11 Secrets Of Shake Shack You'll Wish You Knew Sooner

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Shake Shack has taken the gourmet burger world by storm since its first location opened in New York City's Madison Square Park in 2004, giving the term "fine-casual" a physical form. And we do mean the world — there are over 500 Shake Shack locations globally, and over 150 are outside the United States. What once started as a hot dog stand in the park has blossomed into a real treasure, offering the masses some truly outstanding burgers, sandwiches, and signature crinkle-cut fries. To the untrained novice, Shake Shack may seem like a typical burger joint, getting lost in the market of fast food and fast casual burger options. In some ways, it is: Shake Shack isn't pretentious or trying to out-burger anyone. But when it comes to menu innovation, exciting collaborations, and the attention it gives to its guests worldwide, Shake Shack is anything but typical.

The little-known facts about this fast-casual chain make it a unique place that goes far beyond its burgers and fries. We spoke with John Karangis, Executive Chef and VP of Culinary Innovation at Shake Shack, to get the low-down on some of the best-kept secrets and stories of Shake Shack, from secret menu items and ingredients to boozy options, dog-friendly offerings, and the story behind the Shake Shack name. As tasty as they are interesting, these fun facts are sure to whet your burger-loving appetite.

Shake Shack has an innovation kitchen in the West Village of Manhattan

If you look at the Shake Shack menu, it's clear that it's a lot more than just standard burgers and fries. Shake Shack has a unique edge over other restaurants, and it's clear that a lot of thought and creative dedication goes into each sandwich, side dish, and sweet treat. And what is that edge? An innovation kitchen where ideas are hatched and burger dreams are made. Located below the Shake Shack location on Varick Street in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan, the Shake Shack innovation kitchen opened in 2018 after realizing that the small space in Midtown Manhattan just wasn't enough room for all the big ideas the team wanted to implement.

What is the best part of eating at the Shack location home to the innovation kitchen? You'll find the newest items that the culinary team is putting to the test, like the limited-time Swicy menu, using guest feedback to decide what will make the cut for menus across the country. The West Village Shack menu is unique to all other menus around the world, so if you're looking to be the first to try one of the new items, visiting the innovation kitchen is the way to go — you'll get in on the ground floor of Shake Shake tastiest concoctions.

Shake Shack started as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park

It may not seem like it now, as Shake Shack has over 500 locations across the globe, but this burger empire we know so well started from humble beginnings. In "Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories: A Cookbook" by Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti and Shake Shack Culinary Director Mark Rosati, Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer tells the Shake Shack origin story, which goes back to 2001 when he agreed to open a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park as part of a Public Art Fund project. According to The Nomad Alliance, the hot dog cart was a huge success and remained in the park for three years as lines grew longer and longer, and as a result of the meaty momentum, the cart turned into a permanent food kiosk.

In 2004, Meyer and Garutti opened up the first Shake Shack location, where they continued to offer the signature hot dog while expanding its offerings into burgers and fries. While Shacks worldwide continue to impress burger lovers of all shapes and sizes, the original Madison Square Park location, which still attracts long lines of customers daily, started it all, and you can still get your hot dog fix at the flagship location. One of Karangis' favorite preparations of the sliced down-the-middle and grilled dog? Chicago style with all the fixings. "I also love topping our hot dog with cherry peppers or crispy onions for crunch."

No two Shacks are alike

With over 500 locations worldwide, Shake Shack always strives to bring creative and tasty treats to the masses and shows no signs of slowing down. However, with so many locations and a goal of focusing on innovation, how does Shake Shack keep things fresh and exciting in every location? By having each Shake Shack be different. Since the opening of the first Shake Shack in Madison Square Park, each location has been designed specifically to fit into its community, drawing inspiration from the local area to ensure it fits in with the neighborhood's vibe. If you go to the flagship Shake Shack in Manhattan, it will look completely different from the Dupont Circle location in Washington, D.C., which looks completely different from the South Lamar location in Austin, Texas, and so on.

The one-of-a-kind theme goes for the menu, too. At the Shake Shack in West Palm Beach, Florida, the "concrete" desserts are combined with the key lime tart from Sugar Monkey Bakery, a West Palm Beach institution. At the Shake Shack in Colorado Springs, a Green Chile CheddarShack with white cheddar, scallions, and marinated green chilis is a year-round exclusive menu item.

Any burger can be ordered protein-style

If you're looking to get some extra protein out of your Shake Shack burger, there's a solution for that. The Shake Shack "secret menu" is the not-so-secret list of off-menu offerings that have been invented and popularized by Shack guests the world over, and one of the most well-known is the protein-style burger. "We're fortunate to have so many guests share feedback with us," said Karangis. "Our 'protein-style' was born out of our guests' desire to enjoy more of our core menu protein."

Ask for your burger this way, and your juicy gourmet patty will come with all your favorite fixings but wrapped in a lettuce wrap instead of a burger bun. The green leaf lettuce is big enough to cover your burger patty and necessary toppings in a neat little carb-free package without slipping or sliding out of the sides, which is a bonus. The protein-style option for burger lovers is popular, not just with Shake Shack. Famed West Coast burger chain In-N-Out also offers a protein-style option, providing burger lovers with a lower-carb alternative without giving up on the burger altogether.

There is such thing as a quad burger

The thin, juicy patty with those crisp edges from Shake Shack is one of the things it's known for, but for some of us, one patty is not enough. While the more standard offering is the double patty, perhaps you're craving something more. Something higher. And since innovation is at the heart of the Shake Shack menu, why not go forth and make your burger a multi-pattied one? At Shake Shack, you can, in fact, patty-up and order yourself a quad burger, which has four of their burger patties stacked high with all the fixings in quadrupled supply.

Believe it or not, there's a science behind the desire for a multi-stacked burger, and we believe that Shake Shack knows just that when it gives you the thumbs up on your quad burger order. The more grilled patties stacked together, the more surface area is provided to create twice as much flavor. Plus, with those extra patties, you get more veggies, sauce, and cheese, increasing the taste and texture of each bite.

Shake Shack loves your dog, too

Now more than ever, pets are becoming part of the restaurant experience, and it goes far beyond offering a bowl of water for your pup on the ground while you, the human, eat your meal. Many establishments now offer dog-friendly treats off the menu, including Starbucks with its whipped cream and espresso Puppuccino, Dairy Queen with its dog treat and vanilla ice cream Pup Cups, and Dunkin' with its whipped cream puppy lattes, among many others.

One of those many others is Shake Shack, which offers a menu of dog-approved treats. While humans indulge in their burgers and fries, their four-legged friends can enjoy a Bag O'Bones, which are ShackBurger dog biscuits, and a Pooch-ini, which is vanilla custard topped with dog biscuits. Additionally, nearly all Shake Shack locations offer outdoor seating, so on a nice day, when you're out for a walk, and a juicy burger and fries are calling your name, your pup can enjoy their Shack snacks alongside you.

You can DIY a peanut butter bacon burger

In addition to the quad burger and the protein-style option, the not-so-secret secret Shake Shack menu has an item that has united lovers of three ingredients that probably shouldn't go well together but do: burgers, bacon, and peanut butter. This menu hack comes from the peanut butter sauce meant for the peanut butter milkshake but was used to top a bacon ShackBurger instead by the burger lovers who were craving something more than just the traditional burger with ketchup and mustard. The result? A salty, sweet, nutty creation that ends up being a flavor explosion unlike any other. The peanut butter bacon burger has only been seen on the official Shake Shack menu twice, but it has still earned cult status. "I was skeptical at first," says Karangis of this nutty creation, "but I was surprised by how good it was."

So, how does one indulge in the peanut butter bacon burger? It's simple: go to Shake Shack, order your Bacon ShackBurger, and ask for a side of peanut butter sauce. Drizzle the sauce on your burger, and prepare for a creation that makes absolutely zero sense but is also perhaps one of the greatest off-menu burger hacks of all time. You can even find the recipe for the peanut butter bacon burger in the Shake Shack cookbook, just in case you feel like grilling one at home for yourself.

