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Shake Shack at JFK Airport

March 16, 2016

Having lived my whole life in Southern California, I’ve only known the greatness that is In-N-Out Burger.  It was only in my teens and college years when I started talking to new people who weren’t native Californians that I realized that I heard people talking about how much they craved In-N-Out and how fantastic In-N-Out was.  Recently, other burger chains have tried to lay claim to having the best burgers in the United States, and many of those burger joints have come West hoping to de-throne In-N-Out’s spot as top dog.

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In 2004, in Madison Square Park, in New York City, the Shake Shack was born.  Started as a hot dog cart to help support the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s first art installation, the hot dog cart was such a success that for the next three summers people lined up daily to get their hands on what was cooking at the cart.  In 2004, they won a bid to open up a permanent kiosk, and that was the original Shake Shack.  Serving up what they call “roadside” burgers, hot dogs, frozen custard, shakes, beer and wine, this kiosk was such a success and had such a reputation that people from all over the country and all over the world couldn’t get enough of the Shake Shack.  From that moderate success, the Shake Shack has grown to 17 locations in New York as well as expansion throughout the United States, including Los Angeles.  The Shake Shack has also grown into international locations in Japan, Russia, Turkey and the United Kingdom.  At the end of January 2015, the Shake Shack made history by going public on the New York Stock Exchange.  They are really trying to become the king of burgers in the United States.

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On our return home from our European vacation, my husband and I had a three hour layover at New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport to look forward to before we finally made it back to Los Angeles.  As we made walked from the international terminal and headed towards the domestic terminal where our next flight would be departing from, we discovered that our gate was right next to a Shake Shack location.  Of course, my husband and I both had heard of the reputation of Shake Shack, and I was really interested in giving it a try to see if it lived up to its reputation.  So we decided to get in line and order up a couple of burgers and shakes and see what the fuss was all about.

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With our brown bag full of goodies and a couple of drinks in hand, we walked down to our gate, found some seats and settled in to enjoy some good grub while we waited for our next flight.

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As this is the Shake Shack, and I do love me a good milk shake, I couldn’t possibly leave without ordering a shake.  Milk shake options included vanilla, strawberry, caramel, black and white and strawberry.  Although the menu doesn’t specify, I assumed black and white was a mixture of chocolate and vanilla flavors in a handspun milk shake.  That sounded good to me, so my husband and I both ordered the black and white.  Certainly a nice touch that the milk shakes are handspun, but it is a little disappointing that when I opened up the lid from the cup, I discovered that about a quarter of the cup wasn’t even filled with milk shake.  Considering how expensive this milk shake was, that’s a little irritating.  As far as tastes, it was pretty good.  The milk shake wasn’t too thick and wasn’t too liquified with too much milk, it was a good consistency.  Although for my tastes, I’m more of a fan of a thick milk shake that’s hard to suck up through the straw.  The flavors were pretty mild in the shake, it definitely was a mixture of vanilla and chocolate, though neither flavor was too sweet and neither flavor stood out from the other.

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To go with our burgers, we ordered the cheese fries.  Other than the fact that the menu stated that these were crinkle cut fries made with Yukon gold potatoes and no artificial ingredients, we had no idea what cheese fries were.  Though, its fries, with some form of cheese, right?  It can’t be bad.  I was really hoping that they would be cheese sauce, or melted cheese, right onto the fries.  Turns it it was an order of regular crinkle cut fries with a small side of cheese sauce for dipping.  Really, nothing too special about cheese fries vs regular fries.  The fries themselves were good, crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside with just a touch of salt for flavor.  The cheese sauce was cheesy, and as a dipping sauce it worked, but really, it wasn’t necessary to get the cheese sauce as a dipping sauce when there was really nothing too special about them at all.  So while the fries were pretty good, the idea of the cheese fries was a bit disappointing.

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For our burgers, my husband and I both ordered the ShackBurger with bacon added.  Made with 100% all-natural Angus beef with no hormones and no antibiotics, this burger meat is a proprietary Shack blend that’s freshly ground and sandwiched between their non-GMO potato bun.  The ShackBurger is essentially a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce.  Made fresh-to-order, there’s a little bit of a wait to get your burger, but that’s supposed to be part of the appeal of the Shake Shack, nothing is pre-made and everything is fresh and the best quality ingredients you can find.  After sitting in the plane for 7 hours, and that’s after our flight had been delayed by a few hours, this food was heaven in my mouth.  Actual, edible, hot, delicious, greasy food.  The burger was well cooked and well assembled and definitely tasted like it was fresh with fresh ingredients.  The freshness of the burger was much appreciated and made the burger taste even better.  However, my husband and I both did remark that we felt that the burger was a bit greasy.  Was it due to the bacon and the cheese?  Perhaps.  But the bun felt greasy, and the burger patty was a bit fatty, so a little less grease would have been appreciated.

My husband and I were appreciative of a nice, hot meal that we could enjoy during our layover.  Essentially, this was a comfort food meal of burgers, fries and milk shakes.  While the food was tasty enough, and fresh and hot, I think my husband and I were in agreement that we walked away from the Shake Shack wondering what all the fuss was all about.  Personally, we both like the quality and taste of our In-N-Out better than Shake Shack’s.  And yes, while this was an airport location, so perhaps more expensive than other Shake Shack locations, for what we received, it was quite expensive, much more so than we can get at In-N-Out.  Maybe our tastes are so used to the quality and freshness and taste of In-N-Out burgers, but for my money, the Shake Shack just can’t compare.

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