Four months ago, a bright eyed and eager me set out on a noble quest to find the finest burger available to all the land. My mission was to visit, eat and review as many nationally known burger restaurants as geography and time would allow, then share my findings with you, the reader.
I admit, with the help of hindsight, I didn't fully appreciate the scope and challenge that lay in front of me. A different burger. Each week. All summer long.
Sure, the concept was solid. It would create content for the site during the doldrums of the offseason - lord knows following the Mariners didn't help with that - and I really enjoy eating a good cheeseburger so I saw nothing in front of me as an obstacle. How wrong I was! And, starting in the middle of April, months before we slipped into a monotonous stream of Dump after Dump after Dump, only added to the length and challenge of my mission.
Somewhere along the way, I began to feel the true weight of my goal, both logistically as the restaurants got further and further away from my office and also on the scale. Let's just say my first visit to the community pool was met with more than the normal number of unflattering stares.
So today I conclude the journey with the burger I always knew would come out on top. Although each entry was thoughtfully and truthfully reviewed, I would be lying if I said one sandwich literally defined what I looked for in the perfect cheeseburger. In fact, the rules were specifically written for this very special place.
But, before I get to the final review, let's take a quick cholesterol trip down memory lane before it gets clogged up.
Five Guys Rating - 18/30
First up was Five Guys. Not particularly good, not noticeably bad... Just kind of there. It was here I introduced to you my expectations and rating criteria which would carry through the rest of the series.
Fuddruckers Rating - 18/30
Next we ventured to Fuddruckers. I like their buns but little else.
In-N-Out Rating - 21/30
In-N-Out is a personal favorite of mine, and millions of other west coast residents, but not everyone agreed.
Steak ‘n Shake Rating - 13/30
I was told Steak ‘n Shake would fall somewhere between incredibly awesome or wretchedly awful. I found it disappointing, and rated the Midwestern favorite accordingly.
Smashburger Rating - 23/30
Smashburger was surprisingly good and received extra credit for their buffalo fries. This was also the beginning of the end for my game of Hidden Images.
Twin Peaks Rating 27/30
Twin Peaks served me more than cold beer and cleavage as I was not expecting to enjoy their burger as much as I did.
Red Robin Rating 19/30
Red Robin all but destroyed my belief in endless fries, and the popular burger chain's entry also left me wanting more.
Did not review:
I wanted to review these, and still might if the occasion presents itself, but just didn't get around to for one reason or another.
Fatburger - Not close enough to work to justify a visit, as my memory of my only visit was not favorable.
Checkers - Sounded a lot like Steak ‘n Shake, only worse.
Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers - Other side of town.
Heart Attack Grill - Doctor strongly advised against this.
Guy's place on the strip - The plan to take the afternoon off and drink my way through this review sadly never materialized.
Which brings us to our last establishment. I didn't know much about Shake Shack when it opened its doors to the Las Vegas Strip last fall, but my first visit changed my outlook on what I looked for in a burger forever. I went back a second time about a month after my first visit just to make sure my memory was not serving me false details, and actually walked away happier than before. That never happens.
This is Shake Shack
Shake Shack can trace its roots back to a solitary hot dog cart in Manhattan, believe it or not. The cart was so popular that in 2004, the owners moved to a permanent kiosk in Madison Square Park, and the beginnings of what we know today as Shake Shack began.
The franchise has since grown to become an international brand with multiple locations including restaurants in Texas, Las Vegas, Maryland, United Kingdom, Russia and more.
The menu varies slightly based on the region and location, but the staples are: burgers, hot dogs, frozen custard, soda, beer and wine.
Double Shackburger with cheese and crinkle cut fries. 1240 calories of sinful goodness.
Cheese - Holy ooey gooey goodness. Somehow the executive chefs who created this delectable treat developed a hybrid of American cheese and whatever overly-processed-colloidal-aberration is served atop stadium nachos and the result is completely fantastic. Genius!
Cheese Score - 10/10
Meat - greasy, crispy, delicious. If I could meet and greet everyone who had a hand in delivering this goodness to my life - from the farmer who raised it to the processor who processed it to the line cook who perfectly seared the flavors into it - I would smother each of them in wet greasy kisses. And I am not an overly affectionate person. Perfect!
Meat Score -10/10
Bun - I'm not sure what sorcery the bakers conjured while mixing and kneading the ingredients used in these buns, but somehow this bread withstood the unrelenting juices assaulting it from the meat and cheese above and below, while somehow dissolving the moment it entered my mouth.
Bun Score - 10/10
Toppings and Condiments - I have not included toppings and condiments in previous reviews because they are generally inconsequential to the story. But somehow the lettuce, tomato and Shack Sauce, much like the bun, uniquely complimented the sandwich without ever announcing its own presence. Each bite, each flavor, was a well-orchestrated dance of deliciousness that every single person should experience if able.
Overall - While traditionally I would agree that perfection is impossible to achieve, Shake Shack has created complete burger transcendence. As I stated in my opening, it literally re-defined how I view all other burgers, and I catered my scoring specifically to honor it with the perfect score it deserves.
Overall Score 30/30
God bless you, Shake Shack.