Shaka Shack is Surprisingly Good (And their Veggie Burger is Downright Great)

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I don’t know if it’s because I moved here from New York, but I had to do a double take the first time I read about Shaka Shack- a new burger joint that just opened on Ocean Park Blvd. in Santa Monica.  Change one letter and you’ve got, arguably, the most popular burger place in New York City.  A chain that has not only expanded to Miami, Washington DC and Dubai, but was also big enough to get one star in the New York Times yesterday. What were these Shaka Shack people thinking!?  Could this be west coast payback for the overt In N Out Burger rip off that opened in Manhattan two years ago?  And how did they expect to get away with this? At least McDowell’s was owned by a guy with the last name McDowell.

The answer?  Shaka Shack is nothing like the Shake Shack.  It’s a tiki bar’esque, surfer themed hangout, with a beach bum owner who could argue that he had never heard of the New York chain and you just might believe them (even though his ex wife used to work for Wolfgang Puck and they appeared  on the NBC show Chopping block together).

The menu has a number of different burger options (ranging from $4.95 to $12.50), plus a salmon burger, a chicken burger, and two veggie burgers, all colorfully scrawled on a slightly confusing dry erase board behind the counter.

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The Shaka Burger ($4.95) is the basic order, featuring a 1/4 pound patty with lettuce, tomato, and their secret sauce (a catchall mixture of ketchup, mustard, mayo and lord knows what else.)  The patties are pretty thin, so if you’re hoping to get your burger perfectly medium rare, you might end up disappointed.  But they managed to get some nice char, while keeping it relatively flavorful and juicy. The hawaiian bun is fun, but it’s huge and it’s hard not have a problem with the meat to bun ratio.  To fix that, I’d recommend going for the double shaka ($6.95) which has two patties.   There’s also a Kobe Kahuna, which features a 1/2 pound kobe burger- but it’s $12.50 (and getting a burger made out of kobe is a huge waste of money) so screw that.

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If you don’t want to double up on the patties, the kawaiian ($6.95) fits into the bun a little better, thanks to the addition of swiss cheese and bacon. Is it in the running for best burger in the city? Not likely.  But it’s a perfectly tasty burger for the price and neighborhood.

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Surprisingly the best burger on the menu might be their Lava Bean Burger ($6.95), one of two veggie burgers they serve at Shaka Shack.  The completely unique patty is made from rice, beans and corn, and is big and thick enough to match up perfectly with the Hawaiian roll.  You won’t normally find me endorsing a veggie burger over a hamburger, but tasty is tasty.  And their Lava Bean Burger is a real winner.

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And it doesn’t look like menu will be set in stone either.  The day we were there, Shaka Shack offered a special called the Maui Cake Burger: a burger, topped with bacon and onion strings sandwiched between two pancakes. With syrup dipping sauce! (How could I not?)  Forget what I said about the veggie burger… this was obviously the best thing we ate.

So, clearly you’re not going to be confusing this place with the Shake Shack in NYC.  But interestingly enough there was one thing that may have been copied… they serve krinkle kut fries, which can be ordered ala carte for $1.95 or added along with a drink to any burger for $3.  But unlike Shake Shack, where the fries seem like an afterthought not worthy of being served next to such a good burger, here the fun krinkle kut fries seem right at home.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • What a fun laid back place for anybody who lives or works near Santa Monica College
  • Such a great vibe… and the owners seem so friendly
  • The Lava Bean Burger is one of the best veggie burgers I’ve ever had
  • I love Hawaiian rolls and krinkle kut fries.  So much fun.
  • Pancake burger FTW!
  • The prices are super reasonable, especially considering that the chef used to work at Spago!

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • How is this place not by a beach?  It should be by a beach.
  • The patty is way too small for the gigantic roll it comes on.
  • You couldn’t have come up with a better name than Shaka Shack?  So bush league.
  • The place is fun, but seating is limited and a bit weird.  Too laid back for my taste.
  • If you need to wrap a burger in pancakes and dip it in syrup for it to be good, than it’s not for me.

Shaka Shack, 1701 Ocean Park Blvd. 310-450-5551

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5 Comments

  • yum – will check out. i’m curious to hear what your other veggie burger picks are too!

    • Assume you’ve tried Veggie Grill? If not, be sure to check out their All American Stack. It’s not a veggie burger (though they have those) but rather a fake steak sandwich. One of the best sandwiches (meat or otherwise) in LA!

  • A good veggie burger? That’s like..heresy.

  • I actually just tried this place recently because the name reminded me of Shake Shack, lol. And while it wasn’t that, like you, I was impressed.

    I especially liked the Shaka sauce and their lemonade.

    My fries were crisp, but I couldn’t really taste the truffle salt.

    I’ll definitely be back. That Maui Cake Burger looks amazing!

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