After a brisk 30-block walk and twenty minutes standing in a line snaking out of the front door of Shake Shack, I was primed for an eagerly anticipated burger. I’ve always tried to resist the tug of popular demand, especially when it comes to lining up like cattle to eat, well… cattle. But, I will admit, the Shake Shack diners, with their detached, primal stares, did look strikingly fulfilled.
To keep the line moving out on Columbus Ave (just down the street from the wonderful flea market there on Sundays), an eco-green clad Shack employee passed out menus. I noticed that both red and white wines were available, and even though I wasn’t planning on drinking, I was intrigued. And Carey, parched and feeling like a prune from the night before, wasn’t planning on it either, but I have a feeling she would have been easily persuaded. Given the list, you probably would have been, too.
As the line made its way through the front door, I saw a wine list on the big board, along with the coordinating splits (375 ml bottles) on display above the register. Things were starting to get interesting. For the most part, Shake Shack is a New York chain of high-end fast food; a burger joint. But it also happens to be one that serves some serious wine.
All the wines were available in half bottles and included a concise but thorough spread of wine from California and Oregon. The Napa whites included a Frog’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc and a Cakebread Chardonnay. A Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay and a Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc from the Russian River Valley added to the regional mix. In addition, there was an Oregon Pinot Gris from King Estate.
A great mix of solid reds from Seghesio (Zinfandel, Sonoma, CA), Sanford (Pinot Noir, Santa Rita, CA), Clos du Val (Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA), and Lang and Reed (Cabernet Franc, North Coast, CA) serve as the impressive entry bottles. The serious players included a 2003 Shafer Merlot from Napa, priced at $39. A higher-end Willamette Valley Pinot Noir by Bergstrom priced at $38, as well as a 2005 Stag’s Leap Cabernet for a few dollars more. Even though I could not purchase myself a bottle, I was excited to see a 2004 Opus One for $100 rounding out the list.
So you’re probably wondering, “We’re talking about hangovers here, right?” The food. I have to talk about the food.
The Shake Shack might as well get the blue ribbon as far as burgers go, and I don’t give that away easily. My buddy Matt kept reiterating: The Double Stack. The Double Stack. You have to get the Double Stack.
Get it I did. We all did. The Double Stack is an iteration of a burger like I’ve never tasted. It is essentially a burger (of the most delicious quality) that is carrying the heavy load of a ‘Shroom Burger, a “patty” of deep-fried, crispy, mouth-watering portobello mushroom that is stuffed with muenster and cheddar cheese. Add some lettuce, tomato, and Shack Sauce, and you’re cured of all that ails you.
The burgers are obviously the shining stars of this genius little establishment. But the wine list is a wonderful little secret that, brilliantly, cuts a corner for you: want some casual, greasy food that drips down to your elbow, but you’re not willing to sacrifice your pride on beverages?
Wash down that meaty mouthful with a swig of Opus One. God knows what Mondavi would say about it. Probably nothing: his mouth would be too full of glorious steer meat.
Enjoy next time you’re in town; you won’t regret it.