Should Portland be excited about Shake Shack coming to town?
A few years ago, absolutely. Before the influx of high-quality, fast food-inspired burgers—ones with thin patties, special sauce and squishy buns—it would've been the best in town. But then came Burger Stevens. And Bless Your Heart. And Super Deluxe. And Hit the Spot. And the sliders at Canard.
Now, when the state's first Shake Shack eventually opens in Southwest Portland, it's debatable whether it would make the local top 10.
Still, whenever I find myself in a city with a Shake Shack—New York, obviously, but also Philadelphia and Austin—I rarely pass it up. It's not just the Martin's potato rolls or so-called ShackSauce that sets the chain apart from its peers but the ShackBurger patty itself, cooked medium rare rather than well-done, its fresh-ground, proprietary-blended beefiness palpable on the tongue.
Another novelty? Its region-specific items.
In Austin, for example, the special is a Lockhart Link—a ShackBurger topped with jalapeño-cheese sausage from the famed Texas BBQ joint Kreuz Market. New England has the Surf 'n Shack, which is basically a lobster roll burger, while Seattle's Montlake Double Cut places Oregon Country Beef and Beecher's Just Jack cheese on a Macrina Bakery bun.
Whenever Shake Shack finally opens here, what might we get? Here are four possible Portland Shake Shack specials.
The Bacon Maple Burger
Shake Shack is not the state fair or a minor league baseball team—we're not going to actually get a burger with a doughnut as the bun. But a collaboration with Voodoo Doughnut isn't out of the question. Imagine a cheeseburger with barbecue sauce and IPA-marinated crispy shallots, plus bacon and maple-infused sauce.
A Burger Is a Sandwich
It's almost inevitable that Shake Shack would team up with sausage and charcuterie maker Olympia Provisions. But instead of going the wiener route—a return to Shake Shack's roots as a hot dog cart—how about a burger that draws on both Olympia and Lardo? Put griddled mortadella and Mama Lil's peppers atop the patty, keep the ShackSauce and American cheese. Voilà!
The Pok Shack
What if Ike's wings were a sandwich? Shake Shack's buttermilk-marinated Chick'n Shack is already exemplary, so hit it with Pok Pok's famous caramelized Vietnamese fish sauce, plus some pickled vegetables (do chua) and hoisin mayo, and you'd have a Portland fast food-bahn mi hybrid that definitely beats Fuku.
Many of Shake Shack's specials are limited to the dessert menu. Its seasonal Pie Oh My concretes—custard whipped with mix-ins—use local pastry partners, while donating 5 percent to a partner's chosen charity. Lauretta Jean's would be a natural there, while its year-round concrete has to include some local chocolate. Start with Woodblock, Ranger or Cloudforest, just to name three.