The number one reason to put black truffles on anything is to make you feel damn classy. Their flavor, though exquisite, will always be secondary to the fact that truffles are the food of the rich and famous—a luxury for a precious few. Back in my cheffing days I managed to finagle my way into a complimentary $500 black truffle tasting menu at a four-star restaurant, and while it was good, it sure as hell wasn’t $500 worth of good. As much as I love the flavor of black truffles, the entire reason I conned my way into that dinner was so I could wear a fancy dress and pretend I was special.
Last year Shake Shack began experimenting with how to bring black truffles to the masses, collaborating with Regalis Foods—the renowned truffle, caviar, and Japanese Waygu beef purveyor of the 1% that normally caters to Michelin-starred restaurants. (Including the restaurant where a man in a tuxedo brought me a tiny tufted stool for my purse to sit on.) The experiment was a fruitful one, and now it’s going nationwide. The Black Truffle Burger and Parmesan Garlic Fries with Black Truffle Sauce will be making Shake Shack the most elegant burger joint in the game until January 10, after which it shall turn back into a fast-casual pumpkin and thrust you back into your former truffle-free existence.
The truffling of both the burger and the fries is accomplished via a black truffle sauce, which did not come to play. The dark flecks in the sauce are not actual minced black truffles, because if they were, the burger would cost $200. Instead, those flecks are made from far less glamorous fungi—but despite their lack of pedigree, caramelized mushrooms are always spectacular, and more so when they’re mingling with herbs, Port and Madeira wines, sherry vinegar, Parmesan cheese, and the star ingredient: Regalis Foods’ Black Truffle Arbequina Oil, made with organic California olive oil and Spanish black truffles.
In the case of Shake Shack’s Parmesan Garlic Fries with Black Truffle Sauce ($4.79), this Upstairs/Downstairs culinary collaboration is a resounding success. When I welcome the opulence of black truffles into my humdrum existence, I want that truffle flavor front and center, with very little else to distract me from my illusions of grandeur. Shake Shack’s fries are practically perfect in every way, and their crinkle-cut construction is the perfect vessel to scoop a generous portion of black truffle sauce into my mouth. I cannot recommend these fries highly enough, and even if you’re not really a Shake Shack kind of person, they’re still worth seeking out.
I wish I could say the same about the Black Truffle Burger ($8.79). It’s a standard Shake Shack patty topped with Gruyere cheese, crispy shallots, and a slick of black truffle sauce on a toasted potato bun. Ordinarily I am over-the-moon enamored by Shake Shack’s burgers, but black truffles aside, this was a disaster.
Gruyere does not melt as quickly, or as thoroughly, as American cheese does. This means the cheese on top of this burger transformed into an icky, congealed disaster mere minutes after arriving at my table. So much of a classic Shackburger’s magic comes from the intermingling of beef grease and processed cheese; underneath a layer of cold, coagulated Gruyere, it was impossible to ignore the fact my burger was dry.
Then there is the issue of the crispy fried shallots, which were oversalted, extra greasy, and obliterated the taste of everything surrounding it, especially the truffle. If you order this burger, I highly recommend asking for the shallots on the side so you can either add them to your own taste or pick at them as a side dish. While I was initially excited that my order included such a generous portion of black truffle sauce, I ended up barely detecting its presence, thanks to all the other noise in this sandwich.
To wash down your truffle fries (you can skip the burger), Shake Shack has three new seasonal lemonades, two of which are worth checking out. The Cranberry Orange Lemonade tastes neither of cranberries nor oranges, is sickly sweet like frozen concentrate, and is not worth its price tag. Instead, do your best to choose between the Apple Cider Lemonade and Pomegranate Yuzu Lemonade, which are both outstanding to the point that I will be genuinely sad when their seasonal stint comes to a close. I’d suggest going to Shake Shack with a friend and ordering both drinks to share, along with a few orders of the Parmesan Garlic Fries with Black Truffle Sauce. Maybe wear a fancy dress and bring your own tufted purse stool, too. You deserve a taste of the good life.
- Parmesan Garlic Black Truffle Fries: A+
- Black Truffle Burger: C-
- Cranberry Orange Lemonade: B-
- Apple Cider Lemonade: A
- Pomegranate Yuzu Lemonade: A-
If you get all truffled up at Shake Shack this season, let us know what you think.