Why Shake Shack’s Chili Cheese Fries Are So Transcendent
The spicy chili offers a double hit of smokiness.
Regular fries are boring and might be my least favorite fast food, but chili cheese fries are something else altogether. I will always order chili cheese fries if I see them on a menu, because something about the combination of meatiness and ooziness and smokiness and crispiness-meets-sogginess creates a wonderful bite. (Shout out to Wienerschnitzel for teaching me that a burrito is a good way to eat chili cheese fries.)
I bring this up because Shake Shack just added chili to its menu for a limited time. This means that you can order chili cheeseburgers and chili dogs, of course. But most important, it means that you can order some excellent chili cheese fries.
I grew up in Texas, so I’m partial to chili without beans. Shake Shack passes this test and gets extra points for serving chili that’s nicely spicy, powered by ancho, chile de arbol and chipotle peppers. A manager at Shake Shack’s Hollywood location told me last week that customers have been saying they like the spice level, which makes me proud of the people who eat at Shake Shack in Hollywood.
What’s just as impressive as the chili’s spiciness is its double dose of smokiness, which comes from the smoked peppers and from beef that’s lightly smoked before being braised. This makes Shake Shack’s chili smokier than typical Texas chili, which often involves ground beef that (obviously) isn’t smoked. Shake Shack’s spicy and smoky chili is a remarkable thing to have at a fast-food restaurant where $4.99 gets you the chili with cheese sauce over crinkle-cut fries.
Pro-tip: It’s not listed on the menu, but you can also order a cup of chili for $5.49. This makes it easy to pour extra chili over your chili cheese fries, and it’s also a good topping or dip for every single savory item at Shake Shack. Choose your own chili adventure.