Shake Shack on the Common? What a load of frappe

Jay Fitzgerald has no objections to a restaurant on the Common. But he takes issue with one called Shake Shack:

... But you just know the same types who think "SoWa" is such a cool name will go with the "beloved" Shake Shack – and then they'll lecture us about having an inferiority complex while they’re off aping everything Manhattan. They'll never understand that it's not about New York – or Kansas City. It's about losing a little local character every time they plunk an out-of-state chain or name on an historic area. ...



Free tagging: 


Has Fitzgerald ever been to a Shake Shack?

Yeah, I'm afraid Jay Fitzgerald does sound like a provincial. You can love all things Boston and hate the Yankees and still find things to admire in the country's greatest restaurant town.

Randy Garutti is just Shake Shack's managing partner; the name in that operation that Fitzgerald should be focusing on is Danny Meyer, head of the most customer-beloved restaurant group in New York, arguably the toughest restaurant audience in the States. Meyer's operation is also one of the most widely-admired in the industry worldwide: he literally wrote the book on modern restaurant hospitality.

While I find both concepts appealing, I'm rooting for Shake Shack, never mind that it looks like a chain and is based in New York. (Oh, and didn't the other guy leave Boston for New York?) Shake Shack is one bit of Manhattan that Boston would do well to get a piece of.

(Fitzgerald's actual blog entry isn't linked here. I found it via Google: )

Shaken, stirred

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The proof is in the food. Has Jay been to New York and tried Shake Shack? I have. The food is excellent, and reasonably priced. Cheeseburgers are $4.25, which I believe is right in line with places like Uburger. They have a custom blend of meat ground for them by LaFrieda, a long-standing NYC butcher. The patties are 1/4 pound, so you don't feel like you are being overwhelmed with too much food (though you can double up if you're hungry or the gluttonous type). The shakes are made with frozen custard for exceptional richness.

Adding such a business to the Common would draw pedestrian traffic and enrich the area. I also love Uburger, and one of those on the Common would be just as good an idea, but I heard they are opening near Downtown Crossing so maybe that's too close, maybe not. But we could do a lot worse than having Shake Shack, or the Common House for that matter.

And a Burger King in King's

And a Burger King in King's Chapel would attract tourists too. And maybe the Constitution could shoot Grande Burritos out of its cannons every day at lunch time.

Not following you, NotWhitey

NotWhitey, are you saying you object to the idea of a restaurant on the Common because it would violate its sacred historical integrity, like your other ridiculous examples would? Does that mean you think the current set of hot dog, fried dough, pickle and pretzel vendors should be kicked out of the Common, too?


If the Constitution is going to be shooting food out of its cannons, it had better at least be platters of pate de foie gras for the residents to enjoy with their sunset wine tastings.

Give it a local name

If the Shake Shack people want to dump their product on the Boston Common, then maybe they could come up with a local variant name for their outlet.

I suggest: "Frappe Crappe".

how about a Brighams? Or a Bailey's?

I saw a Shake Shack in New York in September. The line went down the street. It was a hot day, I just figured it was everyone wanting ice cream, I dfidn't know it was a 'chain'.

So I say, if we must have a chain 'shake' place, I want Brighams back instead. Or Baileys.

(They know what a Frappe is at Bailey's & Brighams).

I mean, there are only 3

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I mean, there are only 3 locations and it only started in 2004. People are trying to equate it to a McDonalds or something. And this isn't a franchising operation. Note, even though Uburger only has two locations, they are advertising the opportunity for franchising on their site.

Honestly, the business reminds me more of Five Guys in the days before they started franchising. A small set of stores that quickly grew due to popularity, but retained quality by staying in the family. I think this would be a great thing for the Common.

Here is the thing though, it

Here is the thing though, it is already popular with tourists in New York. Now you want to put one in Boston in the tourist part of town. As much as I hate the commercialization of the Bull and Finch pub (Cheers) at the very least when people come here and see it they know they are in Boston. If you were to drop somebody into the common, at the window of the Shake Shack and asked them to look around and figure out where they are they would not know. One part of being a tourist is seeing things you can not see at home, doing things you can not do at home and eating things at places you have never been too. If the Shake Shack people are interested in building in the common I am sure that they have plans on building in DC, Philly and other American cities with lots of tourists.

This is not a normal strip mall or even a bank of stores in Downtown Crossing, it is the common. Councilor Ross spoke of getting a Tavern on the Green type place here, that I would agree with even with the NY heritage attached to it, because it would still be unique. That sort of place is designed to be unique. If we are going to go generic why not just toss a Kelly's Roast Beef in there, at least it will have some resonance.

