The Shake Shack on Santa Fe in old Overland Park (8039 Santa Fe Dr.) has taken over the spot vacated by Wheat State Pizza recently. I've lived in this neighborhood for nearly 10 years and this is one of those locations that seems to have had a new restaurant every year. It just seems like it's a tough place to make a living. But, I think Shake Shack has a pretty good shot at making it.
The painting on the windows says "Local, Organic, Sustainable", 3 words that excite hipsters and recycling friendly suburbanites like no other. I'm only interested in if it tastes good. I was heartened to see whole potatoes laying around the grill area as I walked in the door meaning they're cutting their own fries. If a place is cutting their own fries they're taking a giant step towards being a really good restaurant. As soon as the 2 ladies in line in front of me placed their burger orders, I saw the grill man reach in the fridge, grab 2 balls of hamburger and flatten them on the grill. Made to order burgers, another step in the right direction. When I looked at the menu, I marveled at the simplicity of a six item menu. Single basket, double basket, veggie basket, fries, onion rings, shakes/floats, there was beauty in the simplicity. I ordered a single basket and was confronted with the question "fries or rings", I froze. To which the counter guy (who I'm pretty sure is the owner) said "we can also do a fifty/fifty". Sold. I inquired what kind of shakes they had, only chocolate and vanilla on this day but they usually have strawberry. The owner was surprised at how quickly the strawberry shakes sold. He could have sold one more, but I had to have chocolate instead.
Do you want to go here if you're in a big hurry? Probably not, it takes a couple minutes to cook your burger. But, you're at least entertained a little bit by the owner who is a pretty happy guy. He's happy to tell you to bring in some art to hang on the walls. He's happy to talk to the customers. He's probably pretty happy because he owns a pretty cool little burger place. He's happy to let you put the trojan helmet on that's laying around on the counter. It's not a really organized system they're running over there, but they keep it fun and loose. A little happiness around makes the wait much more bearable.
I got my burger to go but I very easily could have eaten it there. They have a couple of tables outside where you can look through the park and see the historic carriage house. Or you can sit at one of the 8 barstools in the restaurant if the weather isn't to your liking. I brought my burger home and unwrapped it and was a little disappointed in the look of my fries and rings. I tried a fry and it was a bit soggy like it wasn't rinsed before it was fried. The onion rings were obviously hand cut and battered and, while inconsistent in thickness, were well cooked. The burger was stacked with some lettuce, a thick slice of tomato and enough diced onions for 4 burgers at any place. The Shake Shack promises that all of these items are locally grown, including the beef. I'm not sure if that means they won't have tomatoes in the winter or if they'll have South American tomatoes or what. I don't get locavorism, but I do know that all the toppings were delicious (my son ate the tomato). The burger taste was quite beefy with very few other flavors. If you like a simple burger like you'd get at a family picnic, the Shake Shack has the burger for you. I had to throw a couple of dashes of Tabasco and some ketchup on to make it good, your taste may vary. I will say they don't scrimp on throwing in condiment packets in your to go bag. I left the mustard and mayo packets there. With some salt on the fries and rings, everything was quite satisfactory. It was a good $5 lunch, $8 with a shake which was also good but a little ordinary. The biggest compliment I can give a place is to say I ate every bite and I ate every bite of my Shake Shack lunch.
The Shake Shack wants to be your organic, local burger stand and I can't really say they aren't organic or local, I'll leave that for someone who cares about such things to determine. What they are though is a good little local burger stand. Eating there is almost like going back in time to an old McDonald's with 10 cent burgers. There's nothing extraordinary here, but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I'd like to think that The Shake Shack will become a neighborhood staple like John's Space Age, Villa Capri or the Dragon Inn. I do know the owner can definitely become one of the bigger characters in the neighborhood. Go, give The Shake Shack a shot, but be sure to take cash or check because they don't take the cards.