Saturday, June 25, 2016

50 Hours in Tokyo: Shake and Shack in Line

I expected it's probably going to be a crowd when I decided to check out Shake Shack, the first Asia outlet of the New York-based burger joint, inside Meiji Jingu Gaien Park on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, but I definitely didn't expect by the time I got there at 1pm, the waiting line got to 300 people deep, stretching outside the restaurant and well into the tree-lined path that ran along the park.

I don't usually line up hours for food but for whatever reasons, I made an exception this time and started what turned out to be a long 1.5 hour wait. "It'd better be worth my time", I whatsapp-ed my mates back home while waiting patiently as the line moved slowly towards the finishing line, that is the cashier and food pick-up point.

Well to make things sound less painful than it was, the setting was quite pleasant as far as standing in line is concerned. The restaurant is located right inside the scenic park near Omotesando and the weather was perfectly mild and sunny with a gentle breeze under the shade of trees. There were plenty of outdoor seating at the restaurant, even completed with a ping-pong table that customers could stay behind to play a game or two. It was quite fun watching people enjoying their food, taking a selfie or two... I even saw a group tied a metal balloon at their table for a makeshift birthday party. I have never been to a fast food shop that looks so chilled and comfortable.

Around half way through I did regret a bit of "wasting" my time waiting for what would likely be a 15-minute lunch, but at the end I stuck around and made it to the finish line. When I reached closer to the restaurant entrance I was handed the menu - I felt like I passed a certain rite of passage when that happened. The restaurant has a long a la carte menu, from burgers, hotdogs, fries, shakes, frozen custards and a few drinks that are made specially for the joint. Even dog biscuits for your pet. With so many items that sound enticing, I had to keep reminding myself not to over-order, and at the end, only managed a burger, fries, and a shake, like a glorified McD meal. Took them about 7 minutes after ordering before the food was ready to be picked up.

Okay, I was very impressed with their burger. I ordered the Shack Stack, which was a combination of cheeseburger and a mushroom burger with angus beef patty, slice of soft cheese, deep-fried Portobello mushroom, lettuce, tomato with the special sauce in between two halves of a soft, slightly toasted bun. The individual components were perfectly prepared and you can't fault that combination - I think that simply is the reason why their burger is so good and popular.

I have mixed opinion over the cheese fries. I love the sauce with balanced cheddar taste (would be so perfect on nachos too!) but I thought the frozen crinkle-cut fries was just starch and no potatoes despite being very crispy on the outside. That's the way it was supposedly but I am not a fan of the texture either. The shake - I went for the daily special flavor of lemon raspberry - was nice, reminding me of those in an old-fashioned diner. I wish I have room to try the special lemonade or the frozen custard with a few Japan-only flavors, but that would be a bit of a stretch to my stomach.

So worth the wait? For checking out a new restaurant and living the hype or as a pilgrimage of sort, yes I didn't regret doing it for once. But for second/third/fourth time? I wasn't too sure. Hopefully the line is going to be shorter by the time I managed to return, especially with a second branch already opened in Ebisu. In the meantime, I am just as happy with a gourmet burger at the comfort inside a sit-down restaurant, or a cheap and cheerful fast food burger that is actually fast. After all I ain't see nothing wrong with the good old Mos Burger, at one-third the price and one-third the waiting time. Maybe I am too superficial, or just impatient.

Check out the rest of the travelogue series: 50 Hours in Tokyo!

Where? Shake Shack Meiji-Jingu Gaien, 2-1-15 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo
シェイク シャック (Shake Shack) 明治神宮外苑内 東京都港区北青山2丁目1-15
Menu Highlights? Shack Stack, Cheeseburger and a 'Shroom burger with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce

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