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New York’s Shake Shack opens in Detroit Thursday

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Burger, hot dog and shake chain Shake Shack will open its first Michigan location Thursday, bringing the tastes of New York and Chicago to downtown Detroit.

Now, Detroit has no shortage of juicy, classic cheeseburgers and we’re famous for our dueling coney dog restaurants in the middle of downtown.

There is something different about Shake Shack, though, as evident in the fever it caused when the news was announced in May. (Our original story was shared more than 10,000 times on social media.)

The ShackBurger and Crinkle Cut Fries. Photos are of Shake Shack, in its new location in Campus Martius, in Detroit, February 22, 2017. (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)

Here are some highlights I took away from a media preview Wednesday of the new Shake Shack in the First National Building at 660 Woodward.

The basic burger: A single-patty ShackBurger is 4-ounce ground beef patty and comes with cheese, lettuce, tomato and “shack sauce,” which is similar to a ketchup and mayo mix. A ShackBurger is $5.39 and runs 550 calories. All Shake Shack’s meats – beef burgers, beef hot dogs, bacon and cage-free chicken – are all natural with no antibiotics.

Don’t Chicago my Detroit: One of Shake Shack’s signature items is the “Shack-cago Dog,” a Chicago-style hot dog done these New Yorkers’ way ($4.29). It’s topped with onion, cucumber, a dill pickle, tomato, pepper, celery salt, mustard and “Rick’s Pick Shack” relish. The pickle company started in New York around the same time Shake Shack did, and made a custom, sweet and spicy relish for the chain. Around here, hot dogs have chili, onion and mustard – and that’s it – so it will be interesting to see how Detroiters take to a Chicago-style dog served by New Yorkers. (I think we can handle it.)

New York touches: Shake Shack started as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park in New York City and opened as a permanent burger stand in 2004. Rosati says they try to add some “shack” elements to each new restaurant with wood touches and a simple design. Several of the tables are made with reclaimed wood from a bowling alley in Brooklyn.

While this isn’t a New York thing specifically, I definitely haven’t seen it much at restaurants around here. Shake Shack sells food for dogs. The ShackBurger dog biscuit is called a “pooch-ini” and is $3.99. They also sell dog biscuits from New York’s Bocce’s Bakery for $7.99.

Detroit ingredients: Every Shake Shack features some local products, and this one is no different. Besides shakes made with frozen custard ($5.29), the chain also has “concretes,” which are blended frozen custard treats that you eat with a spoon rather than through a straw ($4.65-$6.85).

The Shack Attack concrete blends in Zingerman’s Black Magic brownie, and the Motor City Mix features dark chocolate from Bon Bon Bon. Pie Oh My is vanilla custard mixed with seasonal pie from Detroit favorite Sister Pie. Five percent of sales from Pie Oh My will be donated to Gleaners Community Food Bank.

There’s also Michigan beer from Cheboygan Brewing Company, Griffin Glaw brewing and Shorts Brewing. You can also sip the custom ShackMeister Ale made by Brooklyn Brewery.

They did some homework: Shake Shack’s culinary director Mark Rosati told me the first thing he did after landing in Detroit was head to Miller’s in Dearborn to see what a bar burger around here is expected to be. He also hit up Motz’s Burgers near Delray in Detroit.

Rosati said they chose the Campus Martius area for their first Michigan location because it’s “very dynamic and vibrant area.”

“This is such a great crossroads for Detroit right now,” he said. “I feel like where we’re standing right now almost all roads – north, east, south and west– lead to this area right here.”

A fashionable introduction: Rosati says it was a conversation he had with fashion designer John Varvatos that sparked the idea to open a Shake Shack in Detroit. Varvatos, who is from Detroit and has a boutique at 1500 Woodward, told Rosati about the growing scene downtown and encouraged him to bring in Shake Shack.

Because of this Rosati asked Varvatos to team up with them to offer a Shake Shack T-shirt that would be exclusive to Detroit and also the first piece of Shake Shack apparel made by a high-end fashion designer. The limited-edition T-shirt is $50.

Ruffled feathers?: According to the website Eater, Shake Shack filed a trademark application for “Chicken Shack” a year before announcing its decision to come to Detroit. As you probably know, Chicken Shack is a Michigan-based chain that opened the 1950s and has more than 20 locations in the area. There are similarly-named but unaffiliated restaurants named Chicken Shack in other states, too, so I’m not sure it’s something to take personally. Either way, Shake Shack’s trademark claim was dismissed.

Ordering: Stand in line and order your food from the counter, pay there and take one of the nearly 100 seats in the dining area. Guests are given a pager that rings when food is ready. Starting March 1, burger lovers can download the Shack App, order ahead from their phone and pick up the food when ready.

Shake Shack, at 660 Woodward, is open 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sun. Call (313) 672-0501.

mbaetens@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2402

Twitter: @melodybaetens