The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Celebrating My 25th Birthday with Shake Shack, Manatee Masks, Cakes, and a Piñata

This post took place on August 27, aka my 25th birthday. I wrote it a day or two after the party, but never got around to posting it...until pressured by the coming of 2011. The only people who'd care to relive the night are the ones who were there, probably, but I'd still like to give props to my friends and Shake Shack for an awesome birthday party. HERE YE GO four months too late.


lighting candles
Tiny fires, totally appropriate for a birthday party. Photograph by Adelyn

"I'm wearing a green shirt," my brother said on the phone.

"Oh yeah, I see you." I waved to my brother standing near the south entrance to Madison Square Park. He came all the way from New Jersey for my little Shake Shack birthday party. Aw.

But as I got closer, I saw something...funny. A group of people lined up by a few tables pulled far from the main Shake Shack seating area. As I got closer, some of the people hastily propped large gray circles in front of their faces—faces that I recognized because I invited them to my party. But there were also people that I hadn't invited. And the gray circles confounded me so.

Boppy's  bday 4 what's goin' on, guys?
Wut. Photographs by Adelyn


I got closer.


Then closer.

"Whaaaaaaa huuuuuuuuh?"

Then...I couldn't get any closer because I was right in front of them.


* Oh hey, I like manatees.

group hug
ROBYN SMUSH. Photograph by Adelyn
Boppy's  bday 8 Boppy's  bday 7
Mask, I haz. Photographs by Kwan

It took a while for my brain to process the scene—20 friends or so huddled around a makeshift picnic area of towels on the sandy ground, a few cake-strewn tables, some gift bags. My eyes—they watered a bit from pure delirious happiness confusion somethingsomething. I didn't know what to say, so I probably just squealed a lot. Squeals mixed with, "Oh my god, whaaat, oh my god, WHAAATIZTHIS YOU GUYYYSSSS!!???" as invisible spurts of dumbfoundedness dribbled out of my ears.

hangin out foom
Make those cakes glow.

You'd think after getting two surprise birthday parties last year I would've learned by now, but nope; my memory sucks and I'm very, very easy to fool. The twist this year was that I had already planned a party-thingy at Shake Shack. The week before my birthday, I had emailed about 30 friends with the invite, "Hey, let's get together at Shake Shack at 7:30 next Friday for my birthday. Eat some burgers, hang out, whatever. I'll bring a cake." What I didn't know is that Tristan and friends had been planning all week on how to turn my plan into a bigger party complete with manatee masks, a pinata, more cakes (by the way, thumbs down for Momofuku Milk Bar's "Birthday" cake; get the banana one), and more people. They succeeded 1000% and did a great job of pulling together most of my friends considering that I BCC-ed my original invite. (This means a handful of people had no idea about the surprise, but it all worked out in the end.) Tristan tricked the shizz out of me by telling me a week earlier that he wouldn't be able to make it to my party. I should've known that one of my best friends would never miss my birthday.

My brother wasn't in on the surprise, though. It was just by coincidence that he was standing so close to the actual party without knowing it. He was confused, although not as much as I was. "You...know all these people?"

still picking up our order

My main worry about gathering so many people at Shake Shack was dealing with the inevitably long wait for the food and finding a place to sit. But seating had been taken care of by the pre-planning, and the waiting problem was solved by a handful of my friends taking orders for everyone in the group and waiting in the 45+ minute line as the rest of us chatted and whatnot/watched me squeal some more. (Props to Ed for buying a bunch of sundaes for my group!) SO SMOOTH, MAN. Party at Shake Shack = the best.

So it was great. Beyond great. ...Mega-great. (I'm in dire need of a larger vocabulary.) I regret that I could only talk in spurts with people and that I was constantly shuffling between conversations, but man, my heart was on the brink of exploding in a violent flurry of joyful rainbow confetti joy. The last time that happened was at my last birthday party.

It's really, realllllyy hard for me to comprehend why my friends would put so much time and energy into making my birthday so awesome. (I've only thrown a surprise party once in my life and it was...well, it wasn't very smooth.) The friends ranged from those I had known for ten years to those I had only met three or four times. I wouldn't say I make friends easily. The only reason I have so many friends is because they found me (thnx, Internet), and I've just been lucky to some infinitesimally rare cosmic degree to be on the receiving end of their kindness. I don't know what I can do to show my gratitude—donate my liver? Offer my firstborn? Display an endless stream of weird facial expressions? Okay, I'll go with the last one.

Shake Shack
I looove youuuu Shake Shaaack.

I also need to note that Shake Shack is great not just for their food (the Shack Burger is my favorite burger in New York City—judge me if you'd like), but for their Danny Meyer-ized service. After my friends who had waited in line brought back our burgers, we realized that two orders fell by the wayside. There was no way my burger-less friends were going to wait another 45 minutes for their food—they'd rather go somewhere else. So Kwan went to the front of the line, asked the cashier who took his order if he could place another order right then and there since he had already paid his waiting dues, and although she hesitated a bit, she let him do it. (I should note that Kwan is one of the nicest, most courteous people you could ever meet; skipping the line may seem like a dick move, but you'd want to do it too if you were in his position.) While Kwan waited for the two extra burgers, a manager recognized him, wondering why he was back for more, and when he told her what happened she was quick to get him the burgers he wanted. Union Square Hospitality Group, I salute you.

