Wednesday, May 18, 2011

First Bite - Shake Shack in Dupont

Let's get this out of the way: DC is not NYC. You know this. I know this. But somehow the restaurant industry has decided the concepts that draw customers in Manhattan must do the same in DC. There are instances where this is not the case, but when we're talking about DC's newest burger joint, it absolutely is.

Shake Shack opened yesterday in Dupont to much fanfare and lines that stretched down Connecticut Avenue. Yes, I waiting in one of those lines to try out the burgers, fries and custard that New Yorkers swear by. Go ahead and laugh, but I will say that it was worth it.

Overall, my experience was a very pleasant one (minus hte fact that Mother Nature wasn't the most cooperative). I got in line around 12:40 p.m., was inside ordering around 1:10 and I was out the door and heading back to my office at 1:15. Not too bad when you consider there were probably about 60 people in front of me when I joined the queue. I have to give props for the frozen custard samples that they brought out to those of us waiting in line. It was a sweet little tease of what was waiting for us inside.

I didn’t want to go overboard, but I did want to try as much as possible, so I got a Shack Burger, an order of fries, and a concrete. The Shack also offers a variety of hot dogs, a portabello burger (I’ve heard from friends in NY that it’s fantastic) and a plethora of items made with frozen custard. In addition, it’s noteworthy you can also enjoy a beer or a bottle of wine while enjoying your beef patty.

Overall the food was good, with some items standing out more than others. First up - the Shack Burger; a single angus burger patty on a potato bread bun topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce. I thought that the burger was slightly overcooked and was a tad salty. I also could have used a bit more ShackSauce, because the little amount that I had was great, but not enough.

Now on to the great. The French fries really do deserve a round of applause. Yes they look like the Ore-Ida crinkle fries that you find in your grocer’s freezer, but they are so much more. They are crispy and perfectly salted and kind of addicting. Shake Shack also serves them with a cheddar/American cheese sauce. Can you say yum?

And to round the meal out I got the Presidential Sweet Concrete. The first place I had a concrete was at Ted Drewes in St. Louis, but this one may have that one beat. The Presidential Sweet is made with the vanilla custard, peanut butter sauce, marshmallow and milk chocolate chunks with caramel inside. This item has stolen my heart and made me wish that I could magically get rid of my lactose intolerance. It was sweet without being too sugary and the combination of textures is worthy of praise.

Will Shake Shack come out on top of the DC burger wars? I’m not sure; there is steep competition. But I do think the place will become a staple in Dupont for the lunch crowd and for the late set ( they're open to 11 during the week and midnight on the weekends). But another thing Shake Shack has going for it that others on the burger scene don't? Buzz. The place is a marquee name in NYC's own burger wars and is poised to make a lot of noise in DC. The rest only time can tell.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Mongolian BBQ is neither Mongolian nor BBQ. Are you surprised? Yeah, I was too. Yet, the misnomer didn’t stop me from enjoying Khan’s BBQ on H Street NE.

The great thing about this type of cuisine is it’s completely customizable, allowing you to satisfy the cravings of a large group or just a couple of picky eaters. When you walk into Kahn’s BBQ, your eyes are immediately drawn to the large griddle by the front door where your food is cooked. Directly behind that is where you are given the tools to make your perfect meal.

Each person approaches the food bar and takes a bowl that can be filled to the brim with all sorts of fresh vegetables, noodles and pineapple. Then you move down the line to concoct your own sauce. You can choose to mix everything from soy sauce to mustard to teriyaki to buffalo(!) sauce and then take that along with your veggies to the griddle. The chefs behind the counter will ask you if you would like chicken, beef or shrimp and then proceed to cook your meal to order. Once it is handed back to you there is the option getting a scoop of fresh rice to eat alongside your main dish. You can grab a drink from the soda fountain, pay for your food (no more than $10) and then proceed to find a seat.

Khan’s is trying to position itself as somewhat of a sports bar with a number of gigantic flat-screens stationed around the restaurant with a well stocked bar. It is my understanding that the owners are working on a bar menu that will allow restaurant goers and bar buddies to eat without the “fuss” of making their own creation.

This restaurant is a great addition to the ever-expanding food options on H Street. Although the concept can be considered gimmicky, the food is fresh and cooked with an expert touch and the owners and made it clear that they want to be a part of the neighborhood culture. Kudos to that.