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Brief Reviews: Black Pearl (2.0) and Shake Shack

SHAKE SHACK

Walking from my wife's office to Madison Square Park on Tuesday, we passed Black Pearl. I'd heard that it resurfaced after closing down operations at the back of Julep, a dive in the East Village, but didn't know where.

Well, we kept walking and ended up at the park, to find ourselves waiting at the end of the longest Shake Shack line I've ever been on. And rightfully so. Tuesday was the nicest day we've had so far this year. And that's why the 1 hour and 10 minute wait didn't bother me. Everyone on line was happy and the people watching was entertaining enough.

We ordered a bunch of stuff because our Shake going days will be limited this year, as we are moving away from the area.

Shack Burger - As good as ever though Danna claimed that there was a lack of shack sauce on hers. My burger was slightly overdone, but all in all, a great burger. I sense a slight lack of consistency so far in the overall operations but not enough to deter a visit.

French Fries - Different this year. Same crinkle cut, but better potatoes. Still not excellent though.

Chicago Dog (with everything on it) - The sport peppers were really hot (hotter than I remember) and that's a good thing. I'm still not a fan of yellow mustard, but what can you do. The best change here is that the dog is griddled, not boiled. A very important change for the better.

Root Beer Float - As good as ever...or was the custard even better than I remembered. Either way - very good.

Concrete Jungle - I didn't sample any of this, but I imagine it was good.

BLACK PEARL

The next day (yesterday), I walked Danna home again and decided to try out the Black Pearl, knowing that it would be easy to lure Danna there with the promise of a lobster roll.

Lobster roll - fantastic. It is the best in the city from what I can tell. Pearl Oyster Bar, Mermaid Inn, etc. have nothing on it. Fresh tasting lobster on a buttered hot dog bun and lightly seasoned with barely any mayo. Delicious. There was an entire claw, unchopped, as well as other larger chunks of room temperature meat (not ice cold like some places).

Fries - mediocre frozen fries. They HAVE TO do better than this.

Pickles - from Guss. Good thinking

Cole Slaw - VERY good. Might be better than Mayrose Diner's. Little mayo present.

Mussels Bangkok (thai curry, onion, coconut milk, etc.) - the mussels weren't the best (clearly New Zealand variety). I like them small, but these were huge and meaty. The broth was good, but the bread they give you (2 pieces) was too hard to enjoy/sop up the broth. Need to work on that. The portion size was very (too) large and served in a cheesey oversized martini-like glass.

Oysters - Kumamoto, Canada Cup, Mala Spina and another variety I forget - were all very good and clearly just-shucked.

This, plus a side of haricot verts (just okay) and two Brooklyn Pale Ales came to $69.

Service was very friendly but the room is less than cozy, interesting or generally well designed.

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  1. Shake Shack is good. It's a tasty, solid burger in a great setting. No doubt about it. But unfortunately it's almost impossible to enjoy anymore due to that insane line that snakes far, far away across Madison Square Park. I hate to say it, but there are very few things in this world worth waiting in a line that long for...and a burger ain't one of them.

    The reason I bring this up is not to hate on the nice meal described above, but rather to demonstrate that maybe food blogs aren't always such a good idea...with Shake Shack and DiFara being prime examples. These are both great places that used be accessible to the general public. Both were widely heralded here on chowhound and other food blogs...and now it takes an hour and a half, minimum to get a simple meal at either of them (although we'll see how DiFara shapes up post DOH closing). My point is this, be careful what you post about, because you might end up waiting in a 2 hours line one day to get it.

    17 Replies
    1. re: Jonny Pops

      Actually I think what these blogs do is raise the game of everyone else who wants to compete. What restauranteur wouldn't want that line? And is the formula really impossible to duplicate? Fine, the outdoor setting is nice. But it's really a focus on fresh, tasty ingredients with thoughtful preparations. Hence the line for just about every In 'N Out Burger I've ever been to.
      Your point about the fries at Black Pearl demonstrate my point. Raise your game! The people will follow. That lobster roll sounds awesome by the way.
      Finally, you can usually beat the Shake Shack line even on a nice day if you show up 15 minutes early. It triples in length between 11:55 and 12:15.

