Thursday, February 9, 2012

I'll Definitely Come Back Here. Maybe Tomorrow

Steakburger and Vanilla Coke -- Steak 'n Shake
Steak 'n Shake

As children of the East Coast, we are unaccustomed with the upscale fast food burger joints that populate other portions of the country.  It seems that while we were spending our Osh Kosh days at McDonald's and Wendy's, our friends in the other parts of the country could be found at the likes of In-N-Out, Steak 'n Shake, and other restaurants that use only the letter N as a conjunction.
The N Stands for "Needs More Napkins"
Our fascination with these kinds of chains is the reason we could be found chowing down at In-N-Out Burger at 11am on a Sunday in Phoenix, hours before departing for the Animal Style-deprived New York.
The Soul Benefit of West Coast Living
When we returned to the city, we were delighted to find that while we can't eat the West Coast's choice burgers whenever we like, the island province of Manhattan has been gifted with the Midwestern equivalent, a Steak 'n Shake.
So, What Is This? Rib-Eye on a Bun?
Located in the heart of midtown, Steak 'n Shake stands directly next to David Letterman's studio, in an area of the city (where, it bears pointing out, every tourist in the world manages perfectly well to maneuver in) that Ginger cannot quite figure out.  By the time she arrives outside Steak 'n Shake, a slightly shivering Vodka is convinced that Ginger's alleged "I got lost" ruse was actually an attempt to make Vodka gain some retroactive sympathy for Ginger's hatred of patio dining.
For the Record, Her Ruse Did Not Work
We enter and are handed a menu, and we find a line to order which is blessedly only one person deep instead of wrapped around the block (we're looking at you, Shake Shack).  Based on Marc Summers's choice on the BETWEEN BREAD episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate, we know we have to eat a steakburger and a vanilla Coke.  In addition, we decide to try one of their milkshakes, since everyone and their mother seem to be drinking one in the place.
Our Milkshake Brings All the Steaks to the Yard
When we reach the counter and order two Signature burgers with fries, a vanilla Coke, and a vanilla milkshake, we are assaulted with the question, "Do you want ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise on your burger?"  Vodka answers "Yes," but Ginger, completely overwhelmed, denies the mayonnaise.

"I love mayonnaise," she comments later.  "What was I thinking?"

Clearly, we are not from the Midwest.
And Clearly, We Still Have Trouble with Napkin Use
This fact is again evidenced when we are handed a cup with which to procure our own vanilla Coke.  Staring at the soda machine like it is a contraption out of Back to the Future, we manage to pour ourselves a large cup of diet vanilla with the adeptness of two nursing home residents manning the remote control.
R2D2 Soda Machine
As it happens, we soon notice that one of Steak 'n Shake's employees appears to have been tasked with cleaning said soda machines over and over, as he does so multiple times as we wait for our food.  Apparently, they take their soda dispensers very seriously in the middle of the country.
It Is Only By the Grace of the Steak 'n Shake Gods That We Managed This
We saddle up to a counter to wait for our Olive Garden-like buzzers to vibrate, noticing that if the Manhattan incarnation of Steak 'n Shake is lacking anything, it is seating.  All of the twelve total chairs in the place are occupied, and we decide that if this Steak 'n Shake wishes to keep their diners' tushes content, they better hope Mayor Bloomberg expands his Times Square picnic tables all the way up to Harlem.
And Also, Fill Your Fries to the Top. Just Sayin'
Eventually, our buzzers go off and we retrieve our burgers, fries, and milkshake.  And let us begin with the least exciting items before us: the beverages.  First of all, the diet vanilla Coke is refreshing enough, and certainly a novelty.  We had also noticed that there are dozens of varieties of drinks to choose from in the sparkling clean soda dispensers, including such options as raspberry Coke, so we could someday do the Steak 'n Shake version of a wine pairing.

The milkshake is so thick that it is served with both a straw and a spoon.  Covered in a fair amount of whipped cream and topped with a cherry, it is tasty and sweet, but certainly no better than other milkshakes we've had (including those at our own childhood version of Steak 'n Shake, the esteemed McDonald's).
Pretty Pretty Please with a Cherry on... Well, Not Quite the Top
Additionally, there are large chunks of a frozen substance within the shake that we at first assume are ice chips, but we later think might be unblended cream, and while this is not off-putting, it is just not the sort of milkshake we're used to.
Rather Small Spoon Circumference Considering the Milkshake, No?
Next up: the fries.  The fries are cut into very petite stalks and do not harbor much of a crunch.  However, they still manage to provide a necessary kick of salt and grease to the meal (and are ten times superior, in Ginger's opinion, to the accordion fries served at Shake Shack).
Bet You Can't Eat Just One
And finally, we have our steakburgers.  Now we have been known to doubt a few of Marc Summers's other Best Thing I Ever Ate choices in the past, but with this burger, he officially redeems himself.  To begin with, the burger is monstrous: a double patty of meat, ample pickles, juicy tomato, unbelievable amounts of cheese, and a very green lettuce leaf (plus our chosen condiments) stand stacked between a memory foam-like bun.
Thank You For the Lack of Unnecessary Sesame Seeds
"This lettuce is probably going to be the only vegetable I eat all week," Ginger notes as she dives in for her first bite.  We ooh and ahh immediately -- the surefire sign that this dish is going to end up with a high star rating.
Thanks for the Green, Steak 'n Shake. Makes Us Feel Healthy
"I think this is delicious," Vodka states.  "And not just because the only things we've been eating for dinner all week are nachos and Easy Mac."  Indeed, our culinary intake for the past few days has not been on the winning side of gourmet, and Steak 'n Shake may just be benefitting from being a food that doesn't come out of plastic wrap.
We Prefer Food Wrapped in Paper and Styrofoam
Still, we are convinced that this burger is one of the best of this level that we have ever tasted, and it is completely on par with the excellence of In-N-Out.  While the meat itself is juicy and well-seasoned, it is the plethora of toppings that we find most pleasing (even if it does make for a difficult burger to consume neatly, especially without the benefit of a chair).
Burger Performing the Slip 'n Slide (Get It with the 'N?)
As we remark on how much we're enjoying our first Steak 'n Shake experience, a Taylor Swift song comes over the loudspeaker, and this seals the deal.  Not only does Steak 'n Shake make superior burgers, but they also have stupendous taste in music.
You Belong With Me, Indeed
We finally get ready to leave when a hotel doorman comes in to pick up his Steak 'n Shake meal to-go.

"Look, if the bellhops love it, you know it must be good," Ginger reasons, and Vodka is too tickled by the fact that Ginger has pulled the word "bellhop" out of a 1957 vocabulary book to concentrate on the contents of her statement.

When Vodka manages to pull herself together, we walk out onto the sidewalks of midtown, and she comments, like a true overeater, "I'll definitely come back here.  Maybe tomorrow."

And with that, two new Midwesterners by way of Manhattan are christened, Steak 'n Shake-style.

Steak 'n Shake's Steakburger and Vanilla Coke: 5 stars*

*Certifiable Best Thing We Ever Ate

1 comment:

  1. Really these are so fresh & delicous burgers. I just recall the day which I spent at Buger King. :)