Tasty Burger vs Shake Shack taste test

Earlier last year, burgeoning Boston hamburger chain Tasty Burger opened a location in Cambridge’s Harvard Square. Tasty Burger has a pretty strong pedigree, coming from the same restaurant group as Franklin Cafe and Citizen Public House. Their burgers are tasty. Just this past weekend, NY burger titan Shake Shack continued their Northeast expansion by opening a location right across the Square from Tasty Burger. Within eyesight of each other, the two gourmet fast-food burger joints circle each other warily like two anthropomorphic cheeseburgerboxers (this doesn’t really happen, but imagine).

As soon as I heard Shake Shack was going into a space about 100 yards from Tasty Burger, I knew we’d have to do a taste test of some sort. Heavily inspired by this A Hamburger Today Shake Shack vs In-N-Out vs Five Guys bi-coastal taste test, we set up something similar pitting New York upstart Shake Shack against local favorite Tasty Burger. When I say “heavily inspired” I mean, we probably wouldn’t have done this without that post. I also mean I borrowed heavily from the format.

Please note: The “Boston vs New York” thing is always fraught with peril, ESPECIALLY the “Boston food vs New York food” debate. We are not getting into any of that here. For the sake of science, we put that aside and endeavored to decide impartially, once and for all, which was a better burger: Tasty Burger or Shake Shack.

The Judges
Imitable illustrator, Chris Piascik
Roxy’s Grilled Cheese and Burger owner, James DiSabatino
Flour baker, Keith Brooks
Super friend, Holly Hutchenson
Me

Tasty burger vs shake shack taste test

The Method
At 12:03 PM on Tuesday, January 7th 2014, Keith entered and Tasty Burger Harvard Square to pick up 4 regular cheeseburgers, 1 cheeseburger without sauce (Chris doesn’t like white foods like mayo) (I know), and one veggie burger. James entered Shake Shack at 12:05 PM and ordered the same thing. The burgers were then brought to my house in an insulated bag and eaten at 1PM. We used Mexican Coke as a palate cleanser, as you do, even if it isn’t really better. There were 6 criteria for rating each burger: The Bun, The Cheese, The Toppings, The Sauce, The Value, and the Meat. In this instance, we didn’t weight any of the criteria higher than others. There were also two unweighted criteria: Time to Burger, and 8-month old acceptance. These criteria were recorded, but did not factor in final judgement. In a draw, taste testers were able to award points to both burgers. To be perfectly scientific, we should have eaten the burgers 5 minutes apart to account for Shake Shack’s burgers coming off the grill 5 minutes later, but this is cheeseburger science and a fast food burger shouldn’t deteriorate if left for 5 extra minutes.

Criteria Shake Shack Tasty Burger
Size: 1/4 pound patty 1/3 pound patty
How cooked: Flat top Grill
Bun: Potato Bun Sesame Bun
Cheese: American Cheddar American Blend
Toppings: Lettuce, tomato* Lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions
Sauce: Thousand Island** Ketchup, mayo
Value: $4.85 for a cheeseburger. $1.21 per ounce. $5.25 for a cheeseburger. $.98 per ounce.
Meat: “100% all-natural Angus beef, vegetarian fed, humanely raised and source verified. No hormones or antibiotics – EVER.” “All natural, Certified Humane®, and NEVER given any growth hormones or antibiotics. The steer are grass fed and finished on a 100% vegetarian grass and grain diet.”

*The AHT review above mentions onions and pickles. Our burgers did not have.
**The AHT review above mentions ketchup and mayo. Our burgers did not have.

Reminder, a draw results in a point awarded to both burgers. And sauce only has 4 votes because Chris doesn’t like sauce. (I don’t know either.)

Shake shack vs tasty burger taste test

The Bun
Score: 4-1 Tasty Burger
Comments on the Tasty Burger bun:
“Love the sesame seeds on Tasty Burger’s bun.” “It’s got a moist, springy texture.” “Very sturdy.” “Too big.” “If I was just eating the two buns on their own, I would like the Tasty Burger bun better.”

Comments on the Shake Shack bun
“Perfect burger to bun ratio. It allowed meat to really shine.” “I love potato rolls, but the Tasty bun worked better.” “I liked the Tasty Burger bun better for the first two bites, and Shake Shack better for last two bites. It soaks up the juices”

The Cheese
Score: 4-4 Tied
Comments on the Tasty Burger cheese
“Tangy. Nice tangy flavor.”

Comments on the Shake Shack cheese
“A little more subtle. Not a big American Cheese fan.” “Hard to taste anything, it’s completely melted into the burger.”

The Toppings
Score: 5-4 Shake Shack
Comments on the Tasty Burger toppings
“The way the burger is wrapped to go doesn’t give the lettuce much chance to stay strong.” “The pickles and onions were a nice touch.”

