Best time of day to visit Shake Shack?
I would love to visit Shake Shake with my family, but the more I read about it, the more I realize how popular it is and that I could be waiting a long time in line. What time of day is the least crowded? In what general area is it located? Any places to sight-see around Shake Shack? We are visiting NYC next week and I am trying to sight-see and eat at some cool places at the same time.
Shake Shack is located in Madison Square Park, on the corner of Madison Av. & 23rd St. (The neighborhood is Gramercy Park.) Our favorite time to go there is for "brunch" on a Saturday or Sunday morning. We make it our business to get there shortly before they open at 11 a.m. There's never been much of a line and, sometimes, we've been the first ones there.
The house where Pres. Theodore Roosevelt was born in nearby, on 20th St., b/t B'way & Park Av. S. It's a national historic site and there are tours.
The Empire State Bldg. is within walking distance (at least, by natives' standards) -- 9 blocks away, on the corner of 5th Av. & 34th St.
I would make sure to call the number on the Parks Dept website that RGR gives for Teddy Roosevelt's birthplace. I've been very curious to stop in myself, but the house was boarded up and under renovation for most of last year. The scaffolding recently came down, but I haven't seen any activity lately.
Madison Square Park is also very close to Union Square, if you plan for one of the days that the Green Market is there (Mon, Wed, Fri and Sat), you'll have a chance to stroll and browse one of New York's treasured spots to buy fresh, local produce and things.
That stretch of 5th Avenue between 14th St and 23rd St is also a great place for shopping, if you plan to do any of that while you're in New York. And on that note, ABC Carpet and Home is a really gorgeous place to browse, and completely unique to NYC. It has the atmosphere of a bazaar, a thrift store, an antique store and a department store all at once, each floor has an entirely different character. It's the whole building on Broadway between 18th and 19th Street. Just to keep this about food, they also have a small department devoted to heavenly, hand made chocolates.
If you stop at ABC, be sure and pop across the street to Fish's Eddie. It's another little gem of a NYC store for foodies, they sell old diner surplus and kitschy little 50's items like cow shaped coffee creamers. You can buy sets of plates from old hotels and railway dining cars and things. Some of the stuff is reproduction and some is the real deal.
I would also suggest taking stroll up Irving Place and around Gramercy Park, it's between Park and 3rd Ave. Very pretty little urban oasis, but you can't get into the actual park unless you have a key.
If you keep strolling up Lexington Ave from Gramercy Park, you'll get to Little India. I highly highly highly recommend stopping at Kalustyan's if you go this way. Kalustyan's is the be-all-end-all of an old fashioned spice market. Looking for za'atar? Well, they have za'atar from 5 different regions. Looking for the best pistachios and nuts in the city? They have them. Looking for pomegranate molasses? Hot Indian pickle (more like chutney)? You name it, if it's a spice, condiment or dry good, they have it. If you're staying in a hotel, forget room service: pick up a tub of their in-store made hummus, a package of levash bread, a jar of za'atar spice (to sprinkle on the hummus), maybe a little Turkish delight and baklava, some pistachios, dates and non-sulphered apricots, and have the makings of the best midnight snack in your hotel this side of a bedouin camp outside of Marrakesh.
North of Madison Square Park, especially if you're stopping by the Empire State Building, I think that 32nd is another little foodie paradise. It's a bit grubby in New York (I prefer the ones in the NJ suburbs, but I do come here often anyway), but I love browsing at Han Ah Reum on 32nd between 5th and Broadway. If you're looking for a place to buy a big bag of tiny dried fish, this is it.
And don't forget, when you're actually IN Madison Square Park to look up. The Flatiron Building will be right above you. I wouldn't call the area Gramercy Park, although the borders to everything tend to be a bit blurry in New York, it's actually the very entrance to the Flatiron District.
I was there at 5:30pm yesterday and the line was pretty short since it was overcast and cool, but there were a LOT of toddlers running around, screaming, and mom's chasing their kids down. Not exactly the most conducive environment for avoiding chaos in front of the pick up window.
Saturday and Sunday it's basically a long line all day. Monday Through Friday, all of the workers in the area flood Shake Shack from noon to 2pm, 3pm.
I agree with other posters who say that rainy/dreary days are the best times to go. During the week, the 3:30-5 window will probably work. On weekends, I think the only good time to go is right when it opens.
Shake Shack opens at 11 a.m. and I'm there by 11:15. If you can handle eating hamburgers that early, it's a safe bet, even on the weekends.
I'm one of those moms with a screaming toddler and we often get there around 5:20 p.m. Barely any line (even on a gorgeous day) and we usually get our food around 5:50. If you eat a light lunch, it's perfect. We have also gotten in line at 11:25 on the weekends and eaten by noon.