“I was alive and I waited for this. Right here, right now, there is no other place I want to be” – Jesus Jones
Today marks the debut of in Westport, one of the town’s most highly anticipated and hyped restaurant openings in recent years. Ever since it was that Danny Meyer’s road food phenomenon was coming here, the local food scene has been craving its arrival.
Meyer, one of New York City’s most successful and influential restaurateurs, with Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park and Blue Smoke in his arsenal, had a slam dunk when he opened his first Shake Shack in Madison Square Park in July 2004. The formula was simple, but the departure from Meyer’s usual conceptualization was striking … hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, frozen custard and milkshakes were a far cry from the high-end food with which Meyer had staked his reputation.
Fast-forward seven years, and it’s clear the risk has paid off huge dividends. Shake Shack has grown from a hamburger stand to a powerhouse chain, with insanely popular locations on the Upper West and East Sides, the Theatre District, Battery Park City, Miami, Washington, D.C. and Saratoga Springs. The Shack empire has even expanded into the Middle East, with restaurants in Dubai and Kuwait City.
And now, Westport.
Although it’s called the Shake Shack, what keeps people coming are the burgers. A wondrous mixture of Angus sirloin and brisket from legendary NYC purveyor Pat LaFrieda, the Shack Burger ($4.75 – single, $7.25 – double) is a 4 oz. patty griddled to perfection, juices firmly sealed and cooked to a lovely medium temperature (you can request it cooked to order). Topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a tangy ShackSauce, this is not you average quarter-pounder with cheese.
The meat itself is substantially flavorful, with a slightly salty hint that contrasts wonderfully with the sweetness of the ShackSauce. Held together by a buttered and grilled potato bun, it is a must for any burger lover.
Vegetarians should try the ‘Shroom Burger ($6.75), a crispy, fried portabello mushroom filled with cheddar and muenster cheeses, topped with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce. The flurry of flavor and texture was an absolute delight.
Hot dog lovers will also be very happy with the offerings at Shake Shack. The Shack-cago Dog ($4.15) is a wonderful take on the Windy City’s famous version, replete with relish, onion, cucmber, pickle, tomato, pepper, celery salt and mustard served on a poppy seed bun.
The New York Dog ($3.65) is a more familiar version, topped with kraut from Yorkville’s Schaller & Weber, and there is also the Bird Dog ($4.65), a chicken sage sausage served on a potato roll. All dogs are split and griddled, with a crispy exterior, and juicy interior, all maintaining the necessary “bite” that a well-cooked hot dog should.
Those who have never experience frozen custard are in for a treat. Best described as a dense, thick, rich soft serve ice cream, patrons can enjoy cones or cups ($3.25 – single dip, $4.25 – double dip, $5.25 – triple dip), or shakes ($5 – vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, caramel, peanut butter, black & white, $5.50 – add malt).
Sundaes (4.50 – single dip, $5.50 – double dip) and pints to go ($5.75) are also available. However, you would be remiss not to sample a Concrete ($4.25 – half, $6.50 – regular). A frozen concoction of custard, toppings, and mix-ins, these indulgent desserts are rich, delicious and unique to the specific Shake Shack location.
The Westport choices include the Hopscotch (vanilla custard, E. Guittard milk chocolate chunks, toffee and caramel), Banana Post Rd. (chocolate custard, caramelized cocoa nibs, bananas and sea salt), and the Sasco ‘Crete (vanilla custard and a slice of seasonal, locally baked pie). You can also create your own with more than ten toppings at your disposal.
Fries ($2.75) are crinkle-cut, crispy, and nicely salted, and the Cheese Fries ($3.95) are not to be missed. Beer and wine are available, and those who favor American Pale Ales should try the ShackMeister Ale on draught ($5), specifically created for the Shake Shack by Brooklyn Breweries, it’s a refreshing, hoppy brew with a citrusy finish that pairs very well with the culinary offerings. Sodas, lemonade, and iced tea are also available, as is Abita Root Beer ($2.65 – regular, $3.40 – large).
There are several flatscreens adorning the walls of the remodeled Pho Mekong space with seating for about 75 inside, and an outdoor patio with room for about 20 more.
Parking will be almost as difficult as waiting out the long lines to the counter, especially during the first few weeks as seemingly all of Fairfield County will inevitably descend upon 1849 Post Road East to satisfy a craving soon to be known as a “Shack Attack."
Service: N/A (Counter)
Décor/Atmosphere: C (for CROWDED)
11am - 10pm (Sunday - Wednesday) and 11am - 11pm (Thursday - Saturday).
1849 Post Road East.