Monday, August 22, 2011

The Burger Quest Takes a Road Trip

The next stop of the Burger Quest takes us on a road trip to the Shake Shack in Westport, CT.  Westport was part of my old stomping grounds.  I grew up in Trumbull,  about twenty minutes away. We spent many an evening cruising the Post Road.  My first car was a  1960 Chevy Impala four door sedan.  It boasted a six cylinder engine with a two speed transmission.  No power steering, no power brakes, no seatbelts, teeth rattling suspension, and a torn front seat.  Not a problem because it was a set of wheels and wheels were FREEDOM! 

Gas was about 35 cents a gallon and the attendant pumped it for you.  I would drive up, say I’d like a dollar of regular; he would not only pump it, but wipe the windows and check the oil as well.  That was key because the car seemed to burn as much oil as it did gas.  I used to buy it by the case at Western Auto.  With a bucks worth of gas, we were able to cruise all night.  The Merritt Canteen was a favorite stop, along with the Westport Ice Cream Parlor.   Listening to WABC AM radio with Cousin Brucie spinning the hits.  You can still hear him on Sirius Radio.  I love that guy! 

Fast forward to today.  I set the destination of the Shack Shack into my nav and off we go.  I have a six speed transmission, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, limited slip differential and high performance suspension.  It’s a pleasant cruise down the Merritt Parkway and onto the Turnpike.   I had Sirius channel 6 playing and Cousin Brucie was interviewing Neal Sedaka.  Nice! 

The Shake Shack was started in New York in 2004.  It was named Best Burger by New York Magazine in 2005.  At the Madison Square Park location they actually have a webcam so you can gauge how long the wait will be.  As with most gourmet burger joints they use natural, hormone and antibiotic free vegetarian-fed and humanely raised beef. The frozen custard is made with milk that is hormone free as well.

I had heard a lot of great things about this place so I was very excited to get there.  We finally arrive and park the car.  As I walk towards the restaurant a bunch of guys are checking out my whip.  It is a head turner; especially after it has been detailed. They have inside and outside seating.  We opt for the inside.  It is reminiscent of an old time drive-in, with an order and a pick up window. Not an extensive menu; burgers, fries, hotdogs, shakes, and floats.  They do have a liquor license so beer and wine is available.  We decide to order not only a hamburger, but a hotdog as well.  We ordered a double Shakeburger, which has American cheese, lettuce, tomato and Shacksauce.  The hotdog was the Shack-cago Dog.  This is an all beef dog, topped with Shake Shack relish, onions, cucumbers, pickles, tomatoes, hot peppers, celery salt and mustard.  It comes on a roll that is split down the top, rather than the side.   We rounded out the order with some fries.  My wife ordered a vanilla shake and I went with a root beer float.  They gave us a vibrator thingie and we sat down. 

The walls were a nice brown color offset with white wainscoting.  An accent wall was made out of weathered wood.  The ductwork was exposed.  They also had a good number of TV’s on the walls.  It was also noisy.  I mean very noisy. I mean a lot of screaming little kids, people on cell phones, high school and middle school kids yakking away noisy. 

About ten minutes later the vibrator vibrated and we went to get the order.  The crinkle cut fries were cooked perfectly.  The only thing missing was a wooden fork.  The root beer float was tasty; the vanilla ice cream rich and creamy.  The shake was very thick and sweet.   You were able to taste the vanilla.  I would have liked to see the vanilla bean though.  That is the mark of a truly great ice cream. 

We cut the burger in half and dive in.  I usually pluck off a small bit of the meat to taste it without any embellishments.  The meat had a very good beefy taste and texture.  The roll was fresh as was the lettuce and tomato.  Nothing ruins a burger more than a mushy tomato or lettuce with brown edges.  Yuck!  The cheese did not stand out at all.  The Shacksauce was a dealbreaker.  Way too salty.  It simply overpowered the rest of the burger.  My wife and I both agreed that it was sub par.  Too bad because the meat was good.  Okay, on to the dog.

This too was run of the mill.  It did have a good snap to it but not a lot of flavor.  My wife failed to see the hot pepper and boy did she start drinking water!   Doogies on the Berlin Turnpike has a much better dog.  So does Super-Duper Wienie in Fairfield, CT. 

It was a gorgeous day and a great ride down to Westport.  It did bring back a lot of good memories.  I was disappointed with the food.  The sauce ruined the hamburger because it was too salty.  The hotdog was just average; even with all of the toppings.   The floats and shakes were good, but premium vanilla ice cream would have made it great.  It is a great place to bring little kids, the middle school/high school crowd will surely claim it as their hangout.  Oh, one more thing, the bathroom was not that clean and the toilet didn’t work.  I’m sure that I won’t be back. 

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