Hats Off to the New SmokeShack Burger by Shake Shack

I’m gonna be upfront. I like Shake Shack. I really do. And I am well aware that many Lebanese people do not. Before Shake Shack opened its second outlet in ABC Achrafieh—the first debuted at Beirut City Centre—the blogosphere was teeming with critical remarks about the Shack’s so-called small, overpriced burgers that didn't deliver on taste and could at best be compared with McDonald’s offerings.

I didn't find a ring of truth to any of those disparaging comments, and my first-ever dining experience at Shake Shack was more than pleasant. I found the patty to be simply and beautifully seasoned, a loosely-packed, imperfectly-formed Angus beef pie pressed onto the griddle before being laid inside a soft, yellow-hued bun. The fries are a happy departure from the thin-cut standard at fast food chains. And the concretes were refreshing but could pack more punch in the flavor department.

Today I was among a select few in Lebanon to sample the newly-released SmokeShack, essentially a cheeseburger topped with all-natural hickory-smoked veal bacon, spicy chopped cherry pepper, and the signature ShackSauce to boot. The burger bun is hinged on one side to prevent the goods from sliding out—ingenious. Savory bacon and two cheese squares push the burger beyond its sodium threshold, but there’s no doubt that your taste buds will be doing a happy dance all the while.

The SmokeShack burger is a cheeseburger with veal bacon, chopped cherry peppers, and ShackSauce

Crinkle-cut fries served plain

Crinkle-cut fries smothered in cheese sauce and diced cherry peppers

Abstaining from the fries, I opted for a small cut of the Shack Stack, which is a precarious tower of ShackBurger plus a crisp-fried Portobello mushroom stuffed silly with Muenster and cheddar. The oozing cheese mix is excessive and overwhelms the other ingredients, namely the beef patty, so if you’re a fan of Portobello, have this burger sans the meat. Enjoy it in its isolated state.

The Shack Stack is a Shack Burger plus 'Shroom Burger

We were served a new mélange of Concrete, which, for those unfamiliar, is a dense frozen custard blended at high speed with toppings and mix-ins. The “Ghraybe Blend” fuses vanilla custard; our traditional Lebanese shortbread, the ghraybe; crushed pistachios; and a sticky marshmallow sauce intended to mimic the meringue-like “natef.” It is an exquisite contrast of textures and translates magnificently into custard form, but I’d crumble the ghraybe into smaller chunks to make them conducive to chewing.

The Lebanese-inspired "Ghraybe Blend" Concrete

Once you accept Shake Shack for what it offers—premium-quality fast food burgers and congenial, swift service—you’ll be able to bin the tired comparisons and simply enjoy the grub. I congratulate Shake Shack on its successful IPO last Friday, when it more than doubled its initial offering price on the first day of trading. The company has a sunny future ahead of it, so long as taste, quality, and small-town values are never compromised in the buildup. 


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