Danny Meyer/Shake Shack

In Danny Meyer/Shake Shack on October 30, 2011 at 6:30 pm

I’m a big fan of Danny Meyer. I don’t think it would be overstated to say that the New York based restaurateur has somewhat of a Midas touch when it comes to his business endeavors.

 Among his impressive group of followers he’s a bona-fide rock star. Meyer, 53, is the man behind Eleven Madison Park, Gramercy Tavern and Shake Shack, and has a disposition more akin to Johnny Appleseed than Donald Trump, flitting from restaurant to restaurant spreading his signature imprimatur.

Aside from a New York Times article published about the St. Louis native this past summer, Meyer goes about his work with little fanfare or drawn recognition. Like any good leader, he is acutely aware of every single detail in his restaurants, knowing when to intervene and when to let be.

His success is best demonstrated by the tremendous popularity of Shake Shack, his ever-expanding chain of burger restaurants. There is a certain intangible quality to all of Meyer’s food; when you bite into an $7 burger at Shake Shack you get the sense that the same amount of care and respect for ingredients has gone into it as in a $40 dish at Gramercy Tavern (and I mean that in the best way possible). Every variable down to the precise amount of butter spread on the buns before they are griddled, the specific blend of sirloin, chuck and brisket that goes into the ground beef, and even the specific vegetable farms from which the restaurant source have been meticulously worked out by Meyer and his associates.

Are the burgers worth all this time and effort? I and the masses of people who line up each day around the block seem to think so. In fact, the Madison Square Park location becomes so saturated with patrons during the lunch rush, that the restaurant has installed a webcam function on their website that allows customers to best time their meal. What is even more impressive is the diversity of customers that the restaurant attracts, ranging from businessmen and women trying to grab a bite to eat in between meetings, to the quintessential New York pair of babysitter with child in tow. This perhaps speaks to the almost universal (sorry, vegans) appeal to Shake Shack for one very good reason: the food tastes good. The restaurant’s signature sandwich, the Shack Stack ($8.50) is almost transcendent, if not bordering on gluttonous — combining a deep-fried Portobello mushroom filled with cheese on top of a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and Shack Sauce, the restaurant’s mayonnaise based condiment. (Is your heart starting to hurt yet?) When you bite into the mushroom patty, resembling a falafel more than a fungi, it collapses, releasing melted Muenster and cheddar all over your face and fingers. It’s a meal that should be eaten with a group of friends and a tall stack of napkins. The one minor drawback to the burger, however, is that within a few minutes of finishing it, one is normally overcome by a powerful sensation of drowsiness. Decidedly not the best option for one’s lunch break when he/she is expected to be able to sit through a history class an hour later without nodding off. (As seen here)

What sets apart Meyer’s more causal eateries from others of its kind is that they function upon the principle that quality is not synonymous with price; that you can eat a meal that you can genuinely feel good about and that truly tastes good without a hefty price tag.

One night after a friend and I ordered our food at the Jazz Standard/Blue Smoke, Meyer’s take on a barbecue restaurant and jazz club, we watched the band sluggishly take the stage. “Ugggh,” the group leader moaned, his hand on his stomach. “You know, the reason we keep coming back here is because the food is just so damn good,” he said grinning, putting his saxophone into his mouth and counting off the first tune. If that is not testament enough of Meyer’s success, what ensued was a night filled with incredible music and even better food all inspired by the subtle genius of Danny Meyer.

  1. I am not really fantastic with English but I line up this real leisurely to read.

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