The sign had been up in City Centre Muscat for some time, with the tantalising promise that “Shake Shack is coming soon”.
It seemed to be there for ages and I was almost giving up hope when suddenly the announcement came that the famed American brand was finally open for business. Yee-haw!
It began serving on Saturday and by the evening I was there with two fellow burger addicts in tow to check out what the fuss was all about. Shake Shack began life as a lone modern day “roadside” burger stand in Madison Square Park, New York City, in 2004 and immediately became a neighbourhood fixture. Its burger goodness has spread all over the world, from Miami to Moscow and Doha to Dubai (where it has four sites), and now it’s finally reached the shores of the Sultanate.
Now I’m a self-confessed fast-food addict and love burgers. My munching companions, “The Welshman” and “The American”, also know a good burger when they see one, so we felt quite well fixed to critique a (very welcome) newcomer in town.
I arrived to find the place absolutely heaving. Hmm. Seems we weren’t the only ones who had been waiting for it to open. Luckily, The Welshman and The American had already secured a table in the open seating area, leaving me to tackle the long queue at the ordering till. As every order is cooked fresh, you pay for your food and are given a “buzzer”, which will vibrate when your meal is ready for collection. While it’s not as “fast food” as the ubiquitous big brand outlets, you do have the reassurance of knowing that everything on your tray is cooked fresh.
There’s a huge menu to choose from, with everything from burgers to hot dogs, frozen custard to milkshakes and soda. All of which had our tummies rumbling in anticipation.
To cover all the bases, we went for the CheddarShack (for The Welshman), a cheeseburger (for The American) and a Shack-cargo hot dog for me, along with two lots of cheese fries. To wash it down, we settled on shack-made lemonade (sharp and intense) for the boys and a black & white (a combination of vanilla and chocolate) shake for me.
As we waited for the food, we took in the place. It was noisy and fun, with staff singing and shouting out orders, and customers milling around. Bearing in mind that it was opening day and a Saturday night, it will probably be a little quieter at non-peak times. But then, you wouldn’t want it too quiet. Shake Shack is all about the buzz.
The food was ready in a few minutes. My hotdog, stuffed with relish, cucumber, pickle, tomato, pepper, celery salt and mustard, and smothered with extra cheese sauce was delicious. Hit number one.
The Welshman was less happy with his CheddarShack, topped with double hickory smoked veal bacon, saying the meat wasn’t to his liking and neither was the processed cheese (it’s actually real cheddar mixed into the American cheese sauce). I took a bite and found it was okay, but nothing special.
The American’s cheeseburger, however, was the star of the show. He loved it and said it was as good as the burgers served up in the original Shake Shacks back home. The Welshman was also happy with it, saying the meat was tasty and well cooked, while the bun was perfect.
The cheese fries (Shake Shack uses crinkle-cut fries) were also good, crunchy with a soft centre and not too oily or salty.
As an extra, we took the advice of a member of staff, who recommended the ShackBurger, with its special signature ShackSauce, a secret recipe reported to include mayo, ketchup, mustard and spices. The American and I enjoyed it but not the grumpy Welshman, but as Meatloaf sang “Two out of three ain’t bad”.
For dessert, our diner from across the Atlantic was pleased with the Shack Attack – custard and ice cream blended at high speed with fudge sauce, chocolate truffle cookie dough and chocolate custard.
The customer service was spot on throughout (it will be interesting to see if the standard is maintained after the excitement of the opening), but the secret of Shake Shack’s success is not compromising on quality. We’re talking gourmet burgers, elevated above the usual fare from fast- food chains, with 100 per cent natural Angus beef and touches like Monterey Jack cheese.
Quality comes at a price, though, and some might baulk at paying RO2 for a single patty cheeseburger (cheese fries are RO1.75).
If you’re a discerning burger eater like me, however, and want something a step above the cardboard tasting offerings served up in some places, then join the Shake Shack party.
Burgers that are a cut above the rest
City Centre Muscat
Tel: 2230 0182
Opening Hours: Saturday-Wednesday 11am-12am, Thursday-Friday 11am-2am
Meal for three: RO19