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Sure..Shake Shack,,right..

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Just what the city needs, another attempt to "Manhattanize" the city. Ever been to a Shake Shack? Both times I've been, I waited about 45 minutes and for what? A barely passable burger and a shake that is easily surpassed by the legendary Big Brig. Wait..if this does happen and takes off, will they expand to "Sowa"? Or "Nowa"? If they put one on Albany Street, will we then call the neighborhood "SoHar"? Come on..put Speed's in there, I hear they are looking for a storefront and they're as Boston as Joe& Nemo's!

Flip Flopping Fitz

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Wait, didn't Fitzgerald recently applaud the announcement of a chain supermarket in the historic (and generally chain averse) south end?

"A developer is looking at turning the site – a former power station and trolley barn – into a Trader Joe’s. No complaints here. Hub Blog loves TJ’s frozen fish sticks and cheap wine."

I agree they are different

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I agree they are different sites, but chains are bad for local businesses wherever they are located. When Menino used to support local businesses, he used to say 50 cents of every dollar at independent business stayed in the community, while at a chain, whether it is chic like Trader Joes or shabby like McDonalds, only 5 cents stays in the community.

If Boston continues to dump chains all over the city, whether its in a neighborhood or a tourist site like the Common, it will lose its appeal. The suburbs are blanketed with chains, if people want that its there, but cities should strive higher, to be unique places that people want to live, work and play in.

Turning Boston into Framingham-on-the water isn't good for anyone (except the corporations that own the chains).

Menino Statistics

I'm curious as to where Menino got this information ... and how old it is now.

I suspect the difference isn't as stark as was just stated. Without a back up source, it is hard to tell. Many independent businesses in the city are owned and run by families who live outside the city, while many chains like Trader Joes provide fairly decent jobs for their sector that tend to go to local people who don't commute far for them.

It would be interesting to see the current statistics, as well as the statistics for particular businesses.

Shake Shack isn't Burger King

I personally think Shake Shack's burgers, fries, and shakes are terrific (and I wonder why someone who waited 45 minutes in line and hated them would do so twice). It is not remotely like a nasty national fast-food chain. But even if it were, the "chains with no local flavor must be stopped" argument misses an important point.

The reason chains are successful is not because the Mayor shoves them down people's throats, but because Bostonians prefer to give them their business over local, independently-owned establishments. Just look at the lines forming out the door at crap shovelers like The Cheesecake Factory while better, locally-owned restaurants go out of business. Politicians didn't turn Faneuil Hall and Harvard Square into malls full of national chain outlets, locals did by supporting those businesses.

In other words, we get the restaurants that we deserve. Shake Shack is way better than the kind of inexpensive chain restaurant we typically support.

Minor quibble

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Politicians didn't turn Faneuil Hall and Harvard Square into malls full of national chain outlets, tourists and students did by supporting those businesses.


True, that

For Harvard Square, perhaps. But it's locals, albeit more suburban than urban ones, that I see filling up the Fanueil Hall bars and restaurants on weekends, not tourists.

I guess the question remains: who will end up frequenting a restaurant on the Common? If it's a Shake Shack, part of an organization famed for its rigorous quality control, outstanding hospitality, and local sourcing, I'll be one local that gives it some regular business. The Herald's take is that because it's part of a restaurant group, it's chain-y, which is simple-minded and again ignores the reputation of Danny Meyers's Union Square Hospitality Group.

The Herald touts Jeffrey Mills as a "restaurant mogul", but his Biltmore Room restaurant in New York closed years ago, and he's apparently been working as an actor in NYC since. Compared to Meyers and Co., this guy is an unknown, unproven quantity.

People can be irrational. We

People can be irrational. We have been conditioned to believe a hamburger should cost 99 cents. That a scoop of ice cream should be very very cheap. The problem is when you slap down a good product in front of someone and say that this hamburger is 5 dollars they freak out. That is five value meal hamburgers! Once they get over that hump though and eat the 5 dollar burger they find it is better in many ways (which is why I can not tolerate local establishments that serve up crap and charge alot and then complain when people eat elsewhere, your the local place damn it if your going to charge 6 times as much for a burger make sure it is not the same burger.)

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Shake Shack

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Has Jay Fitzgerald even tried a Shake Shack burger? They're crazy delicious, and the business is much more ethically sound than, say, another "out-of-state chain" that's in spitting distance from the pink palace: Burger King.