Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Shake It Up

Philadelphians haven't been this excited about a New York food export since cheesecake. The opening earlier this month of Shake Shack near Rittenhouse Square (2000 Sansom St., 215-809-1742) brought the natives out in droves - perhaps out of curiosity, perhaps because of the burger joint's back story.

Shake Shack originated as a hot dog cart in in Manhattan to support the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s first art installation. In 2004, restaurateur Danny Meyer won the bid to open a permanent kiosk in the Park, and from there he has added locations up and down the East Coast.

The chain has a gluten-free adjunct to the menu that includes bunless burgers and flat-top dogs, fries, frozen custard, shakes and wine. One of the managers at the Philly location has celiac disease, and she let me know that the fries are prepared in a dedicated fryer that is not connected to the same oil line as other fryers. Staff members also use a separate shake spinner and designated tins (black for malted, red for peanut butter) for shakes with allergens. Special custard flavors with cake batter (Boston cream pie, for instance) dispense from a separate machine and designated scoopers are used. The staff will also change gloves and use a fresh bin for toppings such as lettuce and tomatoes when a ticket is rung through with an allergy modification; just inform the cashier of the gluten-free request. The restaurant also is exploring the possibility of stocking gluten-free buns and rolls.

The Gluten Free Philly crew waited for the initial crowds to thin before checking out the Shack recently. The missus and younger son and I all went for the somewhat healthier Bird Dog - chicken, apple and sage sausage. I thought the split-top grilling method brought out the meat's spicy flavor, but my wife and son were underwhelmed.

A gluten-free double ShackBurger (the ShackSauce
was hastily applied to the sandwich!)
Our older son went all out, splurging for a double ShackBurger. With a Schar bun (brought from home), he assembled two beef patties, cheese, tomato, lettuce and a dollop of the tangy mayo-and-dill ShackSauce. After licking his lips, he proclaimed the burger a Top Three choice, just behind the offerings at New York's Friedman's Lunch and Shack Shack neighbor Village Whiskey.

The French fries were crinkle-cut - not my favorite style - but they were served hot and crisp, prerequisites for a solid fry.

Each of us finished the meal with a scoop of custard. I opted for the conservative, but nonetheless creamy, vanilla, and the others fancied the Buttery Caramel Cocoa Nib - the Sunday custard of the day throughout June.

At least during this early stage, seating at Shake Shack is at a premium. Best if you're in a group to have one member of the party stake out some stools or one of the few booths in the back.

Shake Shack on Urbanspoon
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1 comment:

  1. I also went to the Shake Shack this week. The bunless burger was delicious and I'm not a burger lover!
    And the fries- to die for BUT- there is a disclaimer on the gluten free menu that, although the fries are cooked in a dedicated fryer all the oils are processed together and then seperated and refilled into the fryers the next day. (Not a direct quote!) I am super-super sensitive to gluten and I had a very mild reaction- not really enough to make me say "never again"!
    I'm thrilled that there is a cool place where I can go and just be "one of the gang!"