Renovated terminals are slowly but surely popping up across the country, thanks to efforts by companies like OTA and airlines pouring millions of dollars to rehab their outletless, joyless places of transit. Sure, that means nap pods, water-bottle refill stations, and shops hawking local goods—but what travelers really want in their new, fancy terminals are good places to eat and drink. Oyster bars, tapas joints, French bistros, and ramen shops are showing up, begging transient customers to fill their bellies. While these places have given travelers a wider variety of choice, unsurprisingly, these stepped-up spots rarely deliver on their promise of deliciousness—that tapas restaurant lacks the soul of the one you visited outside of the airport on your trip.
To which I say: Forget all that noise. There’s only one airport restaurant that gives me pure, unabashed, delicious joy I experience at restaurants in the real world. That place is Shake Shack.
At the moment, the only places to get a preflight Shake Shack is New York’s JFK, Dubai, and Kuwait City. Well, until now: As of June 28, 2017, LAX is the second domestic airport to have a Shack. It will be located in the shiny, new Terminal 3. Obviously, this is hugely exciting to me and other Shake Shack enthusiasts.
The best thing about tucking into a double Shackburger at JFK is that it tastes exactly like the high-quality food at any other Shake Shack location. That, obviously, is by design. “We require our airport operators to do things the same way we do them in our street-side locations,” says Michael Kark, VP for Global Licensed Business at Shake Shack. “All of our sourcing is pretty much the same, with some additions. You’ll see on our menu at LAX that we’re doing Stumptown Cold Brew with milk that we don’t have on our traditional menu. But our core food products are sourced in the exact same way. The people who grind our beef in the LA location will be the same who are grinding our beef at the LAX location.” Of course, traditional chain restaurants such as McDonald’s are also successful because they can give their customers the same consistent product no matter where in the world they are. The difference, however, is the high quality Shake Shack achieves and maintains—even in airport terminals, where customers have been conditioned to expect less.
That quality shows—whenever you happen upon a Shake Shack, whether it’s in an airport terminal or in your neighborhood, there will most likely be a long line. The transit-hub locations—which include train stations as well, such as Union Station in Washington, D.C. and Grand Central and Penn Station in New York City—are constantly mobbed. “Our airport locations do really well,” says Kark. “The other thing we have going for us in the airports is that we have breakfast. Our fans have really been excited about the breakfast options, which we started serving at JFK.” (Some insider intel: Shake Shack is currently testing having breakfast in its nontransit hub locations as well.)
You’ll see more airport locations popping up in the United States, too: The brand is actively looking to expand to other markets where Shake Shack has captured locals’ hearts with its custom-blend beef patties and divine concretes. Which airport does Shake Shack have its eyes on next? “We don’t have a signed lease yet, but we hope to be in Atlanta,” says Kark.
So when you fly through LAX and enter into the strange world of a post-security airport where so many real-world rules do not apply—such as your diet or how good food should taste—get a Shack burger. Or a Shroom burger. Or a frozen custard. And marvel at that strange feeling of being satisfied for much less than you’d spend at a celebrity chef’s sub-par airport restaurant.
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