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Getting to Know You: What to Expect at Chicago's First Shake Shack

35-minute lines, secret items and what customers want were all part of the Shack's first week in Chicago.

Chicago's first Shake Shack in River North.
Chicago's first Shake Shack in River North.
Marc Much
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Even with freezing temperatures in Chicago over the weekend, customers still lined up outside for a taste of the city's first Shake Shack.

The New York import continues to draw customers after opening earlier this month. It's still a learning experiences as Chicago's customers feeling the restaurant out.

Downtown passersby wondered why customers were lining up on the sidewalk on Ohio Street. Children complained to their parents that waiting would take forever and that their cell phone batteries would die before they got their food. Eager customers wondered if the food ordering process differed from other restaurants.

It's a learning experience for both Chicago customers unfamiliar with this New York import, and the Shack's management, not used to the Chicago market.

One day, the restaurant ran out of bacon. Another day it ran out of pickled cherry peppers, the topping that adorns the "SmokeShack" burger, along with bacon, cheese and "ShackSauce." Supply levels were quickly restored in both cases.

One of Shake Shack's novelties is ordering off-the-menu items, like the peanut butter bacon burger, a failed menu experiment. However, on Saturday some customers reported employees were confused by such requests, and they were unable to fulfill off-the-menu orders.

Give the River North location some time, a restaurant spokesman said, as employees may be confused. They offer no training for these so-called secret items, but still should be able to fill these requests. They'll do better in the future, the spokesman added.

During Shake Shack's first weekend, eager customers lined up for the novelty, but in truth, the line does move quite briskly. Around noon on Saturday, an employee handing out menus to the crowd to customers the line would take about 30 to 35 minutes. It took about 15 minutes to reach inside, which is important as Chicago gears up for winter vortices, or whatever new weather term city dwellers will learn this season. Customers were placing their orders 10 minutes later, and staff delivered food to the table 10 minutes after taking orders. That made good on the 35-minute original estimate by the employee in line.

It's not difficult to find a table, and there are televisions tuned to sporting events inside, with a variety of beer served. Thought it might be diners' first impulse to quickly scarf down their burgers, it's OK to linger. And if you're unsure about dessert, don't worry, there's a cashier dedicated to ordering shakes, you can make the decision after you eat your burger.

Shake Shack

3519 North Clark Street, , IL 60613 (312) 766-5882 Visit Website