Shake Shack Debuts With “Skull & Cones”
by Allan Appel | Sep 13, 2012 8:13 am
Posted to: Food
The modern version of the “roadside burger stand” opened Thursday in New Haven with an homage to Louis’ Lunch, a lot of Yale blue on both the menu and the walls, and six soaring 19-foot windows to bring the Green inside.
The interior walls are clad with wood salvaged from the Yale Bowl. The concretes, or dense custard desserts, have names like Skull and Cones, and one of the all beef flat-topped wieners is named Handsome Dog for those of you nostalgic about your Yale mascots.
In this edible incarnation he’s topped by shallots marinated in Brooklyn’s Shackmeister beer.
And 5 percent of every Elm City Coffee Break (vanilla custard, coffee cake marshmallow sauce, shortbread cookie, caramelized pecans) goes to benefit Solar Youth.
With such local touches, culinary, architectural, and philanthropic, the modern version of the humble roadside burger stand, as Shake Shack characterizes its signature style, has a ribbon-cutting scheduled Thursday at 11 am. The new location is on Chapel Street between College and Temple.
It’s the second in Connecticut (after Westport) and the 17th in the Shake Shack empire, including one in Dubai and one in Kuwait City. The company employs about 800 people worldwide, but prides itself on being a local joint or modern burger stand in whatever town it rolls into.
All the shacks grew out of of a modest high-quality hot dog vending cart deployed in 2001 in then derelict-plagued Madison Square Park, in Manhattan. It was the idea of restaurateur Danny Meyer (Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, 11 Madison), who thought his fine diners should not have to exit his eatery only to deal with an intimidating park.
People lined up for the quality wiener, and that, along with an active conservancy group and art exhibitions, began to revive the now elegant urban jewel; the flagship Shake Shack emerged there and began to spread. Read more of that history here.
“Standing for something good,” reinventing fresh quality American comfort foods as a creative chef would in a fine dining restaurant, and being a hospitable destination are the values the new Shake Shack wants to stand for, said Edwin Bragg, the chain’s director of marketing and communications.
He said that the eye-filling vista of the New Haven Green right out the high glass windows of the new eatery echoes Shake Shack’s Madison Square Park beginnings.
Other features of the Elm City shack include low-to-the-ground seating in front of a ski-chalet style fire, ample outlets for electronic plug in, Wifi, and encouragement to linger in the high-ceilinged space to take in the view of the Green across Chapel Street.
And, and if you’re a Yale student, the Shake Shackers encourage you for a while to “forget the homework,” said the culinary manager, Mark Rosati (pictured).
In addition to the Yale location, a big draw for the company to plant its newest shack in Connecticut is the rich culinary tradition of the Elm City, Rosati said.
The Stonington-born Rosati said he has been not only going to Louis’ Lunch for at least 16 years but prowling all the burger, lobster, and hot dog-purveying “shacks” of the Nutmeg state since he can remember. “As a kid I was in training [for this job] and didn’t know it.”
Beneath a bright sun Wednesday afternoon Jenn Sanders was helping to make it all happen. The New Haven native applied online for a job at the new Shake Shack and considers herself very lucky. She earns $9 an hour, she said. She was unsure of the benefits situation.
Sanders is one of 70 people, full and part-time hires, out of 800 who applied. She’s going to be a greeter and a porter, not on the cooking side, but the hospitality. “They allow me to be myself. I can be bubbly and over the top. It pays to be nice,” she said.
If the line gets long outside, as it often is at other Shake Shacks, other workers like Chris Ray, who is also a porter, transform into “hospitality champs.” They go up to people and talk about Shake Shack, and in general make nice.
Ray had never heard of Shake Shack until he applied and got the job, let alone consumed a concrete. At a staff family event preceding the opening, Ray ate his first SmokeShack (cheeseburger topped with natural applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry pepper and ShackSauce).
Now he’s a believer. “Absolutely amazing,” he said.
The restaurant has an approximately 145-person capacity with living-room type seating in the front and three banquettes in the back with some sports-bar style TV monitors high above.
Weather permitting, there will also be four tables in front of the restaurant on the sidewalk.
Tags: Shake Shack
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Filling the space is good, creating jobs is good. Walking down the sidewalk on Chapel and getting hit up for money every 100’ is bad.
