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Shake Shack: Madison Square Park vs. Upper Westside

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I've recently discovered the Shack Shake in Madison Square Park, which I'm told is the original. I've heard from friends that there's another location in the Upper Westside, and I'm curious to hear how it compares. I know they have the same menu, but in terms of the overall experience and quality of food, is there a difference?

...and moreover, does the fact that the other location is a restaurant - not an actual shack - detract from the overall enjoyment?

Curious to know the details from some experienced Chowhounders!

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Shake Shack
Madison Ave and E 23rd St, New York, NY 10010

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  1. I haven't been to the Madison Square Park location, but don't get too carried away in describing the UWS location as a restaurant. It's self-seating and at many times you'll be lucky to find a place to sit down. You still order at the window, wait for your fob to light up, then fight for a table.

    1. i found the food to be similar. in my small sample size, the lines are shorter at UWS location, and on a nice day you can get it to go and eat it either in the park or along columbus there outside the museum of natural history.

      inside, UWS location gets very crowded. one day I went there, we all had to stand and eat, including my buddy who had his newborn strapped to his chest in one of those baby bjorn things. haha

      1 Reply
      1. re: metfan630

        Have been to both. Never liked the burgers at the MSP location. LOVED the double Shack burger uptown. Also--no wait---and got a seat. Life's pleasures.

      2. In terms of quality control, I don't think there's much difference. The experience at the UWS location, however, is superior in that the lines are shorter, you are not susceptible to the whims of the weather and there are more seats.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JungMann

          I actually found the UWS location to have FEWER seats because in MSP people go sit on park benches. There's also traffic jams due to the stairs and the small, windowless basement, and people going downstairs, realizing there's no seats, and going back up the stairs, and crashing into the line of people waiting to order.

        2. i have never been to the UWS location, but I am sure and as others confirmed the food is exactly the same.

          Since the MSP location is the original, I view it as the best. A lot of people complain about the long lines, but I actually think it is part of the charm. If it is a nice day and you are with friends, what's the rush? It just makes you appreciate the food even more when you have to wait for it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: travpard

            I don't know about appreciating it more, unless you count wolfing it down faster because because you're starving. But I totally agree, what's the rush? Especially on a nice day, I don't mind waiting with a group of people.

          2. I've only had custard at the MSP location (super long lines) and I have had a burger, shake, fries at the UWS location but finding a seat was tough (try downstairs).
            Isn't there also a location in Citi-field?

            1 Reply
            1. re: masha bousha

              Yes, there is a CitiField location but it's menu is very limited.

              For the OP ... I've found there are minor differences in the handling of the food between the two Manhattan locations. For example, if you order extra pickles at MSP, you get a little container of pickles. If you do so at UWS, they put the extras right on it for you. Also, at UWS they have the tap root beer and I'm not sure they have that at MSP. For some reason the menu always feels longer at UWS but I think I might be hallucinating on that one. :)

              Of course the setting is the biggest difference. But with the pleasant weather (not today, of course), the UWS location is only a block from Central Park.

            2. I can only say great things about the UWS location. I live just 5 blocks away and they are very responsive to feedback. They now move the lines very, very quickly and, when I contacted management by email regarding a suggestion, they immediately complied. Aside from that, the burgers are great. Definitely no decline in quality from their MSP location. Don't forget to try the hot chocolate served year round at their UWS location! Never tasted anything better anywhere - toffee marshmallow topping with Vahlrona chocolate . Insanely good.

              3 Replies
              1. re: nativeNYer

                Same here, love the UWS location, no complaints whatsoever. I'm surprised about the posts about not being able to find seats. I've never had a problem finding a seat, though it probably helps that I eat later than most people and don't have lunch until 4-5 p.m. Try going around that time on a weekday.

                1. re: uwsister

                  Ha! NativeNYer is somehow on California time as well!! I eat very late as well and try to avoid the place at the busiest times. But, even with crowds, it takes 5-10 minutes, at most, to find a seat. Chairs are uncomfortable; people move on quickly more or less.

                  1. re: nativeNYer

                    Yeah, it's great not eating at the same time with everybody else, isn't it?

                    There are also bigger tables along the wall that people don't mind sharing, not from my experience anyway. Might be a turn-off for some people though. And like LNG pointed out, Central Park is only a short walk away.

              2. The food is absolutely identical and both locations.

                1. I don't think I'll ever return to the one in MSP simply bc I do not want to wait up to an hour or even sometimes longer for my food.

                  The UWS location has seating upstairs, downstairs, and even in front of the restaurant (a couple of benches), not to mention Central Park when the weather is nice. Just avoid going when the kids get out of school. Have found that to be the longest wait during the weekdays.

                  Have found no difference in the food.

                  1. im pretty sure u can order your burger rare at the uws location. dont know about madison square park

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: daffyduck

                      You can order it rare at MSP. They have two grills. One for burgers cooked to custom temperatures, and one for the standard.

                      1. re: kathryn

                        I've enjoyed burgers from both locations, but what makes the UWS location stand out is that it's located a block away from where NYC Marathon finishers exit Central Park. Tired, nauseous and in pain, the Shake Shack was the first food joint I laid eyes on after limping out of the park. I had the best burger I'd ever had in my life that day.

                        1. re: monamiestephanie

                          Nice! We did the same for our friend. Grabbed the downstairs table, sat her down, and ordered her two Shack burgers.