that apparently nothing can deter customers from showing up in droves to its new Easton Town Center location for the eatery’s classed-up fast food. Not the threat of long lines, not the threatening calorie counts listed on the menu like a dare, not the modest-size portions and not the more-than-modest-size prices.

So is it worth all the fuss?

If you’re craving delicious, old-fashioned cheeseburgers and milkshakes, yes. But be prepared for some not-so-delicious, newfangled chaos.

Even though I didn’t face painfully lengthy lines — I strategically dined past prime time on weeknights — chaos best describes what I experienced on multiple visits to Shake Shack’s bright and appealing, if loud and shambolic shop.

The primary source of confusion: The dozens of humans usually assembled in a loose line before the counter comprise three groups — those waiting to order at touchscreens along the wall, those seeking to order at the counter and those waiting for already ordered food. But no one is on hand to explain this or to say you might be wasting time in the wrong place. This is surprising because Shake Shack, which runs more than 200 restaurants, is an otherwise well-thought-out operation that sources good, hormone-and-antibiotic-free ingredients and offers a keen design scheme.

At the Easton branch, slatted blond wood — some serving as the backs of booths, some tinged green and formed into decorative chevron and ladder patterns — blends with sleek metal accents and plenty of windows and TVs to create an eatery that seems both modern and classic. There’s a large wraparound patio, too.

Be forewarned, though, that constant crowds and a catch-as-catch-can, DIY seating policy might have you anxiously scouting a table of not-yet-finished diners for a potential eating spot — which you’ll first need to clean yourself with the disposable table wipes available throughout the restaurant.

After one bite into a Double ShackBurger ($7.99), though, you might pooh-pooh the hoops you jumped through to obtain it. Fresh Black Angus patties with a deeply beefy flavor are griddle-smashed so they crackle delightfully between your teeth. Gobs of melted American cheese, creamy-yet-tangy Shake Sauce (tastes like mayo with mustard, ketchup, garlic and pickle juice), customer-selected garnishes, plus a puffy-and-sweet toasted potato bun complete the addictive package.

The other sandwiches I sampled tasted good and are also made with good ingredients, but were generally less successful. This includes two that are undersized and overpriced: The interesting ’Shroom Burger ($6.89) — a crisp little breadcrumb-encased fried puck of Portobello, plus melted muenster and cheddar; and the Chick’n Shack ($6.39) — a tiny fried chicken sandwich, fashioned with cage-free poultry, that made me wish I’d just ordered more of the fine Chick’n Bites (six cuts-above nuggets, $4.59). My properly salty, Chicago-style hot dog (“Shack-cago Dog”; $4.59) — Shake Shack started as a wiener cart — was missing its mustard but was otherwise on point.

While lacking pronounced potato flavor, the Crinkle-Cut Fries ($2.79) offer an alluring shape and crisp texture. They’re OK, but your money is better spent on genre-eclipsing beverages such as a Classic Shake ($5.19), with an un-improvable thick-and-smooth consistency; a Shackmeister Ale ($5.69), a pale ale that goes down easily made by Brooklyn Brewery; or exclusively produced and solid Gotham Project wines called Shack Red (a cab-syrah blend, $9) and Shack White (a sauvignon blanc, $8).

Finishing with a Pie Oh My Concrete ($4.59) — utterly soothing and delicious frozen custard blended with a seasonal pie locally baked by terrific Fox in the Snow Cafe (currently, it’s an irresistible S’mores pie) — will likely motivate you to jump through Shake Shack’s hoops again sometime soon.

Shake Shack

4005 The Strand West, Easton