Shaking Up the D.C. Burger Scene

New York's Shake Shack will open a D.C. location

Everybody has a favorite boutique burger, and the menu of options is expanding.

Locally based Five Guys is expanding nationwide at Starbucks speed, while BGR The Burger Joint is focusing on the mid-Atlantic region. Arlington’s Ray's Hell Burger isn’t a chain, but it got a lot of press from President Obama’s two trips there. I once worked with someone who drove 140 miles round-trip one night just to go to Sonic.

Now, New York favorite Shake Shack is hitting D.C. By this time next year, the restaurant, which was named New York’s best burger by New York magazine a few years ago, is scheduled to be set up at 18th and Connecticut NW, just south of Dupont Circle.

TBD’s Sommer Mathis is happy to have the “mega-popular” chain coming to town, but worries about the location. Shake Shack “is famous in New York not just for its burgers. It's famous for its crazy-long lines.” Like the infamous D.C. Vehicle Inspection Station, the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park even has an online “ShackCam” displaying live pictures of the line, so customers can decide if it’s worth the trip.

Greater Greater Washington’s M.V. Jantzen similarly says that while Shake Shack “has received many accolades for its food,” what makes its original restaurant “so iconic is not its hamburgers and milk shakes, but its relationship with the park in which it's located.” Jantzen thinks a spot on the National Mall would be better. It’s a great idea -- but it’s not gonna happen.

So will the Shake Shack invasion mean a burger war with Five Guys? According to Grub Street New York, maybe not. Danny Meyer impresario Danny Meyer, the man behind a host of restaurants, proposes an informal alliance. In a recent Fox Business News appearance, Meyer said, “We loved when [Five Guys] came to our backyard here in New York City. And I don't think Washingtonians are going to stop eating Five Guys just 'cause Shake Shack comes. But if we can make the rotation -- so that every time you eat a Five Guys burger, maybe you eat a Shackburger -- I think we can hold our own.”

Sounds good. Now, can we get Gray’s Papaya to come on down to D.C. and cut a similar deal with Ben’s Chili Bowl?

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