The Shake Shack name comes from Grease

If you've ever seen the movie "Grease" or have sung one or all of the songs from the movie soundtrack during a karaoke night out, you know the dance finale scene is pivotal; it's where John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John's characters sing "You're the One that I Want" to each other with all their neat-o friends. So what does this have to do with Shake Shack? If you didn't notice, the rockin' shack that Danny Zuko and Sandy are singing to each other in is also called the Shake Shack.

According to our interview with the Shake Shack team, Danny Meyer, Shake Shack founder, came to the name from watching "Grease" so many times that he couldn't help but use the name in his burger venture. Before deciding on the name Shake Shack, Meyer considered "Custard's First Stand" and "Dog Park." While we think both options would have been acceptable, the name Shake Shack encompasses everything it tries to convey. It's fun, it's creative, and it's somewhere you definitely want to be with all your neat-o friends, too.

Shake Shack has boozy options for the 21 and over crowd

A burger and fries is a perfect meal all on its own, but a cold beer or glass of wine can make it even better. While you may think you can only have this at your local pub or mom-and-pop burger joint, think again. Shake Shack partnered with Brooklyn Brewery to create the ShackMeister Ale, which pairs perfectly with the ShackBurger and fries, and with Gotham Project to create the Shack Wine in white, red, and rose, all of which are a great accompaniment to the core Shack menu.

The ability to offer beer and wine to consumers to enjoy alongside its burgers and fries certainly gives Shake Shack a leg up on the competition. But on top of that, it opens the door to innovation. Sure, you can order a beer, or you could combine your beer with one of the many Shake Shack lemonades on offer and make yourself a Shandy. According to Karangis, Nick Wuest, Senior Culinary Manager for Shake Shack, created a Passion Fruit Shandy by combining the Shackmeister Ale with Passion Fruit lemonade. For the Las Vegas locals, a beer float, made with dark beer and a scoop of frozen custard, is also an option. The Las Vegas location is currently the only location that offers this as a menu item, but if you want to create it yourself, simply order the beer of your choice and a scoop of frozen custard on the side.

The secret ingredient in Shack sauce is...pickle juice

A delicious burger is nothing without its components. The perfect burger has a juicy, beautifully cooked patty, fresh and crisp veggies like lettuce, tomato, and onion, perhaps a couple of slices of melty cheese, and a soft bun to hold everything together. But there's one ingredient that, in our opinion, really ties the entire burger bite into one melodic moment: the sauce. A good burger sauce goes far beyond just ketchup or mustard; it's a salty, savory, sour, umami flavor bomb that provides just the right acidic punch. Shake Shack, in all its infinite burger wisdom, thought carefully about creating the perfect sauce to accompany its burgers, and while the recipe was a closely guarded secret for quite some time, we're here to tell you that the secret is out. And what is the ingredient that makes the signature Shack Sauce so incredible? Dill pickle juice.

Burger sauce is a bit broad, but it is generally mayonnaise-based and enhanced with additional savory and acidic ingredients like white wine vinegar, mustard, pickles, ketchup, and perhaps a bit of spice from paprika or cayenne. To incorporate a sweet note, many burger sauces use sugar or sweet pickle relish, but Shake Shack decided to push the envelope further and tap into its innovative traits. Rather than use the typical sweeteners, the brand uses dill pickle juice for more of a briny, tangy zip that gives the sauce a unique and memorable flavor.

You can order a grilled cheese

Whether you're a vegetarian looking for a quality option at a burger place or a meat eater who just needs a break from beef, Shake Shack has the answer. Simple and classic, the Shake Shack grilled cheese is an item that has gained popularity among Shack enthusiasts who are looking for a meatless option that isn't an afterthought, and if you order the grilled cheese yourself, you'll see why.

Rather than throw a few slices of cheese on a bun and calling it a day, Shake Shack grills the buns on both sides before putting the cheese in between and grilling everything together, ensuring that the cheese gets perfectly melted and the buns have a nice crisp char to them for that necessary crunch. You can spice it up further by asking for bacon, sliced tomato, or sport peppers to make it a grilled cheese you'll be excited to eat.