Shake Shack is finally here in Hong Kong! On ifc’s 4th floor, you’ll find the iconic Madison Square Park fine-dining-meets-fast-food hamburger restaurant transplanted here and overlooking Victoria Harbour. In a city that has its fair share of good burgers, the opening of Shake Shack still cut through all the noise, and managed to create buzz that is still causing lines to snake out its doors.
All their signature items have been brought over, so don’t fret; If you’re craving a Shack Burger, crinkle cut fries and a frozen custard, you’re not going to have to fly around the world to get them anymore.
Aiming to create the modern day American roadside eatery, Shake Shack has distilled their burgers into just the basics: beef mince, bun, lettuce, tomato and spread. That’s it, and that’s why people come back—there are no fillers, no secrets, just good hearty, old-fashioned American food.
Consistency is key, and that’s exactly what Shake Shack is aiming for—they want their burgers, whether you get them in New York, London, LA or Hong Kong to be consistent. Taking a page from the OG of fast food, McDonalds, Shake Shack knows that you shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken. Unlike McDonald’s though, many of the key ingredients on the menu, from the beef, to the hot dogs, to the potato buns are imported from the same American companies that supply American Shake Shacks, so you’ll be sure that what you’re eating here is just as good as the original.
That doesn’t mean that some things aren’t sourced closer to home. Mark Rosati, Shake Shack's Culinary Director did mention that when they could get high-quality ingredients locally, like local chocolate for their concretes, they definitely do. In the age of heightened awareness of food sustainability, it’s good that Shake Shack is trying to look closer to home when they can.
You can’t go to Shake Shack and not try the original ShackBurger. The burger is surprisingly simple to make—In fact, anyone could make it at home. They’re not shy to admit this either, when Rosati was here for the opening, he showed us how to construct the iconic Shack Burger from scratch. Unlike other chains, there’s no ‘secret sauce’ marketing ploy and no mystery meats or additives. If you want to make a Shack Burger yourself, you can actually do it; all it consists of are these 5 ingredients (plus a classic burger spread):
A potato bun
Green leaf lettuce
Shake Sauce (mayo, dijon mustard, ketchup, cayenne pepper and pickle juice)
Like all great burgers, it’s the quality of the ingredients that really determine the taste of the burger.
Pro tip: go for the Double ShackBurger, the original is quite small in comparison to other burgers.
I’m going to have to be honest—while the Shack Burger is the Shake Shack go-to, I’m a bigger fan of their Shroom Burger. I know, blasphemy. But hear me out, I had my reservations at first as well. It’s not the prettiest of burgers—it’s just a deep-fried brown disk, which, to be fair, can be said for every other burger. But since it lacks that nice, oily sheen and melted cheese of a traditional burger, it looks a bit underwhelming at first. But before you judge, bite into it.
Inside the crispy breaded crust is a portobello mushroom stuffed with muenster and cheddar that oozes out when you bite into it. If you’re not into cheese, then this burger isn’t for you, but if you are, you’ll be very happy you got one.
If you’re a fan of hot dogs, you’re going to want to try the Shack Cago Dog. If you’re not a fan of hot dogs, you’re still going to want to try it. I have a special place in my heart for loaded, Chicago-style hot dogs, and this doesn’t disappoint. For those of you unfamiliar with Shake Shack’s origins, they actually started off as a hot dog stand, so they put special pride in making their dogs, even though they’re not the star of the menu anymore.
Unlike the bouncy, mystery-meat-filled franks that you get around Hong Kong, the Shack Cago Dog is a proper sausage with real bite to it. Topped with relish, onion, cucumber, pickle, tomato, sport peppers, celery salt, and mustard, this dog is just as much about the sausage as it is about the toppings. If you haven’t had a Chicago-style hot dog, and you’re not heading to the Windy City any time soon, do yourself a favour and try one here.
There are a few items you are only get here in Hong Kong, and they all happen to be sweet. Let’s start with the Milk Tea Milkshake. All Hong Kongers know that this city takes its milk tea seriously. Hong Kong milk tea in particular, is an mixture of British black tea and copious amounts of evaporated milk. So when Shake Shack was trying to decide on an iconic flavour, it was a no brainer. A truly America-meets-Hong-Kong creation, ice cream and milk tea are combined to create a shake that is familiar, yet different, and definitely worth a try.
Shake Shack created not one, but three HK-only frozen yogurt desserts. Called ‘Concretes’ by Shake Shack, like it’s namesake suggests, the daily-made yoghurt is a dense treat that's mixed with a variety of sweet toppings.
The HK Style is a combination of vanilla custard, French toast, peanut butter sauce, and banana, topped with maple sugar. Again, if you’ve been in Hong Kong, you’ll know our French toast isn’t the toast you’ll find in other countries. It’s unique to Hong Kong, and now incorporated into a special dessert.
If you haven't guessed, The Heart and Tart of Central’s star ingredient are local egg tarts. Made with vanilla custard, egg tart, and strawberry puree, this Concrete is an homage to the special tart that Hong Kong has made famous worldwide.
Finally we have That’s My Jam is a refreshing combo of vanilla custard, Jam Story mango passion fruit jam, fresh raspberries, and crumbled shortbread. The refreshing mango passion fruit jam that’s the star of this concrete is sourced locally from local jam producer Jam Story.
ShackMeister Ale can only be purchased at Shake Shack. Famed New York Brewery, Brooklyn Brewery created a special pale ale beer just for the ShackBurger. With creamy British Pale, Caramalt, and Crystal malt to match the richness of the burger and the fresh, bitter cut from Challenger, Perle, and Glacier hops, the beer is great straight from the tap and paired with your burger.
A quad-fecta of great local brews are also on tap and in bottles. With the wide selection available, it’ll be easy to find a beer to pair nicely with any of the burgers or other food.
From the outside, Shake Shack’s telltale chrome design and finishes makes it seem as if it’s been attic forever. Their public outdoor dining area has a great view of the harbour and city and it’s even decorated with the same iconic lights that Shake Shack strings around their other restaurants. Inside, there’s a central kitchen where all the food is made fresh to order and beer taps stand ready to pour.
So is Shake Shack worth all the hype? Yes. It’s a great burger that is made with quality ingredients. Will it signal burgergeddon for the rest of Hong Kong’s similarly-priced burger joints? Probably not, but now that there’s some international competition on the scene, we can hopefully see local restaurants step up their game, which for us eaters is always a good thing.
I guess the question everyone wants to know is this: is Shake Shack the best chain burger ever? I’m going to say no. Coming from an Californian growing up on In-n-Out, that’s expected. But even In-n-Out isn’t the best. To be honest, the sheer variety and differences of great burgers from region to region make it hard to give the burger crown to any one restaurant. But are Shake Shack burgers worthy of their following? Definitely.
Shop 4018, Podium Level 4, ifc mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong
+852 2522 5611
Open from 11AM to 11PM