The beauty and the conundrum of being bicoastal is having experiences native to each city that I call home. When I first moved to New York and took my first office job in the city, having a burger and crinkle fries at Shake Shack in Madison Square Park was the thing. It was the kind of decision I liked to make after editing a manuscript, or arriving at the end of the week having ran a few long runs and feeling like I earned it – by way of professional and personal commitments.
On the other hand, moving out of Los Angeles meant leaving my then favorite burger restaurant in my hometown – I am now vegetarian, inching my way to plant based – In-N-Out. My family and friends wondered how I could survive without its minimalist hamburger style and vegetable oil fries almost more than they mused how I’d survive New York winters. Over time, the question to the answer became clear, I just would have to travel home, as in L.A. often enough to experience all the things that I love, including the hamburger chained marked by arrows, palm trees and biblical scriptures.
Years later, an In-N-Out still hasn’t come to New York. Woe is me, not my waist line. But, a Shake Shack has come to L.A., specifically Downtown L.A. I have an older brother, and he’s as much a foodie as I’d say any one in my family is. My dad spent some time working as a chef before he started a family, and his attention to cooking and plating never left him. Nor his love for flapjacks aka pancakes, homemade fries, BBQ with a secret sauce that includes citrus fruits and I could go on.
But, let’s touch back on Shake Shack and those crinkle fries, the same ones my older brother wanted to try along with their hamburger. So we set a date, as the Law Office he works at is downtown. I met him in front of the ‘Shack’ on the corner of Broadway and Eighth.
The Shack was bustling. It was 1 p.m. and the heart of lunch hour. We stood in line and with fast service were up to the counter within a couple of minutes. I ordered the Shroom burger, fries and a coffee. I didn’t know what the coffee option was prior to coming here but knew the menu served one. In an effort to exploring more pairings of coffee in food and dining I’m starting with this post, a travelogue of my food excursions that pair coffee with the dining options.
With our order completed, there wasn’t a chair or table open for us to grab a seat. We walked around to the windows paralleled to Broadway and met a gentleman sitting at a four seater table who invited us to sit down with him. That was nice. And, we accepted. This was his third time here since its opening, and yet he conceded while it was good, the jury, as in him, was out on if it was great. I chuckled; my brother chuckled.
Then, a buzz on the table alerted us that his food was ready. He ordered to go. Seconds later, another buzz, our food was ready. We ordered to stay.
The experience was like this: a silver tray lined with the trademark Shake Shack logo in the form of paper. A Stumptown Coffee Roasters Cold Brew. Was that right? Yes it was. Stumptown’s ‘original ‘ Cold Brew in its traditional brown beer bottle right among my Shroom burger and fries, spilling out of its holder. Ok, Ok, Ok.
Upon my first bite into my Shroom burger, I was happy that it felt like park trees were swishing over me giving the days wind that was making its way inside with the continual flow of enters and exits by a non-stop line of customers. I took a fry, then another and paired it with my mid-chewing of my burger and the coupling was medium texture, savory and complimentary. Now to pair that feeling and taste with a swig of cold brew. A turn of the cap – thanks brother – and a smooth slide down was a taste like an aged root beer. Aged like marinated beer with notes of chicory and sage.
I know. I know. I wasn’t sure if the taste was because of the mushroom and double cheese or, if I’d tasted it alone, this would be my same takeaway experience. I often have these bottles at a Creative Mornings or some company function where grab and go coffee is the option of the event.
For this setting and this experience it totally worked. I believe the breaded mushroom with the savory cheese spoke to the low notes of the cold brew, creating a sensation of campfire food on a lake during the middle of a warm spring day and with all the memories that comes with cooking with friends on Pendleton blankets in the great outdoors.
My brother devoured his and was long done while I was deciphering this all. By the time, I finished my meal I still had some cold brew left, so I took it with me to go. While I’m not a big soda drinker or one to order still water with my food, the experience of having a cold brew with an American meal of a burger and fry sat right with me this time and in this downtown of L.A.
Music played on the radio and I mused, ‘Now, if only In-N-Out will come to a Brooklyn park near me. ‘