Here we go again.
Do not know what the charity,
Solar Youth, does, but it would seem more appropriate if they kicked in to the American
Diabetic Society instead.
A bit too cutesy-wootsy-Yalie for me.I think.
If I get downtown hungry, I may re-visit Louis’s Lunch, now that you have reminded me.
Since the article left out the street address, I’d mention tat it is the latest occupant of 986 Chapel Street.
These premises were the home of the Eli Moore children’s clothing store from about 1943 until the late Chapel Square Mall opened in about 1970. The building was owned by M. Bailey who also owned the Shubert. After Eli Moore, Inc. moved to the mall the location was then used for food, occupied by Kaysey’s Restaurant. My how it has gone downhill from fine dining to a burger joint. Unfortunately that’s the story of New Haven from the 1960s on.
You are either a big corporation or a local home town mom & pop place. NOT BOTH.
This story is like trying to sell you McDonald’s is a local roadside burger stand. NOT !!
Best of luck, but this was built to be a YALE orientated draw like the rest of Broadway. Just saying they should be honest about what they are a “corporate chain restaurant.”
I’d rather go to Louis Lunch too. Keep the money in the hands of the REAL Mom and Pops !!
Sounds like good food to me. Prime 16 may have to up its game.
Thanks Embee for info re the charity. Seems good
No insult to Solar Youth meant, but if you eat much of the stuff required to result in a donation to that group, you will probably need to have your blood-sugar checked frequently. .
Solar Youth is a great organization, and I am speaking from experience not from hear say. I work in another non profit, and we often send kids to SY so I know what they do. If you are placing judgement on an organization you should at least have the courtesy to know what you are talking about. That said, Shake Shack cannot be compared to McDonald’s. The quality of the food produced cannot be found on any MC’s menus. I do agree that they could also target Gateway students and not just Yalies, but Yale is the main reason why they were drawn to NH, so they have the right to do what works best for them.
They are not a non profit organization that opened up in NH to help New Haveners; They are a business and they have to make a profit in order to stay open and give jobs to NHaveners.
The are a fast food restaurant that aims at serving better food.. Hopefully all burger serving joints downtown will follow suit by serving more grass fed, organically and locally grown food. Teach tolerance!
This may appeal to the Yale crowd, but it sure as heck appeals to this New Havener as well. Why are people bemoaning what will likely be a thriving business on Chapel Street? Because you will be “hit up for money”? Huh? You prefer the boarded up storefronts?
New Haven is a culinary destination so Shake Shack is a great fit. It isn’t going to be putting Louis’ Lunch out of business, it is going to be augmenting the food scene. I can’t wait to go to both places.
And clearly “mm” hasn’t been out to eat in New Haven or anywhere else for a long time. New Haven has outstanding food, Shake Shack produces very high quality burgers and the restaurants in New Haven in general are collectively far superior now than at any other time in New Haven’s history (including the 60s and earlier, if for no other reason than food has gotten so much better). New Haven may be changing, and not all of it is wonderful, but this is an absolute change for the good.
Seems like Yale Haven just loves their chain stores. Instead of a real human city we have Disney World.
MM has been out to eat in New Haven as recently as this week. In fact MM dines in New Haven at least once a week.
That said I don’t think Shake Shack makes great burgers and Vienna dogs from Chicago are pretty nasty and high in salt. I’ve not yet eaten in the New Haven Shake Shack, but have eaten in Westport and won’t be returning.
I remember dining in New Haven in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s 00s, and now the 20teens. Fine dining in New Haven is on the wane. There are a few fine dining places left, but many more casual eateries abound.
And as for the change being for the better, I don’t agree. I’d rather have a Kaysey’s or Poor Lads or Delmonaco’s than a chain operation such as Shake Shack. And if I wanted a quickly served hamburger or hot dog I wish an independent such as Yankee Doodle was still around. BUT it’s hard for independents to afford the crazy rents that are charged by the Yale real estate empire.
I took the ‘hit up for money every 100 feet along Chapel Street’ to mean that the really visible & oft-times aggressive homeless population will be panhandling along Chapel Street.
