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What Makes the Shake Shack Burger Taste So Gooooood?

12 Feb

In the summer of 2008 just after I had graduated from college and moved back to New York, Cousin M moved from Karachi to NYC. In Karachi, she used to rave about the burger from Mr. Burger in Boat Basin, which she liked to call a desi burger – a cross between a spicy bun kebab and your regular fast food burger. Cousin M always knew what would appeal to our palates and she was the Encyclopedia of Karachi Dining as far as we were concerned.

Meanwhile in another part of the world, a roadside burger joint Shake Shack opened its windows in 2004 in Madison Square Park, NYC. But of course, it took Cousin M’s arrival in New York and her continuing tradition of knowing exactly what we would love that I discovered the Shack Burger. Having passed by Madison Square Park regularly, I was discouraged by the impossibly long line of burger enthusiasts inching gradually towards what seemed like the finish line aka the orders window. Now that I have stood in the line countless times, I can assure you it makes for great moments of overhearing celeb gossip and striking up conversation with others who are wondering exactly what you are “why on earth have I been standing here for an hour for a damn burger.”

I don’t claim that Shake Shack has the best burger in NYC but it’s certainly amongst the best and here’s why –  it simply doesn’t try too hard. It takes what you and I conceive to be an average burger and elevates it to a higher level by perfecting the core components of the burger without adorning it with multiple toppings and fancy ingredients. There isn’t too much going on which distracts away from what the burger should essentially be about – the meat, the bun and the sauce.

Here is a deconstructed Shack Burger ($4.50 Single / $7.00 Double) via Serious Eats

The Shack Burger Deconstructed

  • The Meat: 4-ounce patties made from a proprietary blend of sirloin, brisket, and short rib. New York locations use meat ground by Pat LaFrieda. All burgers delivered fresh daily, never frozen.
  • The Cheese: Very melty and mild American.
  • The Toppings: Green leaf lettuce, sliced Roma tomatoes, thin-sliced onions, pickles.
  • The Sauces: Thousand Island-style Shack Sauce, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise.
  • The Bun: Martin’s potato roll, toasted in butter.

Last summer, Serious Eats decided to put an end to the ongoing debate in “burgercentric circles” between the three major heavyweights of the high-quality fast-food burger world by carrying out “The First Bi-Coastal Side-By-Side Taste Test” comparing everything from the meat-per-dollar ratio to the types of cheese and toppings. The contenders being California’s legendary In-N-Out Burger, Virginia’s Five Guys (with branches in NYC and all over the country) and finally New York’s very own Shake Shack, the youngest of the lot.

Having tasted all 3, for me it’s a close call between In-N-Out and Shake Shack but perhaps due to the fact that I’ve had the Shack Burger on numerous occasions, it marginally edges out the other. Not unexpectedly, Shake Shack also emerged the winner of the Serious Eats taste test mainly due to their dominance in the meat department:

“The Shackburger, on the other hand, is a marvel of beefy engineering. The flavor and texture of the beef patty is second to none, with an intense beefiness and cooking method designed to maximized browning, and thus our carnal pleasure. Yes, their toppings and bun are great, but at the Shack, it’s all about the beef”

My recommendation: Pair it with cheesy fries and a chocolate malt shake. And for the men reading this – apparently Shake Shack is Padma Laxmi’s favourite burger joint in NYC.

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Cheap Eats: Brunch Hot Spots (NYC Edition)

3 Nov

NYC is undoubtedly the culinary capital of the world, no offense to London, Rome, Paris, Istanbul and other noteworthy culinary centers around the globe but NYC is where it’s at.

While living in NYC, brunch on Saturdays and Sundays was a weekly ritual for the family. In Manhattan alone there are multiple options for brunch, however, some end up being quite pricey! After exploring many brunch options in the city, we now present to you the ones that make it to the Top 5 without putting a huge dent in your wallet.

1. L’Express

This French bistro is a family favourite that we have visited countless number of times and entertained family and friends visiting from Detroit to Dubai. Although it is mostly very busy, the tasty brunch options and the generous portions are worth the wait. There are weekly specials in addition to the regular brunch menu that feature mango pancakes, french toast stuffed with cream cheese and fruits and a variety of thick, hearty soups. The omelettes particularly stand out and are served with a choice of house fries or potato wedges. If you are lucky you may even have some celebrity sightings!

Cons: Long waiting times, noisy

Price range: $10-15

249 Park Ave S

2. Cafeteria

This hip Chelsea spot serves what NYMag refers to as “amped-up comfort food” and we couldn’t agree more. The menu consists of the usual suspects – eggs benedict, range of omelettes, blueberry and ricotta pancakes but even though there is little innovation on the menu, everything is yummy. They also serve a to-die-for Spinach and Artichoke Dip but only after 6 pm, which is well worth an early evening visit for a snack. Oh, and there is also plenty of eye candy to go around as well.

Cons: No Reservations, Very long waiting times at peak brunch hours

Price range: $10-15

119 Seventh Ave

3. The Crooked Tree

Tucked away in Alphabet city this quaint little hole-in-the wall has some of the best sweet and savory crepes the city has to offer. There is a variety of sweet crepe fillings to choose from ranging from classics like Lemon, Belgian Chocolate to mixed fresh fruits and unusual ones like Crème de Marron (chestnut cream)! The best part is that you can customize the crepe according to your liking and have whatever filling you want or mix up the flavors. All the crepes are freshly prepared and the portions are generous. The savory options are a bit more limited such as goat cheese, mozzarella, mushrooms and spinach. The menu is not very varied and doesn’t include Brunch classics like omelettes or french toast but if its crepes what your craving then this is the place to go!

Cons: Limited seating, Limited Menu

Price Range: $4-$10

110 St. Marks Place between 1st Avenue and Avenue A

4.Esperanto

Also located in Alphabet City, Esperanto serves brunch with a Latin American flair, think huevos rancheros, Spanish omelette and quesadillas. I visited it for the first time when college friends from Boston came to NYC for the weekend in April. They offer a $9.99 brunch special that includes a brunch entree served with coffee and choice of cocktails such as guava mimosas, bloody mary. They have outdoor seating which is perfect for the late spring and summertime.

Cons: Slow service

Price Range: $ 9.99 brunch special

145 Avenue C

5. Max Brenner – Chocolate by the Baldman

Located in the bustling Union Square, Max Brenner is home to chocoholics and tourists in search of satisfying their sweet-tooth. An unlikely “Brunch” option this Dessert Mecca actually has an elaborate sweet and savoury brunch “therapy” menu. Besides their ” Egg’s Corruption” to “Optimistic Sweet Breakfast” menu they also have an array of Bagels, Salads, Pizzas & Burgers to choose from. My personal favorite in their Optimistic Sweet breakfast section are the white chocolate cheesecake crèpes – a decedent bite of heaven served with toffee bananas, a dark caramel drizzle and whipped cream.

Cons: Crowded, Chocolate-overload (!!)

Price Range: $11-20

841 Broadway (Union Square)

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