Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: Shake Shack

The off-the-menu ShackMeister (pictured) adds fried shallots to the regular ShackBurger. (News-Press photo)

Just last week, Shake Shack set up shop at Tysons Corner, turning Northern Virginia’s burger landscape completely on its head.

Sure, there’s already quite a few joints in and around The Little City that can satisfy the beef-and-bun fix but none with the cachet and frenzied following that the NYC-based burger slingers at the Shack bring to the table. (You ever try getting a ShackBurger at Nats Park before the 7th inning? Fuggahedaboudit.)

Sitting in the corner of the new outdoor plaza at Tysons, the diminutive Shake Shack more resembles a food stand that a sit-down, dine-in restaurant. Reinforcing this fact is the scant number of seats inside (just 18), with most diners opting for the more accommodating umbrellaed patio or eating on the run.

When it comes to grub, there’s just two main courses to consider here: burgers and hot dogs. The dogs are butterflied and cooked on the flat top and can be ordered plain or done up all fancy like the Shack-cago Dog (a Windy City-inspired wiener with relish, onions, cucumbers, pickles, tomato, pepper, celery salt and mustard) or the DogMeister (cheddar and American cheese sauce and crispy fried shallots). There’s also a chicken-apple-and-sage sausage if beef isn’t your thing.

But while the hot dogs are good –and they truly are good– the real reason this place is slammed every day is the burger.

Because 10+ toppings on a patty does not always a great burger make, simple reigns supreme at Shake Shack. You won’t find a Five Guys-esque list of add-ons here. As a matter of fact, while established in 2004, bacon wasn’t a Shack option until just two years ago. The signature ShackBurger is simply a thin, smash-griddled American cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato and a special Thousand Island-y spread called ShackSauce. That’s it. But while plain-sounding on paper, the thing becomes a flavor explosion once it hits the face. It’s the perfect amalgamation of meat, cheese and grease wrapped up in a bun. The SmokeShack packs everything the ShackBurger does but adds bacon and a cherry pepper relish to the mix for a spicy kick.

Crinkle cut fries are available plain or covered in a cheddar and American cheese sauce blend. (News-Press photo)
Crinkle cut fries are available plain or covered in a cheddar and American cheese sauce blend. (News-Press photo)

When it comes to meatless options, woe be the carnivores who overlook the ‘Shroom Burger. While most are made up of beans, tofu or some plant-based mash, Shake Shack’s take on a veggie burger puts muenster and cheddar into a portobello mushroom and then deep fries the whole thing. It’s literally a giant, fried, cheese-stuffed mushroom in a potato bun. While it won’t do your waistline any favors at least you can say no animals were harmed in its making.

On the side, there’s the love-’em-or-hate-’em crinkle cut fries reminiscent of frozen Ore-Ida spuds and last, but not least, the joint’s namesake: the shakes. Rather than ice cream, Shake Shack serves thicker and denser custard available in shakes, floats, cups, cones or concretes with mix-ins. Each joint features the typical flavors, a rotating daily special and its very-own location-specific creation. Here, it’s the Tysons Treat with vanilla custard, banana, chocolate sprinkles and chocolate graham crackers.

A word of warning when planning a visit to the Tysons’ Shack: Avoid the weekday lunch hour. With its close proximity to a plethora of office buildings, the place becomes mobbed starting around noon every Monday through Friday, with seats a scarce commodity. If you do need a fix, hit it up when it opens at 11 a.m. or wait until the rush dies down after 1:30 p.m.

Shake Shack • The Plaza, 7924U Tysons Corner Center, McLean • 571-620-0383 •

Open daily, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.