First off, this is not to say that the rumor line is purporting that a Shake Shack is in the works for Seattle. Secondly, there isn’t a Shake Shack on the West Coast. Thirdly, this is all speculative and meant to be fun. Lastly, Shake Shack is awesome and would be welcome in Seattle. Where they may open is what we’re pondering.
I first learnt of Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack about four years ago. I was asking my friends for suggestions on places to eat in Manhattan. Amongst the usual suggestions one gets when going to the city (the Momofuku restaurants, Balthazar, Katz’s, etc) was this suggestion of a little burger joint in Madison Square Park. It was called Shake Shack and was one of the many restaurants from Danny Meyer. My knowledge of Danny Meyer (and his Union Square Restaurant Group) was nascent, but I had heard of him; that he was a restaurateur of the highest order, he wrote the book Setting the Table, and that was it. But Shake Shack was the place that I wanted to check. It was a burger stand in Madison Square Park. The lines were legendary. And their burgers and ‘concretes’ (milkshakes) were purported to be delicious. We were staying nearby and knew we had to go.
Of course it was tasty. But it wasn’t just the quality of the food at Shake Shack that made it great; it was the experience. The park setting was idyllic. The lines were long but were part of the experience and was managed well by the Shake Shack staff. The staff itself was professional and courteous. It was that experience that I keep returning to. A lot of people that try Shake Shack often say that they don’t understand what the big deal is. Which is an opinion they’re entitled to, but taken with just the burger is missing the point. When Shake Shack opens up new locations, it’s part of a cultural zeitgeist and can revitalize and energize the area near where it opens. And that is why we’re going to list out places in Seattle that I think would make sense if Danny Meyer would open up a Shake Shack in Seattle.
Let’s talk about the criteria. The first Shake Shack opened up in a park. The recent openings have used existing storefronts. I’d like to take the park formula as there are a few Seattle parks that could use a shake-up. Also consider nearby food options, walking traffic, available parking, and area revitalization. Yeah, we could theorize that Ballard or Capitol Hill would make sense, but that’s too easy. And besides, this is all food nerd make-believe so we’re going the park route and what it would mean for the area.
Yesler Park – Technically known as City Hall Park, but when I first talked with friends on a park that would make sense for Shake Shack, Yesler Park was the frontrunner. And it makes sense in that it gets good foot traffic, would stand alone for great food in the nearby neighborhood and would clean up a park known more for the homeless population. But the challenge is that this park doesn’t have parking. For car-friendly Seattle, this may be a sticking point. And the foot traffic for this location would drop exponentially on evenings and weekends. Yeah, having a Shake Shack would help, but not enough to overcome the demerits.
Gas Works Park – This would be a good location; available parking, along walking traffic. Give the neighborhood some good food options. Slowly change the pop culture opinion of the park where paintball fights happen. It’s hard to find negatives about opening up in Gas Works. I used to live on a houseboat next to Gas Works (#humblebrag) and the options for nearby eats were few and far between. Coupled with the revitalization of this area, I think Shake Shack would be awesome for Gas Works. But the industrial vibe of the neighborhood leaves a bit to be desired and when the sun sets, the number of visitors to Gas Works is next to nil.
Denny Park – This is the park for Seattleites that they have driven by but probably have never visited. Denny Park is located at the intersection of Dexter and Denny in the South Lake Union neighborhood, this was also a frontrunner for a Shake Shack. Nearby parking, major transportation area, walking traffic around the clock, and near major businesses. But that’s the thing; its proximity to the epicenter of Amazon.com and the throngs of Amazonians (and we’re not talking the Diana Prince-type) mean that the badge-wearing and backpack-bethrothed office worker would swarm and descend on a Shake Shack like locusts. I’d imagine it’d do quite well here, but as I’m the imaginary Danny Meyer in this scenario, we look onward.
Westlake Park – Now we’re talking. When the Seattle Seahawks are in the Super Bowl, the celebration party will most likely happen in Westlake Park. Known more for being the home of all sorts of walks of life, Westlake Park is a hub of activity. Protests, buskers, art projects; all live in Westlake Park. There is walking traffic, notably tourists and downtown office workers everyday and there is nearby parking. If only Starbucks would leave that location and Shake Shack could stroll right in. Lines would be epic in this spot, but lines would be epic anywhere. Additionally, this is another location that would breathe some reinvigorated life into the park as a place to spend time. And maybe the city could close Pine Street between Fourth and Fifth like it was before voters absentmindedly voted to have that stretch of street reopened.
Occidental Park – Pioneer Square is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Seattle. Dripping with history. Strong artist community. Good food options. Home of upstart tech companies. Near the sports stadiums. There is always something to do in Pioneer Square. And with enough patience, Pioneer Square will return to being one of Seattle’s greatest neighborhoods. But you’ll have to survive the construction and chaos from Bertha; I’m of course talking about the tunnel-boring behemoth and her wake that will result as the Viaduct fades away. Accounting for this, I can see a Shake Shack opening here. Good walking traffic, available parking, good food nearby that could absorb a Shake Shack. Can’t you just see it on the South end of the park near the Fallen Firefighter Memorial?
There you have it; five options for Danny Meyer to choose from. But in my hypothetical scenario where I am Danny Meyer, I’d open the Shake Shack in Westlake Park Park. I’d place it on the South Side towards the fountain and have it’s footprint the same as the Madison Square Park location. I’d choose this location as the high quality and inexpensive food options in this are are nil. There is a ton of mediocrity masking itself as food in a one-block radius. A Shake Shack in this part of Seattle would rectify that. Then, I’d open more Shake Shack’s all over Seattle. But I’m Danny Meyer, I’m loaded and I have a scalable burger joint that goes gangbusters. I may just open them up at all of these places.