Shake Shack, the burger, hotdog, and shakes kiosk in Madison Square Park, has been around for a while and become a New York institution, but every time I go I feel a special tingling of excitement conjured from the days when it had just opened, some seven years ago; when the idea of finding good food in a park in New York was a novelty.
It also coincided with the time I fell in love with New York. After I moved here in 1999 and for a good five years, my heart stayed in Berlin; I longed to move back. Then I fell in love. It occurred as a form of contradiction, because if there ever was a reason to stay in New York, it was work, which involved long hours and insufficient pay – as publishing often will – but was always interesting, stimulating, and surrounded by colleagues who not only became friends but family in an uprooted city.
And yet. I started to love New York after I stopped working, when Leo was born. When I finally had the time to while away mornings on a bench outside our local coffee shop and spend lazy afternoons on Sheep Meadow, trudge to the remaining block of Little Italy for good olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar or picnic along the Hudson River at dusk.
Every time I go to Shake Shack I get a whiff of it all. The lines are ridiculously long and I don’t mind. Part of loving New York is loving that people will stand in line for a burger for 50 minutes; it would be disingenuous to be exasperated by that.
I’d like to be able to talk about the hotdogs and the ‘shroom burger, the concretes and sundaes, but I can’t, because I haven’t tried them. I always order the same thing: a shack burger, crinkle fries, perhaps a lemonade, and sometimes a vanilla shake if there’s someone to share it with. It’s still just as good, seven years on, and a perfect park lunch if there ever was one.
Madison Square Park
Southeast corner nr. Madison Avenue and East 23rd Street
Open daily 11am – 11pm
(Go to the www.shakeshack.com for other locations.)