Harken to my wisdom, mere mortals, for this week I bring glad tidings.
The Snacktivist has finally visited Shack Shack at Jewel Changi Airport.
Now, that already should be cause for celebration—the Snacktivist weighing in on what is undoubtedly the hottest fast food commodity in town.
Or at least until Five Guys decides to open up an outlet here. Which, if the rumour mill is to be believed, should here by the end of this year.
Yes, I know I'm leaving it kinda late, and it's a similar story with A&W, because the Snacktivist doesn't normally queue for food, but he's done it for you. A demi-god doesn't queue up like one of the proletariat or have to deal with piffling mortal concerns like I don't know, mortality.
But I have this time, because it's good for a god to live among his people from time to time. Climbing down from my ivory tower sort of thing, except in this case, my tower is made of fries, held together with nacho cheese and has bacon for walls.
The Snacktivist doesn't normally queue for food, but he's done it for you
In that sense I am like Death from The Sandman, except I'm male, am significantly more surly and am decidedly not a perky Goth girl.
“One day in every century Death takes on mortal flesh, better to comprehend what the lives she takes must feel like, to taste the bitter tang of mortality: that this is the price she must pay for being the divider of the living from all that has gone before, all that must come after.”
That's me, except substitute being the anthropomorphic personification of death for the anthropomorphic personification of junk food or something like that.
Speaking of fast food, Shake Shack doesn't bill itself as such. It actually calls itself a “fine casual” establishment, which if you speak marketing, is code for “we’d like to charge you almost 15 bucks for a burger, lul”.
Also, if you have to wait a combined total (queuing plus food prep) of over 10 minutes, it can’t exactly be called fast food, because you know, it ain’t fast anymore. AYY LMAO.
In all fairness, not all of Shake Shack’s burgers cost that much—just the Double SmokeShack (some sorta cheeseburger-y thing with bacon) and the Shack Stack, a cheeseburger with a breaded, deep-fried portobello in it. Still, a standard single-patty ShackBurger will still run you SGD9.20, though.
But back to the “fine casual” thing. While that conjures up images of flying premium economy, the reality is closer to a budget airline, in that everything is an optional extra.
So that means no ‘upsai’ [sic], but the minor upshot to this is people won’t look mildly panicked if you deviate slightly from the preset menu. Because, uh, there’s no preset menu to deviate from.
Fries start from SGD4.50 (going up to SGD5.90 if you slap on the cheese), the Singapore-exclusive Pandan Shake is SGD7.80 and soft-serve is SGD5, with frozen custard (fustard? frostard?) desserts starting from SGD7.50.
A bill of SGD30 is entirely possible, which qualifies the fine dining part, at least. As for the casual bit, well, let’s just say don’t expect metal crockery and porcelain plates.
So, this is what I had after enduring a 40-minute wait in line for (already a very short wait, by most accounts), plus another 10 minutes or so for my order to get prepped: a Shack Stack, fries sans cheese and washed down with a Pandan Shake.
I hesitate to say washed down, given its has a viscosity similar to treacle-infused lava. If the Pandan Shake is doing any washing, it’ll be doing so very, very slowly. And even then, you’d have to help it along with a spatula.
Not while you’re drinking it, of course, unless you’re into ramming kitchen implements down your oesophagus during meals. Although that might not be a completely bad idea to help clear your throat, since the Pandan Shake is literally chokingly sweeet.
Okay, so you know one of those old-school pandan chiffons? Yeah. Then you chuck in some gula melaka and coconut bits… then you douse the entire thing in syrup. Which pretty much sums up what the Pandan Shake is.
Reality-altering levels of sweetness aside (I swear I was hallucinating a little, either that it's the mother of all sugar highs), the Pandan Shake is really, really good. Do you remember McDonald’s having that pandan soft-serve from a few months ago? Well Shake Shack’s Pandan Shake makes that look like it’s just got green food colouring in it.
Pandan Shake is a pandan-infused smack to the face, a pandan beast delivering a spine-tingling roar into the pandan void.
But perhaps it’s the high bar set by the Pandan Shake that Shake Shack’s burgers and fries (like, the reason why you’d go there in the first damn place) can’t really compare. While Shake Shack will make much of how its products are crafted—the whole “fine casual” thing—it still is a mass-production burger chain.
Pandan Shake is a pandan-infused smack to the face
That said, for a mass-production burger, the Shack Stack scores a solid 7, losing points because the deep-fried portobello colours the taste of the patty, which again, is a cut above (that was a meat-based pun, applause por favor) what you’d expect from a mass-production item.
A little too much char, if I’m being nit-picky, but then I always am. I have standards to uphold.
And the bun, too. Oh, that bun. A delicate crust hides the pillowy, springy bread underneath—a diaphanous wedding veil rendered in bread. Many places overlook the bun (hey A&W, are you listening?), but then most places and people are bloody daft, so there you go.
Anyway, since we’re on the topic of starch, we have to talk about Shake Shack’s vaunted crinkle-cut fries. I mean, as fries go, they’re alright, I guess? Nowhere near the standard of McDonald's crack-filled golden straws, but in all honesty, few things can compare to that.
As far as thick-ish fries go, some credit has got to go to Shake Shack, because while some thicc fri bois tend to end up a little too powdery on the inside, these are airy. Which is exactly what you want from fries, which funnily enough, is the exact opposite of what you want in a bun.
Studied have shown that there’s is a very strong correlation between liking insubstantial buns and liking biscuit-like prata or pizzas that have wafer-thin crusts. The same studies have also shown that if you like all the above, there’s also a high chance you might be a serial killer/international war criminal.
But you’re not here to debate the merits/demerits of bread, you’re here to read what the Snacktivist thought of Shake Shack. Unfortunately, there’s no way to rate it without taking queue times in to account. I rocked up at 10am on the dot and it still took me nearly an hour to get my fingers greased up with all-American calorie bombs.
This is a great time to talk about what I overheard in the queue from the couple in front of me. The girlfriend was trying to explain to her boyfriend that the law of diminishing returns also applies to waiting in line for food.
She posited that after a certain amount of queueing, your enjoyment of said food will diminish, no matter how good it is. To which her boyfriend responded that the law of diminishing returns only applies to situations that involve money.
Look, guys. You’re both wrong. Firstly, that’s not exactly how the law of diminishing returns works, and secondly, you know how they say time is money?
Quod erat demonstrandum.
I get what she’s trying to say, though. As it stands, Shake Shack gets a couple of arbitrary internet points knocked off because of the wait, even before the first calorie is consumed. Had I spent another half an hour in line, Shake Shack would have gotten a Meh.
And thus concludes the Snacktivist’s Gospel of Shake Shack. A bumper edition this time (mostly of rambling incoherence), but you don’t need to thank me. I am, after all, a beneficent, gracious god.
Plus, it’ll give you something to do while waiting in line while discussing such topics as “does excessive queueing diminish the enjoyment of good food?” and “where does this moron live? I would very much like to beat him to death.”
See? Told you I was beneficent in many ways.
10-word review: Excellent shakes, decent burgers, meh-ish fries, along with ridiculous queues
Best paired with: This review open on your phone and read while you wait, because rambling incoherence is an excellent aperitif.