      1. re: ronoc

        I ate there yesterday at 3:30pm and the line to order was shorter (no more than 10 min wait) than the wait for my simple order of a cheeseburger and vanilla milkshake (another 10 min wait). They mistakenly gave my order to a worker who was going on a food break. That worker brought the food back because she didnt want the tomato, which I did want. They actually tried to give me the shake that the worker brought back to return as it wasnt the flavor she ordered, but vanilla as I ordered. All was corrected (even though they took care of their co-worker ahead of a paying customer who was waiting excessively long). The girl working the window actually seemed pissed me for not taking the food from that someone already picked up and brought back. I requested ALL NEW FOOD, which came with a grumble form the window girl. The cheeseburger was "good", NOT great. The vanilla shake was just OK. I've had FAR better vanilla shakes at ANY Hagaan Daz anywhere in the world.

        Shake Shack is OK if you are in the neighborhood and the line is short. Otherwise, go some place (like NY Burger Co 1 block away). I think Shake Shack over-hyped on this in particular. It is nothing special at all. There are many other places to get a great burger all over this city, with less wait and overall hassle. And, the serivce is lackluster too--and its typical in my experience

        1. re: Ora

          Ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto!!!!! What's the big deal about the place anyways? I wasn't floored by my experience.

          1. re: LFeinberg

            It is my opinion that the fame this place has achieved has made people misunderstand what Shake Shack aims to be and thus their expectations are set too high. I think of Shake Shack not as a place for a knock your hat off top of the line haute cuisine burger but as a NY incarnation of an In And Out burger - a fast food burger that is done with care and with an eye for freshness and quality above those available at the Golden Arches and such. And as that it HIGHLY SUCCEEDS. The problem is that it is now so popular that it is nowhere near fast food.and that again gets people's expectations too high. I LOVE their burgers if I can get them in under 20 minutes, but to me it's not a destination burger place like Bonnie's Grill in Brooklyn or any of the iconoclastic sit down places in NY.

            1. re: spicynuts

              I think that is a great way of thinking of Shake Shack - I went for the first time last December on a gray rainy day with no line, just after they opened - thoroughly enjoyed our lunch and went back again, w/ only a short line, before they closed. I really wouldn't wait more than 10 minutes or so ... but as you say, the food is well done for what it is.

              1. re: MMRuth

                Shake Shake CANT be compared to IN AND OUT BURGER. I would never mention the two establishments in the same sentence really. In and Out has great service, great food and a very fair price. Shake Shack is NONE of the above. Its just an OK burger stand in the park - period.

                1. re: Ora

                  I'm not a huge Shake Shack fan -- although I do think spicynuts has it just right. But nonetheless the quality of a shake burger is far superior to that at In n Out. Can't be compared is right!

                1. re: spicynuts

                  Love the Shack, though I agree with those who say it's not worth a 20 minute wait in line. As far as I'm concerned, no burger in NY is worth that kind of hassle. Luckily, I lived nearby and could time my visits at odd hours or on rainy days to beat the crowd. Interestingly, now that I live in the land of In 'N Out, I actually think a more apt comparison is to the Baby Fat at Fatburger.

                  PS: The Chicago dog was grilled?! The real thing is usually steamed...one of the rare occasions when I prefer it that way. Same with the yellow mustard.

                  1. re: a_and_w

                    20 minutes? The only time when I go to Shake Shack nowadays is when I happen to be working in the area while it's raining. There is still a line mind you, but it's manageable. And the wait in this rain-shortened line is 20 minutes.

                    The line on a non-rainy day has to at least an hour+. And even though everyone must know this by now, it doesn't seem to dissuade anyone. It is honestly one of the most amazing lines for food I have seen.

              2. re: Ora

                I should make one thing clear about my decision to wait on the line:

                We are in the process of moving and our apartment is basically boxed up and ready to go (movers coming tomorrow morning), so the alternative was to sit in a deconstructed room.

                Waiting on line, with a great view, weather and people watching was a no brainer. If we had something to go home to, I wouldn't have waited on that line.

                1. re: dkstar1

                  Sorry to hear you're moving. I love your reviews since we live and eat in the same curry murry neighborhood:)

                  Mike and I have had shake shack twice this year both on the 2 soft opening days and waited less then 10 minutes for food. As soon as it starts raining we usually head over in the summer to avoid the rush and bring those awesome shack burgers home to eat.

                  Question--We went to the Black Pearl a bunch for lobster rolls when it was in the back of Julep and they were always good but had about half the amount of lobster meat as Pearl or Mary's. I know you said you had a big claw but besides that was the amount bigger now?

                  1. re: roze

                    thanks Roze. I'll still be contributing regularly (I'm not moving that far and still work in the city).