Comments on the Shake Shack toppings
“Is this supposed to have pickles and onions?”

The Sauce
Score 3-1 Tasty Burger
Comments on the Tasty Burger sauce
“Ketchup and mayo, not mixed.” “Classic.” “Reminded me of backyard burger.”

Comments on the Shake Shack sauce
“By itself it tasted good.” “Pretty good on first bite around the edges. Not as good in the middle of the burger when it’s concentrated and you get a mouthful.” “Is this supposed to have ketchup and mayo?”

The Value
Score: 5-0 Tasty Burger
Comments on the Tasty Burger value
“Pretty even. Both will satisfy. Just price per pound edge goes to Tasty Burger. Tasty Burger is 100% Certified Humane beef. Shake Shack uses 100% no antibiotics no hormones.” “More expensive meat, probably. Bigger sandwich. No contest” “Substantial.”

Comments on the Shake Shack value
“You wouldn’t feel cheated at Shake Shack, it’s just Tasty Burger is a bigger sandwich.”

The Meat
Score 4-1 Shake Shack
Comments on the Tasty Burger meat
“I like the seasoning, grill taste, and the texture.”

Comments on the Shake Shack meat
“Seasoned much better.” “A lot more flavor.” “Tons of beef flavor.” “The first bite was spongy, not in a good way.”

Unweighted criteria
Response by an 8 month old to burger meat washed of any sauce: While it appeared the Tasty Burger burger was enjoyed with the Shake Shack burger being spit out immediately, the piece of Tasty Burger burger was found on the floor some time later. This is a draw and I will have to teach my daughter to honor my food preferences.
Veggie Burger: Shake Shack’s is two portabello mushrooms fried with cheese in the middle. The Tasty Burger veggie burger is a formed patty that is pleasantly spicy. If you want something that tastes like it might be bad for you, go with Shake Shack, if you want a healthier option, go with Tasty Burger. They were both palatable. This is a draw.
Speed of Service: Tasty Burger took 8 minutes to produce the order, Shake Shack took 10 minutes. Tasty Burger is the clear winner if 2 minutes is important to you.

The Results
If we’re just counting the scores on the different criteria above, Tasty Burger won 3-2 with one draw. If you add up all the votes, it’s 21-15 Tasty Burger. And for overall burger, judges picked Tasty Burger 4-1. While it’s clear from these results Tasty Burger makes a superior burger, everyone was supremely satisfied by the Shake Shack burger. It was not my intention with this taste test to equivocate. I wanted to find a clear winner, which in Tasty Burger, we seem to have done. Before tasting the burgers, I asked all the judges to think about who they expected and/or wanted to win. 4 judges to 1 thought Shake Shack was going to win “because of all the hype.” If there was any bias, it was in their favor. Without exception, all the judges agreed Tasty Burger and Shake Shack make a terrific fast food burger.

Tasty Burger’s use of Certified Humane® is something to applaud. I advised the judges to not include this fact in their voting in either The Value category or The Meat category. Tasty Burger won The Value vote anyway based on the size to price ratio of the burger, and would have won The Meat category if this factor was considered. All the judges agreed the Certified Humane® label was a reason on its own to choose Tasty Burger.

This cheeseburger taste test was a great afternoon, and all of the judges encourage you to perform your own. In the future some changes to the method might include blind tasting, and judges who haven’t previously tried either burger, along with judges from New York.

These final comments do a good job illustrating how close the burgers were in taste and quality:
“Shake Shack isn’t just serving meat, they’re serving a complete burger, and when judging the total package, Tasty Burger is just better.” “From now on, I’m going to go to Harvard Square and get both.” “I’m still going to eat both burgers constantly and switch it up, but if somebody could only go to one place and asked me which, I’d say Tasty Burger.” “There’s a better chance of coming away fully satisfied at Tasty Burger.” “Once I found out the information of the humane beef at Tasty Burger, it would sway my decision to Tasty Burger because of how close the burger experience was between the two of them and how geographically close they are. However, where I live, Five Guys is closer, and is a superior burger to both of them.”

Tasty Burger vs Shake Shack taste test

Amanda Palmer singing Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy at Whole Foods karaoke

I’m not sure this video will work because it’s on Facebook, but Mike Young was at Whole Foods Alewife tonight, where they have karaoke(?) and Amanda Palmer was there and sang Let’s Go Crazy by Prince. Cambridge is weird. She nailed it.

http://www.facebook.com/v/10100497769333171

Amanda Palmer singing Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy at Whole Foods karaoke

Lucero at The Middle East, Cambridge, MA 10/18/09

I heard someone in the crowd telling a friend, “The last time I saw Lucero was on a boat.” They had a slide guitarist that night, but I was thinking that if you hadn’t seen or heard Lucero in 18 months, seeing them Sunday night would have been something of a shock. Lucero officially added keyboardist Rick Steff and slide guitarist Todd Beene to the band, cementing the lineup of the last couple shows I’ve seen. And at least on this tour in support of their new album 1372 Overton Park, they’re playing with a three piece horn section. Adding 5 (FIVE!) additional people to a 4 piece band will obviously change things.

