There was something about the area near Rush and Ohio, where on Tuesday morning Chicagoans saw the city's first Shake Shack open. Although it wasn't quite Hot Doug's-esque, crowds of excited Chicagoans hit the pavement outside 66 E. Ohio St.
About 120 people lined up before the restaurant opened for the first taste of what Shake Shack offers. Employees handed out freebie beanies and sunglasses. Rose Montag arrived the earliest, at 8:30 a.m. She ditched school and work to attend the grand opening. She'd never eaten at a Shake Shack, but was very excited.
"My dad's from the East Coast and had it multiple times, but I've never had been graced with its presence," Montag, who later ordered a bun-less burger and a shake, Da S'mores, made with Bang Bang Pie's s'mores pie. Her order cost $10.22.
As time grew closer to the noon lunch hour, the line swelled down Ohio Street, stretching past Big Bowl and California Pizza Kitchen. Some customers were just plain curious about the East Coast import. Coincidentally, another New York-based restaurant, Eataly, stands just across the street.
The New York-based chain's griddled patties and Shack Sauce are staples for East Coast diners. But Chicago's no stranger to a good burger, what could Shake Shack bring to the table?
"We look out of our windows here and we like to take some of that and incorporate that into the menu," said Mark Rossati, culinary director of Shake Shack. "Because at the end of the day, as much as we've spent thinking about making the perfect hamburger or perfect milkshake, they're other people out there that's spent the same amount of time making food like the perfect red velvet cake or donut. We want to work with those guys."
Phil Kahn waited with friends Jonathan Feldman and Dave Brown, having sampled Shake Shake in New York and Washington, D.C. He imagined Shake Shack a perfect fit for Chicago's burger scene, sandwiched between McDonald's and Kuma's Corner in terms of pricing and quality. Eating Shake Shack without traveling to New York excited Feldman.
"We're really a place that any concept can thrive," Feldman said. "It shows that the New York business people—who created Shake Shack so successfully—want this to be here."