We Ate the Much-Hyped Shake Shack Chicken Sandwich

Photo: Mike Pomranz

After hearing that Shake Shack had suddenly introduced their highly anticipated ChickenShack sandwich, there was only one place I was willing to take my lunch. Though speculation swirled nearly out of control back in May when it was revealed the booming burger chain had trademarked the term "ChickenShack," today's announcement that the fried chicken sandwiches would be served up at the Shack's three Brooklyn locations seemed to come with little forewarning.

As I wandered in around 2 pm, this was no Fuku situation. Celebrated chef David Chang recently made waves after opening his own fried chicken sandwich shop in Manhattan and lines were down the street. I would describe the slightly-after-lunch rush at the Shake Shack on Flatbush as "normal."

As for the sandwich itself, it fit with the general Shack ethos – a quality piece of culinary work turned around quickly. It just was not able to reach the dizzying heights of the hype that surrounded it. The breading was well-spiced, thick and crisp, balanced out with cool pickles and fresh shredded lettuce. The "buttermilk herb mayo" was fine, though used sparingly. The bun, as usual, was lightly toasted and delicious. Interestingly, the sandwich's biggest shortcoming was the actual chicken breast. It suffered a fate not uncommon among chicken breasts — it just tasted boring. That is not to say there was anything wrong with the thick, white meat. It just didn't elevate the chicken sandwich to another level. As I pulled some breading from the sandwich, I realized that alone, the crust tasted amazing, but the chicken was muting a lot of that spicy goodness.

Aiding with quality control, a Shake Shack representative was walking around, surveying people about their ChickenShack experience. I overheard a guy behind me say, "It was simple, like a Chick-fil-A sandwich." I assumed this was a complaint, until he immediately followed with an enthusiastic, "I liked that."

That, in a nutshell, describes the ChickenShack. It's very good and easily holds its own against almost any other chain chicken sandwich on the market. However, outside the next-level hype, these trial versions, at least, don't quite bring the fast food staple to a level all its own.

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