When there’s conflict in Gotham City, Batman gets the Bat Signal. When a cheeseburger needs to be eaten in Sandy, I get the “Shack Signal.”
OK, so there was no neon green emblem appearing in the skies of Cache Valley last Saturday, but I did see quite a few tweets in my Twitter feed informing me of the grand opening of Shake Shack — the first in Utah for the growing fast casual New York-based chain with locations around the globe.
I love going out to Five Guys, Morty’s Cafe and Logan Burger, so I’ve become something of an unofficial burger and fries connoisseur. When I heard months ago that Shake Shack was coming to Sandy, I knew I had to eat there; I just didn’t mark the date Aug. 3 on my calendar. But when I saw those tweets that afternoon, I called up my managing editor and he gave me the green light to go down there, try the food and write an article/quasi-review. Here we go!
Before I give you the greasy, juicy, crunchy, salty — and sweet! — details, however, I must tell you the context of this narrative is not from the perspective of a Shake Shack first-timer. I got a taste of it back in 2012, in Washington D.C. when I was in town for a friend’s wedding. My friend hyped it as truly unique and trendy and I agreed to go. The food was fine, but I didn’t know if I’d ever go there again.
Fast forward to 2019 and my palate is primed to review just about any new eatery, especially if it has burgers, fries and milkshakes on the menu.
I hit the road in the 2 o’clock hour for Sandy in sunny 91-degree weather here in Logan. I brought my hat and sunglasses thinking I’d get a little sunburn standing in line for an hour, but I was wrong — I really needed an umbrella. Driving on I-15 through Bountiful, I could see off in the distance some very dark clouds and what looked like some serious rain coming down over the mountains. The skies only got darker — with lightning overhead — as I approached the exit for Sandy. I briefly wondered if this impromptu outing was my date with a lightning strike rather than an awesome burger.
I rolled into the parking lot around 4 p.m. and wondered where all the people were. I thought the line was going to go around the building — because that’s what I kept seeing on Twitter — but it only went a few yards from the restaurant’s entrance to the sidewalk facing the road.
The building, located at 11000 S. State Street, was once a school before it became a Shake Shack. The location pays homage to that, with a sign that says “The School Yard” next to another with the restaurant’s logo.
And it was friendly and welcoming place for all ages, even on a less-than-perfect summer day. There was a patio with ping-pong tables and a slide. Giant garage door-like windows (closed when it started to hail) allowed the outdoor seating area to connect with the inside. Shake Shack really did an old building justice.
I got in the back of the line and in front of me was an older gentleman and a guy about my age holding a toddler. A few minutes later, a couple approached them and asked how long they’d been in line. Only about 15 minutes, he said.
“We’re moving fast,” the gentleman added.
I don’t know about “fast,” but getting to the counter in under an hour on opening day is pretty good time.
Before I got there, though, there were a few more interesting things that happened.
At one point, a Shake Shack employee came out and offered up small cups of ice water right before it was clearly about to rain. I thought it was counter-intuitive and I think others did, too. A few minutes later, when it was raining, a man held up his cup and looked up at the sky as if to say, “So is this what we’re supposed to do with them?”
When I was much closer to the restaurant’s entrance, the rain turned to hail. There were strong gusts of wind, turning people’s umbrellas inside out. I just had a hat, which got soaked, and so did my back. I concealed my iPhone, but I forgot my notepad was sticking out of my back pocket. When I reached behind to check on it, the first page of my notes was torn off and soaked.
Once inside, the line hung a left to the front counter. Opposite the cashiers were wooden signs on the window sills that said #schoolisinsession and #topoftheclass. Next to those was a giant menu, offering up everything from Shake Shack’s signature “ShackBurger” to a milkshake with vanilla and sunflower seeds mixed in — a hit in Japan, or so the sign said.
There were four cashiers at the counter, and the young woman second from left, Ellie, called me to her. I ordered a “SmokeShack” combo meal (which included fries and a drink). The SmokeShack includes a hamburger patty (or two) with cheese, bacon, ShackSauce and cherry peppers (my managing editor was impressed with my choice of burger).
Ellie asked how long I’d been in line. About 40 minutes, I told her, adding that I had traveled from Logan.
“All right! It’s worth it!” Ellie said.
She handed me a small device that would light up and vibrate when my order was ready. My order was called in 15 minutes and it looked and tasted great.
Shake Shack’s meals ordered in are placed on stainless steel trays bedded with a light sheet of paper with the restaurant name and logo. Burgers are inserted into a paper wrapper, making the greasy and juicy delight easier to eat. The fries are placed in a small paper boat. The height of a Shake Shack cup is modest compared to most fast food places, but its radius is wider.
My meal didn’t disappoint, taste-wise. My burger was definitely on the greasy side, which is OK to me, given that some places, like Burger King, Five Guys and McDonald’s, dry out pretty quick. The textures of the meat, toppings and sauce blended together magically. I didn’t really know what cherry peppers taste like until midway through the eating, when I really felt the heat come on. No complaints about this burger!
The fries were the right combination of having a crispy outside, soft center and salty goodness. They tasted hot out of the fryer. Excellent fries, check.
And as for the drink — how can you not have a Coke with your burger and fries? Sorry, Pepsi.
You might be asking yourselves, based on the picture I provided for this story, “Kevin, it’s called ‘Shake Shack,’ so why didn’t you order a shake?” The reason is because I only wanted to order the amount of food I could eat and didn’t feel like wasting it for the sake of the best possible photograph. Next time I visit, though, I could present them a coupon the restaurant’s manager gave me for a complimentary shake at no minimum charge. I’m a winner!
Since I timed my outing because it was the grand opening, I knew my Shack Shack experience lasted about an hour and 20 minutes.
I took a few photos of the outside before I left and by then, the dark clouds had cleared and the rain/hail had passed. It was just the kind of weather that I had hoped for when I was standing in line.
But oh, well! You can’t have everything work out perfectly all the time. At least I did not leave Sandy with an empty stomach.