Shake Shack UES
154 East 86th St
City: New York, NY
Phone: (646) 237-5035
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Area: East 80s
When this Shake Shack location first appeared on the already packed 86th street last year, I had two questions: 1.) Why such long lines on the Upper East Side? and 2.) Is it worth the long lines? Having previously tried the iconic burger at the original Madison Square Park location, I knew the food was tasty, but I didn’t know whether it merited waiting with the crowds.
Luckily, the hype died down a bit once the weather turned colder, and while the lines can still make it out the door on nice days or around dinnertime, the wait time is typically not unbearable.
Once you make it to the front, you place your order and are given a buzzer that will light up when your food is ready. While you wait, you can snag a table inside or try your luck at the outdoor seating (which technically is accessible to the public, though I’ve never seen anyone sitting there without a burger and fries in front of them).
After a few minutes—that can feel like much longer when it’s busy and you’re starving—your buzzer will go off and you’ll collect your tray from the counter. Of course you’ll have one of the signature burgers. My favorite is the simple Shack Burger ($4.50) that comes with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and the famous Shack Sauce. While it may look similar to a typical fast food sandwich, once you bite into it you know you’re tasting something else entirely. The beef is always juicy and flavorful, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to the French fries, with or without cheese ($3.65/2.65 respectively). You could also choose a hot dog (starting at $3.50) if you’re not in the mood for a burger. Whatever your main course, this meal is made to go down easily with a shake ($5) or lemonade ($3.05 for a large). And don’t forget the ice cream, offered in vanilla, chocolate, and a special flavor of the day ($3.25-5.25).
After the first visit, I knew that I’d be back in that line soon enough with locals and tourists who had wandered over from the Met. Sure, you could spend a bit less at a fast food chain for a similar meal, but why would you? With the convenient location and burgers made from quality meat, there’s no reason to spend your time or money at McDonald’s. The Upper East Side has been rescued from cheap burger mediocrity, and that’s worth the wait.
Review By: Chelsee Pengal