                    There was plenty of lobster in the roll. The difference - little to no filler. It was basically just lobster...which is what you should be paying for, not globs of mayo or other stuff. I'd have to see the two side by side, but I think the Black Pearl does serve more lobster in their roll. It's likely very close though.

                2. re: Ora

                  Despite the name, frozen custards are the premier dessert at Shake Shack. And if you want to try again, you can wait in the custard only line. It's worth it, especially on a day with a special flavor like candy cane or cherry (look at the website for the custard calendar).

                  Speaking of lines, I'd like to echo ronoc. The crush is the weekday lunch, which everyone takes at the exact same time, especially on a nice day. Go any other time- dinner, a little before or after "normal" lunch, etc. and the wait is much less.

                  1. re: Ora

                    NY Burger Co? Really? I tried that for my burger craving just after Shake Shack went on hiatus for the winter and was very disappointed. Shake Shack's burgers have exquisite balance of flavor and texture, with the chewy bun and juicy seared meat. Despite quality toppings, the NY Burger Co. burger was dry and tasteless. And I did go back to try again before NY Burger Co. became dead to me.

                    The burgers at Shake Shack are certainly not revelatory-- it's just a burger, after all. But it is a burger done right at a decent price. And while I don't have the patience to wait in the longest lines at lunch time, the burger is simply a very good burger. It doesn't redefine what a perfect burger is, but it certainly comes closer to the Platonic ideal of a burger than many of its burger-centric competitors.

                    1. re: andrewr

                      My sentiments exactly, andrewr.

                      (Also, I avoid NY Burger Co at all costs, even though I work a mere 2 blocks away. I think everyone in my office must have purchased exactly one burger from them at some point, and then shyed away.)

                    2. re: Ora

                      I'm glad to see someone mentioning NY Burger & Co.. I used to order from them often and was usually pleased with my burgers. They're certainly better than the Eisenburger, the appeal of which escapes me. That said, NY Burger could be maddeningly unreliable, with way overcooked burgers and questionable lettuce and tomatoes on occasion. If it weren't for the wait, I would have gone to Shake Shack every time.

                3. Well, dkstar1, you are young and, hopefully, have a long life ahead of you, so you can give up an hour waiting on line to get the great food at the Shake Shack. But at my age, I don't have much time left to waste.... lol

                  The way we've gotten around the Shake Shack line issue? We show up on a fine Saturday or Sunday morning just before they open at 11 a.m. There are maybe a few people already waiting (everybody else sleeping in?), and we've even been first on line a few times. After our order is taken, it's just minutes until it's ready, and in no time flat, we are enjoying our delicious brunch. It usually takes until about noon for any substantial line to start forming. So, now that I've given away that secret....

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: RGR

                    I went to Shake Shack on Monday, my first time there. I figured I would swing by and see what the line was like and then maybe head to Molly's (I was in the mood for a burger). I got there about 11:15 and there was no line whatsoever. Monday was a bit chilly but not bad weather at all. I was a bit confused, given all the warnings about the eternal line there. I don't live in the city and have to hit places when I can- the burger was pretty good, but I'm not sure I would wait in a huge line for it.

                  2. Saying Shake Shack is "just a burger" is like saying "It's just sex," or "It's just Paris," or "It's just my new convertible." In addition to being one of the really great burgers on Earth, it is a quintessential New York City experience - it's one-of-a-kind and it's in one of the most beautiful parks in the city. Just don't go between Noon and 2:00 PM - it's really that simple.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: livetotravel

                      Shake Shake may have been an "experience" in the beginning, but it is not the <b>best</b> burger on Earth and certainly not worth waiting over an hour. Sorry, but it is "just" a burger joint, not a New York destination. I think those who have never been are expecting an experience based on declarations like this and leave disappointed. I agree with you about avoiding the place between 12 and 2, however.

                      1. re: megaepicure

                        Having been to the Shack about eight times over the years, I'll admit that the burger is really good. So are the custards. Everything else is okay. That being said...it's more about the location and what the shack represents than the burger itself...though I do enjoy that burger. The Blue Smoke burger is actually a little better in my opinion.

                    2. Next time - try the Concrete Jungle. It's divine. I dream of it during the winter. Oh and the Shack Burger is good too.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: goldbug76

                        Second the Concrete Jungle! It's been my favorite.

                        This year I need to branch out and try the Hopscotch and the new one, Pie-Oh-My.

                      2. Agree with you on the lobster roll at The Black Pearl...it's really yummy. I don't think I've had a better one anywhere. However, I thought that the broth in the Mussels Bangkok tasted like perfume.