The Burger Chronicles #21 – Shake Shack’s SmokeShack

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So, I finally sunk my teeth into a Shake Shack burger and, I’m sad to say, it was a massive letdown. To set the scene; it’s Covent Garden, the place is bursting with tourists, giant disco balls hang from the ceiling and the smell of mulled wine lingers like the last vestige of Christmas. I spot a Shake Shack through the people thicket and decide to cross another entry off my global burger list.

The joint’s swarming, but still, I’m surprised by the slick, conveyor-belt operation playing out in front of me. From the neat, multi-pronged curly fry production line to the smiling, airport-driver style delivery crew, everything’s been operations-managed and streamlined to churn out burgers, fries and shakes as efficiently as possible. It’s quite something to behold, really, but not what I was expecting at all. Kind of like a green Five Guys/McDonald’s hybrid – only more McDonald’s, less Five Guys.

I order a single SmokeShack – registered trademark, of course – which is topped with applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry peppers and the trademarked ShackSauce. I take my vibrating receiver and make my way to the food court. When the receiver lights up I head over to the Shake Shack welcome station and grab my burger from the smiley crew. It’s tiny. I can’t believe it.

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I sit down in the food court, underwhelmed. Everything tastes alright, for a good 24-hour McDonald’s at 1:00am, but the burger’s dry, flavourless and cheap-seeming. The cheese is randomly dribbled over the lifeless patty. The bacon sticks out all over the place. And the bun looks like it was meant for a slider burger – or a kid’s patty.

Upon further inspection, there’s absolutely no sauce whatsoever, trademark or not. Until the very end, that is, when I realise it’s all been pinched up at the back of the burger, along with the stash of chopped cherry peppers – and the registered trademarks. Sauce discovered, the last two bites are less dry and flavourless, but still, they fail to impress. It’s like a toy burger. The kind you’d heat up in a microwave. I almost don’t want an In-N-Out Burger now. Yes, I do…

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