It was 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, and the normally placid corner of 77th Street and Columbus Avenue was thronged. Despite a driving rain, mothers with strollers jockeyed with twenty-somethings and retired folk in a line that extended around the corner and halfway down the block to Amsterdam Avenue.
A Miley Cyrus album signing? A once-in-a-lifetime sample sale? No, just the first week of the uptown Shake Shack, Danny Meyer’s haute paean to the classic American hamburger.
For those who missed it, the original Shake Shack opened in Madison Square Park back in 2004. The brainchild of Meyer, the owner of several popular downtown restaurants, including the Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern and Tabla, Shake Shack was an overnight success.
During the summer months, hordes braved epic lines for the eatery’s signature ShackBurger (with its Shack sauce) and Shack-cago Dog (a beef hot dog with the works).
Now Shake Shack has arrived on the Upper West Side, to the thrill (mostly) of neighborhood residents. “Totally psyched,” said Maya Arison, who lives a few blocks away and was a frequent patron of the downtown location. “If it were a gorgeous day outside, I’d still go to the downtown one, since you can sit outside,” she said. “But on a day like today, or when my parents are in town, I’d rather be here and sit.”
The décor has retained certain elements of the downtown location’s outdoor setting. A glass-enclosed dining area faces Theodore Roosevelt Park across Columbus Avenue. Picnic table seating and simple green placards touting menu items lend the space a summer camp-like feel.
But accommodations have clearly been made for the new Upper West Side locale, in particular for the neighborhood’s many young families. There is a corner for stroller parking and plenty of high chairs to accommodate smaller guests. One wall prominently displays Shake Shack-designed onesies. (Examples: “I waited 9 months . . . this line ain’t that bad.” “If Crying . . . Insert Burger.”)
Theresa Mullen, a spokesperson for Shake Shack, said the menu has also been updated to include offerings tailored to the Upper West Side. It includes the “Upper West Slide,” a shake with vanilla custard, strawberry puree, banana and shortbread cookie, and the Natural History “Crunch-stellation,” with vanilla custard, malt, chocolate crunchies, hot fudge and caramel. According to Mullen, a portion of proceeds from sales of the latter will support the American Museum of Natural History.
On the Saturday this reporter visited, the crowd seemed to consist mostly of locals, including many who weren’t familiar with the Shake Shack downtown, but were drawn by the hype. Others in line were downtowners making a pilgrimage of sorts to compare and contrast.
Tony Felzen, a resident of the Flatiron District and a self-described Shake Shack devotee, had come uptown just to check out the new location. “I wouldn’t make another trip up here just for this,” he said, “but when I’m visiting friends on the Upper West Side, sure!”
Felzen noted that the line, while long, moved faster than the one in Madison Park. According to Mullen, the Upper West Side location is double the size of its downtown predecessor. She said she hoped this would minimize any inconvenience to patrons or to neighboring businesses.
Not all customers were fully sold that Shake Shack was a perfect fit for the Upper West Side. “One might worry that the Upper West Side is losing its distinctive feel, with the influx of wine bars, Magnolia Bakery and now this,” said Lindsay Tomenson, who grew up on Central Park West. Tomenson said that her mother, a resident of the posh Beresford, would probably compare it to McDonald’s.
But for the most part, locals seem to be embracing it. “It’s a big improvement to whatever was on this corner before,” said Arison, who recalls a string of failed restaurants before the Shake Shack’s arrival.
“Nothing here ever lasted,” said Joseph Rokacz, a well-dressed gentleman perched on a stool overlooking Columbus Avenue. He took a break from perusing stock listings to note a bright spot in the city’s darkening economic climate. “This corner is finally a success!”
366 Columbus Ave.
(at 77th Street)
Open from 10:45 a.m. to
11 p.m. every day
Trackback from your site.