Shake Shack opened its London branch last week on July 5th, and you'll be unsurprised to know the basics are all there: The epic line (erm, queue) which snaked around the back of the Covent Garden location from the get go. The distinctive graphic design. The tables made from reclaimed bowling alleys—"in Brooklyn," which a sign proudly announces. The cute locally themed concretes, like the Big Blend. The green buzzers to let you know your food is ready.
But there are slight differences. While there is Brooklyn Brewery's Shackmeister Ale on tap, liquor laws here require a server to personally escort your drink to your table for you. The buns, always my favorite part of a Shackburger, are slightly less bouncy, moist and flavorful than the ones back home. The 100% Scottish beef in the burger is drier and distinctly less flavorful than the magical mixture that Pat LaFrieda whips up for the Gotham Shacks.
I didn't try one, but a server proudly told me they are testing a new version of the Shroom burger which is less explosively cheesy when you bite into it (blasphemy!). Still the fries (not chips) are actually, maybe, an improvement over the oft-derided ones in NYC—though that may be a personal taste thing as I prefer mine to have a uniform golden crunch to them.
Long line short? If you happen to have been far, far away from a Shake Shack for months on end and find yourself in London missing the experience of waiting on line for ages for a perfectly solid, familiar but not necessarily mind-blowing burger in a charming locale... well, this should fit the bill. You were probably going to want to walk through Covent Garden anyway, no? But you could also presumably do just as well visiting the newly opened Five Guys a few blocks away. Or, y'know, just getting a pub burger.
[Ed. note: Garth Johnston filed this report during his round-the-world journey].