A line of people stretched down Aurora Avenue and into the neighborhood below Canlis, the famed Seattle fine-dining establishment, as it played host Saturday to a pop-up event previewing Shack Shack, a burger joint with East Coast roots.
Burger fans came out in force to sample food and drink and listen to live music and get a taste of what to expect when Shake Shack moves into the Pacific Northwest for the first time this fall. The chain, founded in New York City in 2004, is taking over a space at 2115 Westlake Ave., in the heart of the South Lake Union neighborhood that is home to Amazon.
Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti, a previous general manager at Canlis when he lived in Seattle, told GeekWire Saturday that he thinks Seattle can handle a new burger joint.
“We’re found of saying we didn’t invent the hamburger, we sure won’t be the last people,” Garutti said. “There’s some great burgers here in Seattle that we all love — some of the classics. And we just hope people will put us on their rotation.”
The pop-up received 10,000 RSVPs in the weeks leading up to the event and people were lining up early Saturday before doors opened at 11 a.m. at Canlis’s location near the Aurora Bridge overlooking Lake Union. Shortly after 1 p.m. — two hours before the event was scheduled to end — an email went out saying they were at capacity and only those still in line would gain entry.
The menu was a mash-up that included Shake Shack staples — the classic ShackBurger and crinkle-cut fries — and a Canlis special — a Dungeness crab melt.
Food was prepared and served in a lower parking lot where people ate at picnic tables while three bands played sets from a nearby stage.
Dave Yusen works for a restaurant group in Seattle and he’s previously had Shake Shack at locations in New York and Las Vegas. He had two single burgers, fries and a cold beer to wash it down.
“Shake Shack’s awesome and Canlis is a local institution. It’s a fun partnership and fun thing to do on a Saturday,” Yusen said. “I put Shake Shack up there with In-N-Out. It of course battles our local burger, Dick’s — different type of burger but it’s our homegrown.”
Friends Catie Shelton, Jordyn Berg and Gabrielle Ivy gathered around a table sampling their burgers and beverages. Only Ivy had previously eaten Shack Shack, in Las Vegas, which is the next closest location to the Seattle restaurant — until San Francisco opens, also this fall.
Preparing to taste Shake Shack for the first time, Berg — a marketing coordinator with Ride the Ducks — had to first photograph her food for social media purposes. Then she took a bite.
“It’s really tasty. I like the bun a lot,” Berg said. “The burger is really great.”
Wandering the parking lot and greeting folks, Garutti, the CEO, said he was excited about Shake Shack taking its place in ever-changing Seattle, especially in the part of the city where Amazon has had such an impact.
“That area of Seattle has changed completely, dramatically since I lived here 20 years ago, obviously. And every time I come back it’s a different place,” Garutti said. “We’ve got a really cool free-standing place, right near the Whole Foods, right near where Amazon is. I hope people will come out day and night, weekends … it should be a real community gathering place. That’s what Shake Shack at its best has always been.”