I was skeptical at first, but like many New Yorkers, I call the burger from Shake Shack in Madison Square Park my favourite in the city (and maybe tie it with the burger from Cozy Soup ‘n’ Burger in the West Village). So naturally when I heard the burgers from the new Fresh-N-Fast on 23rd St. compared to the ones at Shake Shack, I had to go. I also heard them called blatant ripoffs of California’s famous In-N-Out burgers, so I had to bring along my San Franciscan friend Beth to act as judge.
The problem was, um, that Beth had never actually eaten an In-N-Out burger, something which I probably should have cleared up before I, you know, invited her along to test the burger for me. Instead, she apparently always orders the grilled cheese, which is what she ordered from Fresh-N-Fast. I always used to order the grilled cheese from Sonic back in the day, so I won’t make fun of her, but I should mention that I was doing that during the eight years in which I was a VEGETARIAN and that NORMAL PEOPLE should not be ordering cheese sandwiches at a burger joint.
Aside from the grilled cheese, Fresh-N-Fast has the sparsest menu possible (burgers, fries, shakes) and decor to match (counter space along one wall but no chairs). The staff was very cheerful, which helped us excuse the unnaturally long time I had to wait for my burger. But oh, was it a burger worth waiting for: thick and juicy and sloppy with sauce with melted cheese oozing out of the sides of the bun. The overly-greasy (in a good way) fries reminded me of a county fair, but the cheese sauce wasn’t your usual processed nacho nastiness.
As much as I loved the burger, it was definitely hurt by the lack of the signature Shake Shack sauce, and there’s just no comparing the accouterments at the two places. The cheddar on the fries at Fresh-N-Fast is delicious, but the blend on the Shake Shack fries is special. The shakes at Fresh-n-Fast are thick and flavorful, but Shake Shack has the best shakes ever in flavors like Candy Cane Crunch and Figgy Pudding. Plus, Fresh-N-Fast is way overpriced, especially for the shake, which has already decreased in size since opening just a few weeks ago.
However, there’s exactly one reason to go to Fresh-N-Fast: it’s indoor, which means no waiting outside in the elements for a half an hour in the always-insane Shake Shack line. But that’s only if you think having your skin eaten away by the cold isn’t worth it for a superior burger. And I hope you don’t.
111 East 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010 (map)