When people ask me something about Shake Shack, their first question is usually, "Is it worth the wait?" You mean that ridiculous 45 to 90 minute wait? Oh, god, of course not. New Yorkers are just insane. Also, we don't have In-N-Out.
But I have to take that back (or add myself to the "insane" pile) because, for the first time, I subjected myself to an hour+ wait (90 minutes, perhaps)—admittedly, while passing the time talking to my friends on a nice, sunny day, but still a long enough time that I can see why non-Shake Shack lovers think those of us who are willing to queue for that long probably had lobotomies. And now that I have that experience under my belt, I would probably do it again. Because, as proven visit after visit, Shake Shack still makes my favorite burgers in New York City. There isn't even really a second option; for me, there's Shake Shack, and then there's everything else that fails to fill that void in my heart that says, "VACANCY FOR DELICIOUS BURGER ONLY."
Get the Shackburger (as opposed to the naker-er hamburger and cheeseburger, and unless you're ravenous enough to gnaw your arm off, you should only need a single patty). It's salty. It's greasy. It's moist. The meat has a flavor and a slight crust around the outside. The toppings are fresh and crisp. The cheese is gooey. The buns—good ol' squishy Martin's Potato Rolls—are buttered and toasted. The meat-to-bun ratio is spot on. I didn't know what my ideal burger was until I ate at Shake Shack and, after eating other burgers around the city, realized that most other burgers fail to adequately meet one (and sometimes all) of the aforementioned components.
And the burger accompaniments are also part of the "Why Shake Shack is Awesome" experience. Even though the fries are frozen and not freshly cut, I still like them. Because I'm not very picky when it comes to my deep fried carbs as long as they're crispy and salted.
Their frozen custards have to be the best in the city—creamy and smooth, maybe the same texture as an angel's butt if their butt is made of frozen dairy products. They also keep things interesting by rotating different, mostly unconventional flavors each month that tend to taste unexpectedly...real. Like, "Whoa, this salted caramel actually tastes like salty caramel." I wasn't a big fan of the mint chocolate chip pictured above (it was one of their flavors in June), but their vanilla is probably my favorite vanilla-flavored anything at the moment. If their flavor of the day doesn't appeal to you, get the vanilla.
And the milkshakes are awesome. Thick creamy wondrous aahrgrahjayussfufucream (insert drool sounds).
I kind of trailed off at the end there.
In conclusion, I, like buttloads of other New Yorkers, love Shake Shack. In Madison Square Park, at least. I'm sure the Upper West Side location offers burger magic as well, but it loses a gazillion points for being park-less. (A good place to go if it's raining though. Or if you're in the Upper West Side, which I rarely am.)
I have a soft spot for diners. They may not present the best deals or the best food, but they'll make just about anything you want (well, within the realm of "basic American food") and carry no pretensions. You can hang out with a group of friends while munching on french fries and chicken fingers until the wee hours of the morning and, unless your group is acting like a bunch of douchebags, they probably won't give a damn. Although I grew up in New Jersey, aka the Land of Diners, it's only been since I lived in New York City that I realized how valuable it is to have these establishments that are open until late at night, if not for 24 hours a day.
Joe Junior has been on my "to eat" list ever since reading Nick Solares' glowing review on AHT. I knew I wouldn't find Shake Shack-level deliciousness, but that wasn't what I was looking for anyway. Just a simple burger in a simple environment where I wouldn't have to wait an hour for my food.
Also, I wanted a milkshake.
My cheeseburger wasn't as transcendental as Nick's, but it wasn't bad considering it was cooked to medium and still fairly moist. The double cheese action—one gooey slice on each side of the patty—helped in the non-juicy department. Sandwiching meat between layers of fatty processed cheese food = good idea. Sandwiching meat between layers of fatty processed cheese food stuck to soft, squishy burger buns = even better.
The strawberry milkshake was great for the price, around $3. The texture was sufficiently thick and frothy, and I'm a fan of those huge metal tumblers they come in, aka "personal milkshake bucket."
Diana and Olia seemed to like it too. Three out of three girls approve!
Karen and I ate brunch at Tournesol in Long Island City before boarding a bus to attend Carol and Bryan's wedding in Long Island. (OMG, they're so married now. Check out my photos if you feel inclined, or this potentially tear-inducing video.)
Of course, I ordered a cheeseburger. It didn't matter that it was a French restaurant; I feel some strange sense of obligation when it comes to burgers—that is, if I see it on a menu I should try it unless I have the inkling it's going to suck hard. Happy surprises can come out of this burger obsession, such as the garlic burger from Hon Cafe, although there was that one time I got a burger from a food truck in Manhattan that unfortunately filled every nook and cranny of "sucked hard."
My burger came in a pool of molten swiss cheese. Can't say I was expecting that. Nor can I say the extra cheese around the edges really added much to the burger-eating experience since I didn't attempt to push it back onto the patty. Perhaps I should have.
Although this burger, like the Joe Junior burger, was also overcooked (got a medium when I asked for medium rare), it was less satisfying. It's not like it lacked fat—there was some meal liquid pooling action going on—but the meat's flavor wasn't enough to make up for what I felt was an unbalanced meat-to-bun ratio. I prefer fairly thin patties to unwieldy balls of meat (a contributing factor to my "muuuh" feelings towards Dumont Burger, even though the meat is flavorful). There may have been other reasons behind the dissatisfaction that I've forgotten by this point, but the overall impression was that, for $12, it didn't fill the burger void in my heart.
I wouldn't rate Tournesol on its burger alone. The eggs Florentine, two halves of toasted English muffins topped with spinach, poached eggs, and Hollandaise sauce, fulfilled all the good aspects of "bloated yolk-filled egg sacs coated in buttery emulsion on a bed of soft and crispy wheat matter." (Every part is a good aspect.) It's a good deal for only $8.50 considering it comes with a salad of baby greens and a pile of okay fries.
Tournesol seems like a nice neighborhood spot for the LIC-ers. Alas, I live in Bed-Stuy. Around the corner from a KFC.
Karen and I followed our meal by splitting a Snickers ice cream bar from a nearby bodega. Random craving perhaps, and a desire for just a small bit of something to satisfy our sweet tooths/teeth.
167 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10003