The wait is over. East Coast burger favorite Shake Shack will open its first Bay Area location this Saturday, Dec. 15, at Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto.
The newest outpost will serve the classics that Shake Shack is known for — straightforward Angus beef cheeseburgers served on squishy-soft Martin's potato rolls, a fried chicken sandwich, crinkle-cut fries and the dessert concretes — plus new menu items exclusive to Palo Alto.
Look for the Golden State Double burger made from local products: two patties made from Moraga-based Richards Grassfed Beef in partnership with Cream Co. Meats in Oakland, white cheddar, smoked garlic aioli and bread and butter pickles from McVicker Pickles, all on a sweet potato bun from San Francisco institution Tartine Bakery. The specialty burger will be available daily in limited quantities.
Local partnerships also spawned new custard concrete flavors, including the MB Malt, made from vanilla custard, whole-wheat chocolate-chip walnut cookies from Los Gatos-based Manresa Bread and fudge sauce; the Shack Attack with chocolate custard, fudge sauce, chocolate truffle cookie dough and Dandelion Chocolate dark chocolate chunks, all topped with chocolate sprinkles; and the Pie Oh My, vanilla custard with slices of seasonal pie from Pie Dreams in Fremont.
There will also be local beer and wine, including from Fort Point Beer Co. in San Francisco, Broc Cellars in Berkeley, Brea Wine Co. in Colorado (a natural wine company) and Robert Sinskey Vineyards in Napa.
Shake Shack's burgers — hotly debated as In-N-Out's East Coast competition — are made from a proprietary blend of all-natural Angus beef, per the company's website. All burgers are cooked medium unless otherwise requested and served on the potato roll from Martin's in Pennsylvania.
There's also the Smoke Shack, a single or double cheeseburger topped with all-natural applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry pepper and ShackSauce; the vegetarian 'Shroom Burger, a fried portobello mushroom filled with melted Muenster and cheddar cheeses and topped with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce; and flat-top hot dogs, a nod to Shake Shack's more humble beginnings as a hot dog cart in New York City.
Founder Danny Meyer, now a renowned restaurateur and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group in New York City, opened that hot dog cart as part of a public art installation meant to revive Madison Square Park in 2001. The cart became a permanent kiosk three years later.
The company has come a long way since then, with more than 200 locations across the world and a "cult-like following," a press release states. There are Shake Shacks in 26 states and in more than 70 international locations from London and Hong Kong to Dubai and Moscow. The company is already planning more than 35 openings in 2019, according to a spokesperson.
Shake Shack announced in January that it would be coming to the Bay Area, first to Palo Alto and later to San Francisco and Marin County. The company is also planning to open at the Mineta San Jose International Airport in 2020.
Palo Alto marks Shake Shack's 130th location in the United States and 202nd location worldwide.
At the Palo Alto Shake Shack, customers can place their orders on touch-screen kiosks, then pick up their food from a window in front of the kitchen. Despite the use of technology, human touch is front and center to the Shake Shack hospitality philosophy created by Meyer.
A sneak-peek event on Wednesday night wasn't called a media preview, but rather a "housewarming." Attentive, polite staff roamed the restaurant taking orders and picking up finished food, eagerly asking diners about which burger they liked the best and if they would like ice with their water. Shake Shack is known for successfully integrating fine-dining service into a fast-food setting.
When the company hires, they look for character and personality over technical skills, Shake Shack Culinary Director Mark Rosati said in an interview at the new restaurant.
"We try to find people who if they're walking through the dining room of a Shack and they see a discarded napkin, they're compelled to stop and pick it up and throw it away. We can't train that," he said.
Rosati, who comes from the New York City fine-dining world and has been with the company since 2007, said he feels Shake Shack needs the Bay Area more than we need them.
"I've seen a big change in the burger culture here," he said in an interview at the new restaurant on Wednesday evening. "Now, there are a lot of people doing it at a high level." (Two of his favorites include True Laurel in San Francisco and Kronnerburger in Oakland.)
The Bay Area is also now home to more Michelin-starred restaurants than New York City.
"We know the bar is high," Rosati said. "We want to make sure we exceed that bar."
Shake Shack will open at 11 a.m on Saturday. The first 100 people in line will get to take home a complimentary Shake Shack travel bag.
On opening day, 25 percent of proceeds as well 5 percent of sales from the Pie Oh My concrete will be donated to La Cocina, a San Francisco nonprofit that mentors low-income food entrepreneurs, primarily women from immigrant communities and communities of color.
The 2,491 square-foot Palo Alto Shake Shack is located at 180 El Camino Real, Suite #950 (next to P.F. Chang's).