New Haven appears to have a disproportionate homeless population. There are some truly unique individuals among New Haven’s homeless crowd- the vast majority of whom are friendly and non-violent, albeit aggressive when asking for spare change. As a resident of New Haven, I see these people & know they are not a risk to me.
Most homeless have no family, and almost always suffer from mental illness(es) [which are not being treated properly.]
It seems though, that the homeless are very prominent in New Haven. YES, these are human beings, children of God, worthy of dignity and respect.
BUT, to have to see the same downtrodden people every day, and having to deal with panhandlers asking for “a dollar” or “any spare change” at all points downtown (walking areas downtown- Broadway, the Green, 9th Square, Chapel West, etc.) every day…it lowers the quality of life.
Every city will have homeless and panhandlers….they have been a staple of urban life since cities sprang up. But why does New Haven have so many more super-visible homeless than cities of comparable size?
As for Shake Shack: I will wait at least 2 weeks for them to ‘iron out any creases.’
I wonder, does SHAKE SHAKE offer a grass-fed burger? Don’t know what a grassfed burger means? Look it up, & be horrified when you discover what you have been eating all your life. Cows eating something other than grass? Cows eating…meat?!
This will draw more visitors to Downtown which initially will help local businesses. However it will also create higher demand for space and higher rents, which will drive out local businesses over time. Anyone else remember what Harvard Square was like before the chains took over? Increases in rent and tax should be accompanied by increased funds to a training & business reinvestment fund to create more local business and invest in other retail areas (like Grand Ave and Westville) that are still affordable enough for them to operate in. Otherwise, New Haven becomes another Disney World surrounded by slums, like what has happened to Boston, Chicago, and Manhattan.
Its a business! It pays local property taxes! It helps our budget by paying local property taxes! It filled a vacation storefront with a nice facade! It will help fill in the block with pedestrian traffic and, perhaps, other businesses as a result. It may even bring outsiders into the city (God forbid there may be more auto traffic…I’m shaking.)
Why all the complaining from posters? Get off your rear end an open up a business instead of constantly complaining about the ones people are opening. There are many reasons not to open a business in New Haven, purely from a financial perspective (all the red tape, taxes, etc…). Lets open our arms to those who are taking the risk instead of shooting them down. And stop the jabs at Yale. Live in downtown Bridgeport for one night and you’ll come running back to all the preps and their brightly colored pants!
@Charl, According to their website their burgers are:
“100% all-natural Angus beef, vegetarian fed, humanely raised and source verified. No hormones or antibiotics – EVER. We pride ourselves on sourcing incredible ingredients from like-minded artisanal producers.”
Considering half the storefronts on this stretch of chapel are empty, and have been for years, I don’t see how anyone could think of this as a bad addition. Re. the comments that New Haven is turning into Disney World, I don’t see it. There are enough storefronts to support both locally owned, and small chain stores. One doesn’t preclude the other. I think Louie’s, Prime 16, Shake Shack, and several others will complement each other, making New Haven a destination for burger aficionados. Certainly a great addition to that block of Chapel.
Take a walk on Broadway and tell me how many “local” businesses you count. 10 years ago there was well over 15. Slowly one by one Yale has either raised the rent to intolerable levels or evicted them.
The reason the storefronts have been empty is because Yale discriminates against local business. I recently tried calling Yale properties to inquire about rental rates and they declined to give them as “it depends on what your trying to do”. A legal way of trying to filter through the small guys.
Also pertaining to your one doesn’t preclude the other-read the comment about large chains being able to afford high rent and how that effects the rental market and the ability of local business to compete. Local business can’t draw from their other 14 locations to offset the rent.
If you can’t see the corporate world takeover in New Haven you either have not lived here long enough or are not looking hard enough.
Please people put on your sunglasses and cut the shiny new building glare and see it for what it is- Yale’s dream.
People need to get a grip. This is not a McDonald’s. It’s a guy who started in NYC with a food truck, and has expanded his business. That’s an American success story. If you’re so broken-hearted that he’s not a native New Havenite, then start your own food business.
If you want to complain about Yale pushing pople out, complain about Cappucino’s on the corner of Congress and Cedar. That was a nice coffee shop and food place, and Yale moved them out recently because “they needed the space”. Now there is another Blue State coffee shop opening up there.
