The Tysons Corner Shake Shack is, for the moment, extremely difficult to find if you’re inside the mall (if you’re outside the mall, don’t even bother).
The best instruction (also for the moment) I can give you is this: Head for the 2nd floor mall entrance of Lord & Taylor. There, you’ll see the mall-ish equivalent of a boarded-up Shake Shack, with tiny little signs instructing you to ‘walk through the bathroom area and go to the courtyard.’ And indeed, patrons are forced through a labyrinthian course, passing the mall restrooms, and winding up at a door which leads outdoors to the “plaza” (I suppose one day it will be a “plaza”). For now, 2nd floor entrance to Lord & Taylor, and you’ll most likely find it after a minute or two.
The only entrance to Shake Shack is currently from the outdoor, elevated plaza, and at around 8:30 on a Wednesday night, there were about 20 customers outside, waiting or eating, and 2-3 inside, where it was absolutely frigid. The inside must have surely been in the 50s – I didn’t think air conditioners could get this cold unless they had compressors (and maybe this one does).
I didn’t want to rush through my meal, so I ordered a couple pints of ShackMeister Ale ($5.25) which they were out of, and were instead offering two pints of Shack IPA ($5.25) – both of these are brewed for Shake Shack by Brooklyn Brewery, and as much as I don’t particularly care for IPAs, this was refreshing, ice cold, and very good, with an amber color and ample body framing an relatively balanced IPA.
Rest assured, Shake Shack is being heavily secret shopped, and the employees are doing everything (well, almost, see below) in a way that will get them high points on the checklist. There are two types of customer service: the type that’s virtually free to the company, and the type that costs the company money. It takes no extra time or effort to smile, or to say “thank you,” or to be generally pleasant, and that’s what Union Square Hospitality Group does so well (as does Great American Restaurant Group, and for that matter, McDonald’s (when was the last time you didn’t encounter a courteous drive-thru employee at a McDonald’s?)). The employees at the Tysons Corner Shake Shack positively ooze friendliness, and are just about perfect at this “free” type of customer service.
My order for two beers was ready in exactly 6 minutes (and yes, USHG, the food handlers were wearing gloves ), and the gentleman who handed me my tray said, “Enjoy your Shack IPA!” in the friendliest way imaginable. I counted an incredible 16 (!) kitchen employees, and there may have been a couple more than this. I took my beers, went outside, and perused the menu which is divided into 3 columns: left, food; center, sweets; right, drinks and dogs (they have dog biscuits).
The deck had speakers, and was playing (I won’t say “blaring,” but it was certainly energetic) an upbeat, poppy hip-hop track which circulated the festive atmosphere in the air. After I finished sipping my first IPA, I was ready to order, and got up to go back inside holding my second beer. Keeping in line with the friendliness theme, a gentleman with a broom and dustpan politely asked me, “Do you mind if I sweep under your table, sir?” Points given for an upbeat, cheerful staff, that’s for sure.
Shake Shack is serving frozen crinkle-cut fries, and I don’t ever need to have those again, so I went for a Shack-cago Dog ($4) which was (take a deep breath) “Dragged through the garden with Rick’s Picks Shack relish, onion, cucumber, pickle, tomato, sport pepper, celery salt, and mustard.” And also a plain old Double Hamburger ($5.90) with nothing on it but Bacon ($1.25). The menu (linked to up above) said:
“All burgers are cooked medium unless otherwise requested.”
I was very pleased to see they’re cooking to medium, but also wanted to see if they could get a subtle difference right, so I asked for mine medium-rare. Remember those two types of customer service I was talking about up above? The type that costs the restaurant nothing, and the other type – the type that costs the company money? Well, this was testing the other type – potentially throwing a wrench into the assembly line. The cashier’s surprising response?
“We cook all our burgers to medium-rare.”
Okay, I knew that was BS, he knew that was BS, but he didn’t know that I knew that was BS, so in his mind, monkey wrench avoided with a two-second little-white lie. Also, there were no special cooking instructions on my ticket, so I was to be served a medium-rare burger like everyone else who doesn’t make a special request. The order was ready in 9 minutes.
One more piece of advice for anyone ordering similarly to the way I did: save some of those pickled vegetables from the Shack-cago Dog – they make a wonderful burger topping, and there’s so many of them that they’ll spill over onto your tray. Actually, this reminds me: my bun was cut all the way through (i.e. it was in two pieces, and I didn’t realize that), so when I took my first bite of hot dog, the entire thing went ker-plat!, and I was left holding my bun while the hot dog and vegetables were resting in my paper tray. No harm done, but it was pretty funny – the entire thing, and I mean the entire thing, fell out.
Anyway, here’s a picture of the center portion of my medium-rare hamburger: