Beating the Waiting Game: Alternatives to the Shake Shack

22nd May 2006


I dream of Shake Shack.  That beacon of irresistible American fare starts simmering in my brain around noon, when I can begin to smell the delectable combination of sirloin and brisket, the potato bun, the perfectly proportioned fresh ingredients, and that secret sauce.  We all have our favorite lunch time spots, the local place around the corner, and this one is mine.  Being just two blocks from my work, I get to see the shack every single day and everyday it calls from the park, amongst the shade, calmly telling me to step in line.

Unfortunately, it seems to talk to everyone. It constantly arrives near the top of "unofficial" lists for the best burger of both New York ( 1 , 2 ) and America ( 1 ) and consequently its line stretches to Depression-era-bread-line levels almost every single day.  Lines continuously stretch this long, leaving the glorious food at more than two hour waits. Gothamist and What I See have raised discussions about how to shorten the lines.  A website called Shack Watchers collects photos to track how long the line is during the day so people can plan accordingly.

But I'm not here to complain too much, for that's been done many , many , many times before.  I'm tired.  I need my hamburger fix, and I need it now.  And some days that is just not possible to do at the shack.  So until that torrential storm comes and scares the crowds away, this little guide should show you the world of burgers that surrounds the  Shack and can hopefully help the hunger pangs, the next time you feel like charging the line, or paying off the little kid in front of you.

An in-depth exploration of New York burgers, even limited to those directly around the Shake Shack, would leave me both terrified at the daunting feat and terribly fat.  I tried eating two a day for four days, and was then motivated to work out for the first time in 6 months.  I don't want to do that again.  Not all burgers are created equal, and that's certainly what I found out.  But to keep me underweight, and still humbly in good financial standing, I settled on only trying burgers that I could:

A. Travel to, eat, and return from in less than an hour. This kept the search to roughly Flatiron, Chelsea, Gramercy, and lower Mid-town.  Unfortunately, this rule cast out such worthy contenders as the Corner Bistro, JG Melon, Soup Burg, Burger Joint, and Schnack, all of which are brilliant choices around the city which you all should try quickly.

B. Get to go. Half of the excitement of the Shake Shack is the atmosphere of munching on burger while relaxing among the green canopy of Madison Square Park.  This cut out nearly all pubs, taverns, or places with proper tables where I'd have to sit down, order and, most importantly, tip.

C. Afford. Though Shake Shack's relatively cheap grub seems to have ended the "Burger Wars" that had prices reaching $50, I still refused to pay more than $8 bucks, and tried to settle for much, much less.

D. Only get in New York. This knocks nearly all chain restaurants.  I found no reason to torture myself for the sake of documentation.

This is more of a never ending quest than a full-fledged definitive feature, so if you have an ideas please comment below.  For now, Day 1 of the Alternatives to Shake Shack begins with some more well known places around my workplace before I start delving into the darker sides of the city and my obsession.

Day 4:
Burgers & Cupcakes
Pop Burger

Day 3:
Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop
New York Burger

Day 2:
American Burger & Co.
Bruce's Burger

Day 1:
The Burger Joint
Blue 9 Burger


Blog Comments powered by Disqus.