The sandwiches and service at this cult sensation are a step up from fast-food fare.

Melissa Kossler Dutton and her sons, Nick, 15, and Alex, 13, visited Shake Shack, the fan-favorite burger joint that now has two Columbus locations at Easton and in the Short North.

Mom Says…

During a recent trip to Easton, we needed to grab a quick bite to eat before running the kids to their next activity. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out Shake Shack. We’ve cut back on fast food over the last few years as I’ve tried to focus on eating fewer fried items. But that’s not to say I don’t crave a burger and fries from time to time. I also liked the restaurant’s backstory: a hot dog cart turned kiosk in New York City’s Madison Square Park that focused on high-quality versions of classic fast-food dishes, spawning an international sensation. 

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During our visit, we all chose different sandwiches so we were able to sample several things. I went for the classic combination of a cheeseburger, fries and chocolate malt. The malt ($5.69), made with Shake Shack’s trademark custard, was creamy and delicious. The ShackBurger ($5.39) is a cheeseburger garnished with lettuce, tomato and the restaurant’s own secret topping called ShackSauce—a magical blend of ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise. The burger, which the restaurant touts is a mixture of different cuts of beef, was juicy and delicious. Served on a potato bun, the burger was a step up from other quick-service meals.

That was the great thing about Shake Shack. It offers all of the perks of fast food—quick service and comfort fare—but with greater attention to quality and presentation. Of course, it’s pricier than what you’d pay at a drive-thru, but as my mother is fond of saying, “You get what you pay for.”

Or, as my husband put it, “Shake Shack’s not a great bargain, but it is a great value.”

Nick Says…

I ordered the SmokeShack ($6.89) because I’m a sucker for bacon. This cheeseburger features Applewood smoked bacon, chopped peppers and the special ShackSauce. The cheese was melty and mixed with the sauce, giving it a really good flavor. I was surprised because the peppers weren’t cooked, but I thought it worked well because it added texture and some kick to the burger. 

I love lemonade and make it from scratch at home all the time, but I never order it in a restaurant if it comes out of the fountain. Shack Shake advertised fresh-squeezed lemonade ($2.89) on their menu, so I was eager to try it (especially after my mom said I could still get a shake). It was better than other fast-food lemonades I’ve tried: They obviously used fresh fruit and got the sweetness right. The menu notes that they use simple syrup to sweeten the drink, and that extra step really does make a difference.

It’s a good thing I ordered both drinks, because although the milkshake was delicious, I preferred the lemonade. I ordered a chocolate shake ($5.19). What struck me was how chocolatey it was. They must use real chocolate to flavor it—it had that delicious bitter taste of dark chocolate. The addition of whipped cream made it a wonderfully creamy dessert.

My dad ordered the chicken sandwich, which tasted better than any fast-food chicken sandwich out there. The meat was not fatty and was cooked well. The quality of the meat made it a standout dish. I also really liked the herbed mayonnaise that came on the sandwich—and that’s saying something because I am not a mayo guy.

Alex says…

When I heard we were going to Shake Shack, I was immediately excited because often when we write restaurant reviews, we choose places with unusual food. This choice was different because it had a more traditional menu.

When I entered Shake Shack, I could tell they were going for a modern take on a ’50s diner, which made for a nice atmosphere. I ordered the Shack-cago Dog ($4.59) that comes with relish, onion, cucumber, pickle, tomato, sport pepper, celery salt and mustard. During a visit to Chicago, I have eaten the hot dog that was clearly the inspiration for this dish.

The original Chicago dog offers a real pop of flavor because all of the toppings meld together and it’s hard to distinguish one from the other. On the Shake Shack version, the flavors seem to stand out individually, which is neither good nor bad—just different. It’s easy to tell when a hot dog is made on the grill or just boiled, both in flavor and appearance. This dog had noticeable grill marks, but more importantly that fire-y flavor that is only attainable on the grill.

While I was eating my hot dog, I remarked that “it’s got a lot of nature going on,” meaning most of the toppings were fresh vegetables. I need to point out that the tomatoes were excellent. This is important because at traditional fast-food places, they are always awful. This dog was the next best thing to a trip to the Windy City for the original.

We split two orders of fries ($2.79) to ensure that we would all have room for milkshakes. The crinkle-cut fries weren’t noteworthy but got the job done. On the other hand, the pumpkin milkshake ($5.69) was delicious. I’m one of those people who loves fall because I want to try all pumpkin-flavored foods. This seasonal shake—topped with pumpkin seeds—was excellent. It had notes of cinnamon and other spices reminiscent of chai, which is one of my favorite drinks.

Shake Shack is a new and interesting take on a fast-food restaurant, combining speedy service with high-quality ingredients. The menu offers hot dogs, burgers and chicken—providing options for the even the pickiest of eaters.