Shake Shack in leafy Madison Square Park back in 2008
The news broke earlier this week by the Daily Journal of Commerce (DJC), and the local food media followed; Portland Monthly‘s article was the first one that caught my eye. I’m pretty chuffed that Shake Shack is coming to Portland—1016 W Burnside Street—and am so curious to see how it will fare in what is a pretty solid burger town, having known their delicious consistency during my time living in NYC.
To be honest, I don’t spend a lot of time downtown, but when I am there, I will seek out this impending Shake Shack—opening in what I think is a great location, just across the street from Powell’s (which I hope will make it through this virus crisis).
I remember the days of Shake Shack’s original hot dog cart (I moved to New York/Long Island for grad school in 2001 about a month prior to 9/11), hearing about it from afar (give or take 60 miles). There was serious excitement about the “shack” building that opened in 2004; it was a major hit. I stood in those long lines for a cheeseburger, frozen custard, and fries during that first year when I’d come into the city from Long Island. And when I lived in NYC I could take advantage—to some extent, as the trip from Queens was about a half hour on the train—of the Shack Cam that broadcasted the lines twisting in Madison Square Park, eyeing it to find a time when the lines were less. It was aggravating sometimes but the food was worth it.
Shake Shack expanded throughout NYC and particularly enticing was their opening up in Flushing’s Citi Field in 2009 (central Queens). Shake Shack at a Met’s game! I’ve since eaten at different Shake Shacks around NYC but the original location really is my favorite. Madison Square Park is beautiful, plus I could hop on the W train from my home subway station of Ditmars and it would take me right to 23rd Street, a straight shot.
A few things I came to appreciate from Shake Shack:
- Those Martin’s Potato Rolls are simply the best; I’m forever spoiled and am now rather discriminating against bready buns. Thank you BYH Burger for using these superior potato bun here in Portland. Now please bring your orangeade to the 33rd Ave location.
- The burgers really are so fresh and delicious. It is not hype; they are just really, really good.
- Crinkle cut fries are controversial but I am a fan and if you are into that sort of thing, do not skip the cheese sauce.
- Pay attention to the seasonal calendar and if you find they are doing a concrete that’s basically vanilla frozen custard with a piece of apple or pumpkin pie blended into it, get it.
The folks at Shake Shack have figured out how to intelligently manage lines, so know that you will be moving through at the fastest rate possible. Sometimes they split the line into those just getting custard/concretes and those getting food, and that’s a really helpful thing. I’m looking forward to seeing how they manage this aspect of things, since that’s such a bustling part of downtown Portland. Of course, social distancing may still remain with us for months—perhaps years—which provides a unique challenge for a place with a history of epic lines.
The new Portland location is a big space: 4,976 square feet. They plan to take away some of the parking in order to create an “860-square-foot, covered patio area with seating and an approximately 2,500-square-foot, uncovered outdoor area with tables, terraced seating, a fixed ping-pong table, and short-term bicycle parking,” as per the DJC article.
I do think that the arrival of Shake Shack—whenever that will be—will be one of those things that forces its competitors to level up in their burger-making game. However, it really does feel strange—and kind of awesome—to talk about the arrival of a new restaurant during this restaurant-suppressed time in Portland. A lot can happen in the ensuing months. But it gives me hope that this difficult time will be over one day. Perhaps we can raise a cup of frozen custard together when Shake Shack becomes a reality.
Oregon’s First Shake Shack Will Open in Downtown’s West End [Portland Monthly]
High-profile restaurant project in the works [DJC]
Shake Shack (coming… soon?)
1016 W Burnside Street, Portland