I’m happy to see them here. It’s a good company and will attract even more Yalies off their main grid. Maybe some will even wander down to the Elm City Market. I love that they’re happy with the floor to ceiling windows that overlook the Green. After they tire of seeing the sleeping people in the park, trash everywhere, and discarded clothing, perhaps the Upper Green will get cleaned up. The more companies that overlook the Green, the cleaner and safer and area will be. YAY!
Cinderella - Every time I walk the Upper Green on Sundays, it is coated with hundreds of dime bags (some of which still have drugs in them), tens of thousands of cigarettes and wrappers, and tons of broken glass and other refuse. I’m not sure how Yale or anyone else tolerates this.
Not sure the opening of Shake Shack will help that - who wants to deal with taking your life in your hands to try to cross Chapel Street.
Cinderella, what do you propose we do with the “sleeping people in the park”, many of whom are my friends? Once again the desire to turn New Haven into Disney Yale is just oppressive.
MrRay, Yes, that’s the million dollar question, what to do with all these sleeping folks? I don’t know the answer, do you? It seems as though we must find a solution. The window wells on the Yale campus offer some shelter, as does the Farmington Canal, or dumpsters, which I’ve seen some crawl into at night.
If they started sleeping on the sidewalks, as they do in some other cities in the US, would we just walk over them?
It should be called:
SHAKE YOUR FAT SHACK.
or maybe just
Most of the Yalies and townies who want to eat at Shake Shack also go into NYC and are familiar with Union Square. By placing a SS next to the Green, Yale has succeeded in subliminally placing the students in a familiar hip place-NYC and Union Square- and the associations are one of , This is really cool!! I love it. Brilliant marketing strategy.
Now bring BOLT bus to NH and the circle is complete.
@ShaggyBob - I really don’t think Yale discriminates against local businesses. I’m not familiar with the policies they have for their rental properties, but in general I trust their judgment in bringing in businesses that are good for the city. I think Broadway is very nice now. It’s a bustling area and it mixes popular brand names like Apple and J Crew with locally owned businesses like Trailblazer, Denali, J Press, and Ashley’s. Why would Yale discriminate against a local business? So they can keep their storefronts empty? If the rents are high I suspect it’s more likely due to the cost of owning the properties, in particular high property taxes.
As for your remark about “the corporate world takeover in New Haven”, I really don’t see it. Even if Broadway is too corporate for your taste, that is only a very small area, and there are tons of vacant storefronts around the city that are available to local businesses (both Yale-owned and not). The article was about a new restaurant on Chapel St. That stretch of Chapel Street, from State to Howe, has very few nationally run businesses other than Starbucks and a couple of banks. It’s mostly vacant store fronts and locally owned businesses. I would argue there was a bigger corporate presence 25 years ago when the mall was behind it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of having local businesses, but the comments about the Shake Shack making Chapel Street like Disney are absurd! As Curious pointed out we are not talking about McDonald’s. We’re talking about a relatively small business with a few dozen locations. I love New Haven and the direction it’s headed in, but there are still way too many vacant storefronts for us to be worried about corporate takeover. I walked by Shake Shack the other day and thought it looked awesome. Brings lots of foot traffic to an area that can use it.
I’m sorry that you disagree with my real life first hand experiences with these issues and yes Yale would prefer to keep the storefronts empty rather than rent them to small business. They have the bankroll to do it. Besides the “business” has to fit their plan. If I had a nickel for every time I heard I don’t think that would work, I’d be Yale. They won’t even accept a year of prepaid rent to let you try !
Why do you think Copper Kitchen closed-Yale was behind that and Yankee Doodle and Sweet Magnolia and fill in the blanks…...
Corporate take over is real- Please people look at Broadway and compare it to what it was 10 years ago. BTW Yale owns stock in almost all of those businesses.
If you can’t see it Johnny D is doing good with the razzle dazzle for the sheeples. The Townies with eyes have seen it all.
I think some people are over-reacting to Shake Shack.
This, though, seems pretty much like Yale glitzing up downtown for their students, which is undeniably their prerogative. They’re putting a Chipotle down where Cafe Bottega used to be on the corner.
Maybe NHI should do a story about how many businesses have been replaced with chains over the years, and get some quotes from Yale administrators about it.