At the newest Shake Shack, you can order a side of chicken nuggets with your burger.
That’s one of the exclusive items on the menu at the West Village location, opening Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the corner of Varick and Clarkson streets.
The Chick’n Bites, which were first teased in Shake Shack’s cookbook last year, are crispy pieces of breaded chicken breast served with BBQ or honey mustard sauces ($4.39/six-piece, $6.39/10-piece).
The nuggets are a result of customer demand, CEO Randy Garutti said.
“This is a huge, huge deal,” Garutti said. “This is something that we’ve never ever done in a Shake Shack before, and it’s been one of the things that we’ve heard forever from everyone.”
Also exclusive to the West Village location is a cold brew matcha latte — a blend of Stumptown cold brew coffee, matcha and sweetened cream ($5.89). It is also the only location outside of Tokyo to serve Shake Shack’s black sesame shake — a vanilla shake blended with black sesame ($4.29/12 oz., $5.99/16 oz.).
After gathering feedback at the West Village location the Chick’n Bites will roll out to other Shake Shacks in the city later this month and other locations across the country in October.
The company has learned its lesson after it replaced its frozen crinkle-cut fries with fresh-cut fries in 2013 to much backlash.
“We’re really proud of them, but one thing we didn’t really check in was with our guests, and we never stopped to say to them, ‘What do you guys think about this?’” Shake Shack’s culinary director, Mark Rosati, said of the fresh-cut fries, which were eventually switched back to crinkle-cut in 2014. “We just went for it and we started to roll it out nationwide.”
With the Chick’n Bites, Shake Shack looks to gather feedback before bringing it to other locations.
“Right now it’s a little bit of a test,” Rosati said. “Are they perfect right now? Is there anything else we can do?”
The West Village location — the 22nd Shake Shack in NYC — will serve as a testing ground in more ways than one; it is also home to the company’s Innovation Kitchen — a testing lab for new menu items, specials and chef collabs.
The kitchen has previously shared space at the Upper East Side, Downtown Brooklyn and Midtown East Shake Shack kitchens, with Rosati and his team coming up with permanent menu items like the Smoke Shack burger and specials at new locations, like Hong Kong and forthcoming Shanghai.
Now, it has its own dedicated space and equipment — including a new combi oven, which offers both convection and steam cooking — where it will develop items before they’re added to the menu on the location’s lower level (pop down to the restroom and you’ll get a glimpse of the kitchen). First tastes might even be available to customers at the West Village Shack.
“I think it’s going to cut down on the time between creating and actually bringing it to the Shacks, which is very exciting,” Rosati said.
Devotees of Shake Shack will notice one thing missing from the West Village Shack — its signature concretes. They’ve been left off the menu for now to leave room to play around.
“What I wanted to do is just simplify a lot of what we do here,” Rosati said. “So we have that room and we have that bandwidth to add different stuff at will.”
The West Village location is one of the few Shake Shacks to have kiosk ordering, as the company — which fine dining restaurateur Danny Meyer first opened in 2004 in Madison Square Park and now has more than 130 locations globally — looks to advance its tech.
“It’s not just food that’s going to be innovative — it’s going to be our technology,” Garutti said. “It’s going to be our new ways to order. It’s going to be working on delivery . . . Those innovations will take place here first.”