I had about three hours to kill in Upper West Side Manhattan before I could check into my hotel on my first day in New York City. The first order of business was to get lunch, since I had been up since 4:00am and hadn't actually eaten all day. Fortunately, I was on Columbus street, which was lined with great restaurants. Unfortunately, I spent almost every penny I had on airfare and a hotel room so I couldn't actually afford to eat at most of them. I had done a bit of research on cheap meals before I left and opted to walk to the Shake Shack.
The Shake Shack is a modern-day "roadside" burger stand, offering the American roadside classics of burgers, hot dogs, fries and shakes. It was an instant hit when it first opended in Madison Square, with both local and tourist patrons willing to line up and wait. Even with additional locations, there is still usually a wait and often the line goes out the door. The Shake Shack is a chain restaurant, something I usually avoid on trips, but it got its start in New York City so it seemed an acceptable choice in spite of that. It has locations in New York City, Saratoga Springs, Miami, Westport, Washington D.C., and surprisingly the Middle East. (That one confuses me. They'll take their delicious burgers across the ocean to the Middle East but not to Middle America where I wait with bated stomach?).
One my first of two trips to the Shake Shack, I got the traditional cheeseburger and fries. At first, I didn't get what the big deal was. I mean, it's a burger! In New York. How on earth did they expect to compete with my burger palate that had been trained by decades of eating beef that was raised just down the road? Well, it was good. Really, really good. I don't think it was exactly the best burger I ever had but it was definitely worth the wait. The meat patty is hand formed by a butcher, which gave it that fresh rather than machine process taste that you get at most fast food burger joints. The potato bun was also grilled, which gave it a great burger-to-bun ratio but also gave it something fresh and wonderful to soak up the meaty juices.
On my second trip, I opted for the New York Dog, a hotdog with saurkraut. (For the record, hot dogs should always be served with saurkraut. Always. Anyone who says otherwise has no taste buds.) The steamed potato bun was perfect and definitely an improvement over the soggy, white, processed buns you get from roadside hotdog stands in the city. The hot dog itself was also great. I ate a hot dog later from a stand during my trip and found myself wondering what exactly I was eating. Because it really didn't taste like a hot dog is supposed to. At the Shake Shack, there was no questioning - it is premium Vienna all-beef hot dog. And the saurkraut was great, the cabbage was crunchy instead of soggy and it had the most wonderful sour, acidic flavor that perfectly complimented the grilled flavor of the hot dog.
So I learned my lesson. Don't eat a hot dog in New York City from one of the sidewalk stands. Do it right and get it from the Shake Shack, because that's how a New York Dog is supposed to taste.
This joins other food blog articles posted in Wanderfood Wednesdays on Wanderlust and Lipstick. Check them out!