‘Stand For Something Good’ is the mantra behind the Shake Shack brand. It’s a thoughtful play on words as it reflects the chain’s past in its origins as a New York burger stand, whilst also setting out its future intentions as something more – more communitarian, more thoughtful, more than just the usual fast food chain.
Shake Shack started as a small business less than a decade ago and is now on the verge of a multi-million dollar IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. So its attempt to keep hold of its personality and uniqueness is a tricky balancing act. The Villagio branch is certainly getting the community element right with weekly employee volunteering at Qatar Animal Welfare Society (QAWS), and a helpful and happy workforce, who recently treated diners to a Pharell-inspired ‘Happy’ Dance.
The Villagio branch has a pseudo-industrial open-plan construction, with an indoor seating terrace, and reflects the décor of all Shake Shack branches. Its use of vintage-styled posters and slogans is good branding and appeals to the Instagram generation. You order your food first, get given a Shake buzzer and then, like any other fast food place, you go look for seating. This can be a problem as Villagio is one of the busiest malls here in Doha and there can be quite a wait – you queue to order and you have to wait for seating. If you are in a group send someone to look for seating whilst you order.
The Shake Buzzer buzzes when your food is ready and you go up to collect it. This electrical device has helped Shake Shack build a whole advertising gimmick with the slogan ‘When I’m shakin’ come on up to the Shack!’ However it is not unique in Doha as Vapiano in Gate Mall uses a similar device. When you go to collect your food you there is a server at the condiments area to help you. From the food collection point you can also see into the busy and roomy kitchen where at least 12 staff members are working on orders. They appear well-trained and organised and get orders out quickly.
On my first visit to Shake Shack I managed to catch the limited edition burger from the festive menu. My dining companion and I both ordered the MeisterShack Cheeseburger with crispy marinated shallots and ShackSauce. We also ordered the Fries and a Frozen Custard – yes, can you believe it, we did not order a Shake on our first visit…a terrible oversight which we rectified on a later visit.
The MeisterShack Cheeseburger was a tasty burger and the fried shallots added a crispy element which was lacking from the green leaf lettuce. A more crunchy variety such as iceberg letttuce would have helped to add the freshness that this burger needed. But the winning component that brought the whole burger together was the secret ShackSauce which did enhance the Shake Shack burger experience. It’s a mayonnaise-based sauce with mustard and spices which brings a tangy creamy flavour to the salty burger and sweet bun.
The crinkle-cut fries came seasoned with salt, however they were a dissappointment. I don’t like it when my fries come already salted – if I want to give myself early heart disease then I will decide my extra salt intake, thank you very much. At first bite they seemed tasty and crunchy with the help of the salt, but they gave off a frozen food aftertaste. It turns out that in the early days the original burger stands had no room in the kitchen to make fresh fries so frozen ones were used. Apparently, fresh hand-cut fries were introduced to the American market but then withdrawn on the basis that people wanted the old fries back – hmmm…okay then.
Shake Shack – Worth A Return Visit?
Unfortunately when we came back again on a later date we forgot about the terrible fries and ordered them again – oh dear, misery re-visited. We also tried the original ShackBurger and the ‘Shroom Burger. Both burgers are set items on the menu from a choice of four different burger items – so there actually isn’t much variety here compared to other burger joints. The difference in the meat burgers comes from the toppings as the burgers all have the same basic elements.
Anatomy of a Shake Shack Burger
Let me break down the typical Shake Shake Burger. All burgers come medium done (unless otherwise requested) and the meat is a special blend of 100% Angus Beef Sirloin and Brisket cuts called the ShackBlend. Seasoned with salt and pepper the burger patty is prepared on the griddle with a ‘smash’ cooking technique which results in a crispy salty crust and juicy burger meat; I find the burger patty to be a little greasy which is only good if you are after a grease-a-thon burger
. The meat patty is then placed in a lovely buttered toasted potato bun which adds crunch, sweetness and a soft texture to the burger. ShackSauce is added and tomato and lettuce are the last additions – you can also request pickles and onions.
The burgers are presented with the ingredients almost bursting out. This makes the burger look huge but the patties are quite small so if you are feeling hungry I would order a double. Though the presentation may look very arty and makes for great snaps it is not so great when you come to eating it. You have to prod back the ingredients so they are more evenly distributed, which is a minor annoyance.
On a more positive note, the burger buns are not completely sliced in half so nothing falls out of the bottom and all the lovely meat juices and ShackSauce gets soaked up for a flavoursome last bite.
The vegetarian option was described as a whole roasted Portobello mushroom filled with Muenster and Cheddar cheeses and topped with the usual lettuce/tomato/pickle/ShackSauce toppings. The mushroom came with a crispy fried breaded exterior which added a lovely texture but it also meant that my burger was searingly hot.
I had to wait for it to cool down, and in the meantime the nice melted cheeses were cooling into a floppy puddle leaving behind a hollow burger – in there somewhere was my mushroom, which to be fair had a nice ‘meaty’ flavour. But again this is another item I would stay away from as it was more trouble than it was worth.
This visit I finally ordered one of the shakes. All the shakes have a Shake Shack Frozen Custard base. The Black & White Shake was recommended by the bubbly server behind the till. This shake was beautifully smooth and creamy with a hint of fudgy goodness from the shack fudge sauce.
I would go back again and again for the Frozen Custards which are known as Concretes. It is best enjoyed freshly-made so ask for it to be made later so that you can enjoy it frozen as it does melt quite quickly.
Frozen custard is a niche Southern dessert that is a lighter American version of ice-cream. Made with butterfat and egg yolk it is richer and creamier, and it also has less air bubbles making it a silky smooth tasting experience.
The menu has five signature concretes but you can make your own Concrete by adding different ingredients. I have still to try the Doha regional special called The DOugh HA (ha-did you see what they did there?). It sounds delicious with its peanut butter and marshmallow sauces.
I recommend you try the weekly Concrete as it is not a set menu item. However, I would order a single as the portion size is huge and they are rich, dense desserts – I always share mine as they are too much on top of a burger.
I tried the Salted Caramel Chocolate Concrete as a weekly special and it was an interesting mix of salty, creamy smooth caramel flavour. However, I did find it slightly too salty for my liking but I absolutely love the Shack Attack Concrete. This has a chocolate frozen custard base with chocolate truffle cookie dough (yum), Valrohna chocolate pearls (double yum), and fudge sauce blended into the mix, which is topped with chocolate sprinkles – amazing! It’s fast becoming one of my favourite dessert options. Check out the Shake Shack menu below.
A mixed review but I would still say that a visit to Shake Shack is a must if you are in Villagio Mall. Eat elsewhere for your main meal if you wish but come here for a sweet ending – you have to try a Concrete, or a Shake, at least once. For me, I plan to try every variation of Concrete that they have both on and off the menu…ahh 2015 goal decided!
Shake Shake is located in Villagio Mall – call +974 4413 5395 for more information.
UPDATE: New location opened in Gulf Mall Qatar!