Alright, I've only had one Shake Shack burger, and that was a few years ago. But I remember the pleasure of eating outside in Madison Square Park as the highlight of the experience, not the burger itself.
The surroundings in which I ate my cheeseburger from Harriet's Kitchen on the other hand, were not nearly as lovely. This dingy Upper West Side hole-in-the-wall has just two tables wedged in front of a take out counter. But the burger--oh! the burger--if Harriet's required me to eat it on a West Side Highway traffic island during rush hour, I'd comply.
The thick patty was truly medium rare, charred to a perfect crisp on the outside, bursting with juice on the inside. A toasted sesame-seed-sprinkled bun was sturdy enough to absorb the juice, and the burger itself was smothered in a thick layer of cheese topped with a tangle of sweet sauteed onions. This was a burger I couldn't put down, except to eat some equally perfect french fries-deep dark golden brown with potato peels on.
So, skip the line at the Shack, hop the 1 train and visit Harriet's. You're even close enough to Central Park that you could get some take out and improve your surroundings.
502 Amsterdam Ave.
New York, NY 10024
between 84th and 85th Sts