1372 Overton Park features horns on every track except the last, so it was pretty clear Lucero would bring a horn section on the road for at least this tour, but I wondered how they’d work the horns in with the older material. If I remember correctly, the solution was a set list that looked like this: a couple of new ones with horns, a couple of old ones with horns, a couple of new ones with horns, a couple of old ones with horns, horns take a break while band plays a couple of old ones, Ben with slide and keyboards, horns come back for a couple of new ones, a couple of old ones with horns, a new one with horns, thank you, good night. Mixing the horns in and out, was something that may have been better suited to 2 distinct sets, but I’m not sure how that would have flowed.They didn’t play “What are you Willing to Lose” (which they skipped the night before in New York), unfortunately, but they did hit most of the new album, along with a rousing version of “The Blue and The Gray” “The War”, “Mom”, “Chain Link Fence”, “I Can Get Us Out of Here”, “All Sewn Up”, and “Last Pale Light” from Ben’s solo album.

Overall, it was a solid set, lacking some of the drunken sloppiness that had characterized shows from a couple years ago (though we got some of that towards the end, too). The last couple shows have been more sober than the first couple I saw, and while previously, that relative sobriety brought something of a stiffness to the sets, the band seems to be growing into it more.

I also sensed something of a self-consciousness to the band’s set choices… Lucero likes playing and cares about their fans, to be sure, but a two hour set is long for a band with punk rock roots. I wondered if that was acknowledgment of the $20 ticket price. A price, by the way, which probably kept the Middle East from selling out, but just barely, as the room was mostly full. (Incidentally, Lucero played for OVER 2 hours this spring at the Paradise, and tickets were $15 then, so who knows.) Mixing the horns in and out, was something that may have been better suited to 2 distinct sets, but I’m not sure how that would have flowed. There was definitely a desire to play the new songs, but also a willingness to take requests from the crowd for old songs, even if horn arrangements weren’t prepared for those songs. Maybe by the end of the tour it will be horns all night, but I couldn’t tell if that was the plan.

A note about the sound. I had planned to watch the show from the raised bar area at stage right, but the sound was so bad up there I retreated to the floor in the middle of the first song where the sound was fine (after a song or 2). I think it might have been an issue with the stage volume being too loud for the sound guy to mix appropriately, but the sound on the floor straightened out eventually, while the sound on the raised bar area never did.

I’m interested to see Lucero next time around. Have they kept the horns and added arrangements to all of the old songs, reworked the new songs to accommodate missing horn lines, or have they done what they did Sunday and mixed it all together? This last option would surprise me. Frankly, Lucero has a relatively standard base sound and song structure; 2 guitars, bass, drums, no crazy solos, versechorusbridgerepeat, etc. And yet, as a band, they’ve continued to grow, as songwriters and as performers, while continuing to write songs that resonate with their fans. Because of this, it’s unlikely they’ll come back through town without changing something up, which is about all you want from a band.

Lucero at The Middle East, Cambridge, MA 10/18/09

Boston Biking Links

-Props in the NYTimes for Boston’s efforts to become a friendlier city for bicyclists.

Plans to bring bikesharing to Boston [Yes please]:

Bike sharing is the next step. The city envisions making available between 1,000 and 3,000 bikes at stations 300 or 400 yards apart, located at subway and bus stops, main squares, tourist sites, and across city neighborhoods.

-The Boston Globe takes on Boston’s poorly mannered bikers and Boston Biker takes them to task for not really getting to the heart of the problem; that it’s not just bicyclists in Boston that are irresponsible rule breakers.

Boston Biking Links

Fake Traffic Explained

I’ve written before about “Fake Traffic” and a developed theory called “The Wave Theory of Traffic” and I’m happy once again to write that scientists have used math and science to prove that ‘Phantom’ Traffic Jams exist and they’re working to mitigate them.

The MIT team found speed, traffic density and other factors can determine conditions that will lead to a jamiton and how quickly it will spread. Once the jam forms, the researchers say, drivers have no choice but to wait for it to clear. The new model could lead to roads designed with sufficient capacity to keep traffic density below the point at which a jamiton can form.

Via Boing Boing.

Fake Traffic Explained

Bike Lanes in Boston

Mike sent over this video comparing the future of biking on 2 of Boston’s bigger streets, Mass Ave and Comm Ave. The short documentary makes the point that the streets are going in opposite directions (as it were) in regards to bike safety.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=4504172&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

And here, via Dave, is a short story about London city planners using a 3D sidewalk design to try to slow bikers down. I don’t think it’s going to work more than once.

Bike Lanes in Boston