NYC — Spring 2014: Food Journal (Day 3: Shake Shack and Crispo)

Saturday, June 7, 2014
As we were staying at a hotel near Madison Square Park, you know I had to get me some Shake Shack.

Shack Stack with fries

Obviously, Shake Shack needs no introduction. In my opinion, they make the best fast food burgers in the world, let alone New York. Madison Square Garden is home to the original Shake Shack (the only one that is actually shack-style, and outdoors with a seating area surrounding it), and it was my first time at this location (I've been to the ones in the Theatre District and Battery Park City). We arrived at around 1:00; the line-up wasn't too bad, but it was still about a 20-minute wait to order, and then another 15 minutes to wait for our food. But even then, it was entirely worth it. And I would have waited even longer. Yes, that's how good these burgers are. You could easily go to any of the other eateries in and around Madison Square that would be faster, but why would you?

We managed to find a table in their little outdoor dining area (you gotta be quick about it, eyeing the tables like a hawk and swooping in the second someone stands up to leave), and despite it being a little too sunny for my liking, it was a beautiful day to eat outside. A single Shack Burger for my mom, and a Shack Stack for me (always and forever): Their cheeseburger with a crispy deep-fried portobello mushroom filled with melted muenster and cheddar cheeses, topped with lettuce, tomato, and ShackSauce. The Priest Burger at Burger's Priest is as close to it as we can find in Toronto, and I don't know whether it's the sauce or the bun or the meat itself, or perhaps the deep-fried mushroom, but the Shack Stack is always better. Save for being vegan, do yourself a favour if you're ever in New York and get yourself to a Shake Shack. You won't regret it. Oh, and get yourself a side of their crinkle-cut fries, too. But hold the cheese; the plasticky processed flavour of it ruins the perfectly-salted, crispy, golden fries.

Hot & Sweet Soppressata, Caponata, and Provolone

Caramelized Maple Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Almonds

Sweet Potatoes with Parmigiano and Sautéed Spinach with Garlic and Olive Oil

For dinner, my brother took us to one of his favourite Italian restaurants in the city, Crispo. It's at the border of West Village and Chelsea, and is sort of tucked in at the bottom of a building without any signage so that you might miss it if you aren't looking for it, but it's really a gem of a find. And when you do find it, you'll be surprised to see such a large space hidden behind such an unassuming entrance. To start, we ordered a plate of hot and sweet soppressata, caponata, and provolone cheese, the caramelized maple Brussels sprouts with toasted almonds, and a couple small plates of sweet potatoes pan-fried and sprinkled with parmigiano and sautéed spinach with garlic and olive oil. I always think proper Italian meals should start with a plate of salami and cheese (sort of an Italian charcuterie plate); the soppressata and provolone are both very flavourful (I wouldn't classify the cheese as "stinky," but it borders on pungent) but work so well as small bites to go with crusty Italian bread dipped in olive oil (and wine, if you drink it).

And here, the Brussels sprouts make an appearance again, this time caramelized with maple to give it a smoky sweetness and topped with a flurry of toasted almonds for a gorgeous nutty flavour. I never thought I could love Brussels sprouts so much until I got to New York. These are amazing, and I reckon even people who originally hated Brussels sprouts could be converted. I don't think "Brussels sprouts" when I think of Italian cuisine, but these are a must-order here. They also offer a variety of side dishes, so we ordered the sweet potatoes, which are pan-fried and sprinkled with parmigiano, and the spinach, which is sautéed with olive oil and garlic. We ordered the spinach more so to have something healthy alongside such rich foods and it's nothing really that exciting (unless you love spinach), but the sweet potatoes were glorious, a perfect blend of sweet and savoury. 

Crispo Pork Shank with Quince, Salsify, Chiles, and Onion Rings

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Capelli d'Angelo with Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Calamari, Garlic, and Basil 

We ordered three mains: my brother chose the pork shank, my mom chose classic spaghetti and meatballs, and I chose the seafood angel hair pasta. The pork shank was soft and tender, with a slightly smoky flavour. On its own, it's good, but when eaten in conjunction with the quince and salsify, it's beautiful. The spaghetti and meatballs, a favourite dish of my mom's, is as classic as it gets at any Italian restaurant, but Crispo makes it count with tender, flavourful meatballs, perfectly al dente pasta, and the freshest tomatoes and tomato sauce. However, the clear winner of the night (and it was a unanimous decision), was the angel hair pasta. The plushest shrimps and scallops, and the most tender, perfectly cooked calamari, tossed with fresh garlic, basil, and tomatoes. Such clean, light flavours mingling together. I normally prefer thicker ribbons of pasta like fettuccine or pappardelle, but the angel hair works beautifully here because it doesn't compete with the heartiness of the other ingredients and also because this particular dish doesn't have a heavy sauce. I don't think you could go wrong with any of the pasta options at Crispo, but this one was just... perfection.

Shake Shack
Madison Square Park
Madison Avenue & East 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-6600

240 West 14th Street
New York, NY 10011
(212) 229-1818
6 comments on "NYC — Spring 2014: Food Journal (Day 3: Shake Shack and Crispo)"
  1. Next time I go to Shake Shack, I'm eating at least two of those burgers. Make the wait worthwhile, you know?

    1. Oh, absolutely. Get some custard, too, while you're at it. ;)

  2. URGH!!!! Ryan and I had plans to go to the Shake Shack when we were in NYC, but the line up was insane and we were headed to the Museum of Natural History, so we didn't wait. It was one of the few things I regretted missing...but I have every intention of being in NY again, so I know I'll get there :)

    1. Yeah, the line-ups can be daunting -- definitely not a place to just "drop by for a quick bite." LOL. You go on a MISSION. Soooooo worth it, though. Hope you get to try it soon!!!

  3. I LOVE SOPPRESSATA. There is a shop in Seattle called Salumi, which is run by Mario Batali's parents. They have a whole ton of cured meats and even a waiting list for some of their more rare's nuts. Their sandwich shop is always packed during the week but some of the local grocery stores in the city sell their cured meats, and I'm telling you - TO DIE FOR.

    Also, I like Brussels Sprouts but thought I was the only person in the world who did, lol. My dad told me I must be adopted because the "little cabbages are disgusting."

    1. WHY IS CURED MEAT SO GOOD?!? One day, I will spend an entire day dedicated to eating salami. I will be so bloated from salt overload but it will be worth it.

      LOL!!! I think it's just how you cook Brussels sprouts. I mean, if it's just like, boiled or steamed or blanched (how the fuck do you cook these things) with no flavour added, I can see how it can be unappealing... I didn't have my first Brussels sprout until like, two years ago. Seriously. (My cousin made it for Thanksgiving dinner -- she roasted them and tossed them with bacon and I was like, WHAT HAVE I BEEN MISSING?) Kinda obsessed with them now, LOL.


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