Boppy's  bday 25 Boppy's  bday 29
YAY I KILLED IT. Photographs by Kwan

And there was a piñata. No manatee-shaped piñata could be found, but the donkey worked just fine for being on the receiving end of my murderous smashes.

manatees and unicorns, oh my
Manatees and unicorns, together at last!

I hobbled home with bags of gifts, extra cake, and a tray of manatee and unicorn-shaped cookies (made by the almighty Adelyn). But the best gift of all?

Not everyone who came is actually in this photo. Oops. Um. Not in order, there's Greg, Diana, Tam, Al, Sarah, Melissa, Veronica, Tristan, John, Claire, Liz, Lihan, Kwan, James, Chichi, Adelyn, Foster, Samantha, and Nathan. Francine, Bert, Ben, Christine, and JD had already left.

FRIENDSHIP. [cue fluttering hearts and smiley faces and glistening eyes and after-school specials]

Yeah, that's some molten cheesiness right there. But you know it's true. Without friends, the rest means nothing.

I suspect my parties can only go downhill from here, unless someone actually finds a manatee-shaped piñata for my 26th birthday. (I realize that smashing a manatee-shaped piñata would be sort of antithetical to my affinity for these blimp-like, aquatic mammals, perhaps made even more inappropriate by manatees being endangered. ...We'll say it's an evil homicidal manatee.)



Marvo / December 25, 2010 2:39 AM

So the manatee pinata should have a goatee, horns, and a bloody knife held by its fin. Oh, and in the other fin should have a note that's made by cutting out letters from newspapers.

Nicholas / December 25, 2010 1:21 PM

Things I need to work on: not missing your birthdays :(

The only thing that could top this would be if everyone wore manatee costumes! That's a lot of costumes (and yes they exist). Also... mad props to Adelyn on the unicorn/manatee shaped cookies. SOOO KYOOT.

Jason / December 25, 2010 3:23 PM

That looks so awesome. Yay Bday! I can only imagine what people will come up with next year.

roboppy / December 25, 2010 9:50 PM


Coco: Quite a few Greg sightings!

Matt, Kim, Belinda: Thanks!

Nicholas: Mebbe next year you can join da fuuuns? :) I've thought about getting a manatee costume before, but a good one costs a lot. Not sure if I'm ready for that investment, although the costume would hopefully last me the rest of my life. And maybe I could pass it down to my (confused) children.

Jason: YAY FOR GETTING OLDER, so I can have a random party.

Sophia: :) I hope this love lasts a while!

Angeline / December 26, 2010 4:47 PM

I guess I should start making that manatee pinata now, it might take awhile to fashion the horns and knife.

I'd like to hear more about these cakes!

roboppy / December 26, 2010 7:15 PM

Angeline: Ah, the cakes...I'll do a quick summary!

Momofuku Milk Bar birthday cake: Way too sweet, sort of boring. I guess it's festive though, with the rainbow sprinkles n stuff.

Momofuku Milk Bar Banana Cake: Described on the menu as "banana cream, hazelnut crunch, gianduja fudge." As long as you're not anti-banana or hazelnut, this is the one to get. It's very good.

Red Ribbon Ube Cake: Also good. Like a squishy soft Asian cake. ...Because that's what it is. :) Not sure i could taste much ube, but I was probably over-stuffed.


Mila / December 26, 2010 9:26 PM

Belated Happy Birthday, and Merry Christmas! Happy New Year too!
That's so cute that you had an ube cake for your birthday. I'd give you ube ice cream if I were in NY, so you have to come to Manila for a scoop or two of the purple love.
You're blessed with love. Have a great year.

Heather / December 27, 2010 2:21 AM

Happy belated birthday!!! I know it's kinda random but I LOVE your hair. You look so cute. Did you get it permed? If so where?!?!?!?!?

roboppy / December 27, 2010 1:03 PM

Mila: Thank you! So many holiday greetings! :D I hope you have a great year too! I would love to visit Manila, omgggguhosdlk#!@ I know I'm like overdue for a visit by 5 years. Maybe I should plan that for 2012. Next year I'd like to visit Taiwan!

Heather: Thanks! As for my hair, it just naturally wooshes like that. I shampoo it, blow dry it, and that's what happens. ATYPICALLY ASIAN HAIR. People in Taiwan would always ask me if I permed it. I used to think the natural waviness was annoying (it is, in humid weather), but now I like it.

If anyone's curious though, I get my hair cut at Kiwa, partially because it's down the block from my office, but also cos it's great. Been going there for years.

Winnie / December 28, 2010 12:10 PM

I had my 23rd birthday at Shake Shack this year too!! But it was NO WHERE NEAR as adorable or awesome as your party! happy belated!!

roboppy / December 30, 2010 12:26 AM

Winnie: Thanks! This was actually my second birthday party at Shake Shack; the first was for my 21st birthday and it was a muuuch smaller affair. Took me four years to gather a big crowd! ;)

Tristan: :D :D :D

Lila / January 1, 2011 9:43 PM

I'm gonna be a scary girl here and say that:
1. I've never met you.
2. I already know I like you from reading this bloggie.
3. Darn tootin' your friends would put together this birthday for you 'cause you are so cool!

Happy new year!

(ok done being creepy now.)

roboppy / January 5, 2011 1:55 AM

Lila: Aw, no creepiness detected on my end! DARN TOOTIN'! Thanks for your kind words, and happy new year to you too! Oh wow so many exclamation marks ahhh I'm shouting all the time ahh!


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