The West Village flagship opens to the public on Tuesday, September 18, and there will be Chick'n.

By Maria Yagoda
September 17, 2018
Courtesy Shake Shack

Located on the lower level of the West Village Shake Shack, the brand-new Innovation Kitchen will serve as the restaurant's center for menu development when it opens to the public on Tuesday, September 18. The space will offer new menu items that are hard to find anywhere else, like the Veggie Shack (currently testing in a few markets) and chef-driven collabs like the Humm Burger with Daniel Humm, Piggie Shack burger with Daniel Boulud, and Eel Burger with London’s chef Fergus Henderson. Innovation Kitchen will also offer Shake Shack's long-rumored Chick'n Bites—crispy all-natural chicken breast bites served with BBQ or honey mustard—before the item spreads to other NYC locations this September and across the country in October.

The chicken nugget-like nibbles were first teased in the Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories cookbook that came out in 2017, energizing chicken-loving fans who hoped the bites would one day make it to menus. 

For more than a decade, Shake Shack’s culinary director Mark Rosati has led his team out of a small basement space in Midtown Manhattan, so the expanded West Village venue, the plans for which were announced in 2017, will allow more space for experimentation (and real-time feedback from diners). It also seems fitting for the brand's astronomical expansion. 

Courtesy Shake Shack

"Developing new menu items in a modest 'kitchen' separate from the home office team has been a challenge," Rosati tells Food & Wine. "The dedicated space will allow our team to get even more creative, adding depth and dimension to our simple and focused menu."

Courtesy Shake Shack

Rosati says that other items they'll be testing include a cold brew matcha drink ("think more of a creamy dessert beverage"), a black sesame shake inspired by Shacks in Japan, new lemonade flavors, and the Veggie Shack. The Chick'n Bites, which will be sold in quantities of six ($4.39) or ten ($6.39) at Innovation Kitchen, were born out of months of brainstorming and fooling around with marinades, sauces, and technique. So don't think of it as just a nugget version of the Chik'n Shack.

Courtesy Shake Shack

"When developing the recipe for Chick’n Bites, we wanted to be as thoughtful as possible," says Rosati. "We didn’t just cut our Chick’n Shack sandwich into smaller pieces and fry it. We took a moment to build it from the ground up – how it’s marinated, how it’s cooked, the flavor profile of the flour, the crispy crust to chicken ration, how big the bites felt in your hand, how easily they dipped into sauces. We’ll be launching with our take on the classic honey mustard and BBQ dipping sauces. We spent a lot of time making sure the profile felt good."

The new space, which houses Shake Shack's office on the third floor, will act as a central hub for culinary operations.

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