Review: New Swicy Menu At Shake Shack Is Setting The Standard For 2024 Food Trends

Spicy chicken sandwich burger
Spicy chicken sandwich burger - Sara Kay/Tasting Table

The word "fusion" has seen a rise and fall as a food trend. Fusion is the result of joining two or more things together to form a single entity. When it comes to cooking, it's taking diverse cuisines and incorporating them together. A sushi roll of ginger rice and eel wrapped in a grape leaf, a lasagna filled with layers of flavorful bulgogi beef — when the right tastes are respectfully brought together to play, to fuse, it can create something magical.

The bright and shiny new year comes with a fusion of bright and shiny flavors, and some chains, like Shake Shack, are diving in burger-first with a new "Swicy" menu. A combination of sweet, spicy, and umami, the new menu highlights Korean ingredients like gochujang and kimchi to give eaters something they can sink their teeth into. According to Food Business News, one of the most exciting flavor trends making its way into the mainstream in 2024 is a deep expansion of savory, international flavors paired with comforting foods.

At Shake Shack, the Swicy menu is attempting to do just that. Danny Meyer's iconic chain is taking the flavors of Korean cuisine and applying them to three of the most well-respected fast-casual American foods on the market: the crispy chicken sandwich, the cheeseburger, and fries. Naturally, we had to take a taste test to see if Shake Shack managed to match them.

Read more: Restaurant Foods That Always Taste Better Than What You Make At Home

What Is The Shake Shack Swicy Menu?

new swicy menu items
new swicy menu items - Joel Goldber/Shake Shack

To really spice things up in 2024, Shake Shack's new menu is tapping into the unbeatable combination of sweet and spicy, nicknamed Swicy, as well as some new offerings aimed to induce the fifth and crucial flavor, umami. With the Swicy selection, Shake Shack is bringing back a menu favorite from 2021: a crispy, white-meat chicken piece coated in a gochujang glaze and topped with a white kimchi slaw made from Portland-based Choi's kimchi. It is dubbed the Korean Style Fried Chicken sandwich.

On the umami side, Shake Shack's new Korean BBQ burger is made with 100% Angus beef and topped with American cheese, crispy sweet onions, and fresh scallions and slathered in savory, salty Korean BBQ sauce. Both sandwiches come served in a toasted potato bun.In the starch category, Shake Shack is upgrading its standard crispy crinkle-cut fry offerings in two ways. First are the spicy Korean BBQ fries, topped with kimchi seasoning. One step further is the spicy Korean BBQ cheese fries, topped with cheese sauce and kimchi seasoning and served with savory Korean BBQ sauce on the side.

In addition to the new swicy options, Shake Shack is launching some fresh lemonades and milkshakes for a limited time, including a yuzu honey lemonade and returning favorites like dragonfruit pomegranate lemonade and Sunset lemonade with strawberry and Meyer lemon.

Where To Find The New Items

shake shack signage
shake shack signage - Vadym Shapran/Shutterstock

The new Swicy menu will be available at Shake Shack locations nationwide for a limited time. The new items will be available exclusively on the Shake Shack app starting January 9 and at all company-owned U.S. Shake Shack locations beginning January 12.

How Much Does The Shake Shack New Menu Cost?

shake shack menu
shake shack menu - Bloomberg/Getty Images

Regarding fast-casual burgers, the Shackburger (starting around $6.50 to $7) is one of the more expensive burger options in its category, compared with the In-N-Out Double Double and the Five Guys cheeseburger. With these sweet and spicy upgrades to its burgers and fries, the price tags have also increased. The gochujang-glazed chicken sandwich starts at $8.49, and the Korean BBQ burger starts at $7.79, while the spicy Korean BBQ cheese fries and spicy Korean BBQ fries start at $4.99 and $3.99, respectively.

Gochujang-Glazed Chicken Sandwich

Gochujang-glazed chicken sandwich
Gochujang-glazed chicken sandwich - Sara Kay/Tasting Table

The crispy chicken sandwich is a returning item for Shake Shack after first appearing back in 2021. For the culinary innovation team, the Shake Shack locations in Korea have been really inspirational for this new menu launch, as well as why it felt like bringing back an old favorite was so important. "The star of the show is the Korean menu," said Nick West, senior manager of culinary innovation at Shake Shack. "The gochujang chicken sandwich is where it all started. We leaned on and looked to our Korean Shacks for inspiration."

For the sake of all Shake Shack enthusiasts, we wish the gochujang chicken sandwich could return to the menu and stay forever. The chicken breast is light and crispy, and the gochujang glaze is sweet with just enough fiery heat to kick things up. The radish and cabbage taste fresh and snappy; topped with a crisp white kimchi slaw for just the right crunch, funk, and acid, all the necessary flavors are there for a perfectly balanced bite.

Korean BBQ Burger

Korean bbq burger
Korean bbq burger - Sara Kay/Tasting Table

The chicken sandwich may be a returning favorite, but the Korean BBQ burger is a completely new concept from the Shake Shack team. Rather than stick with the same sauce and build from there, it used a new flavor and ingredient profile to create an exciting cheeseburger. "We took this as an opportunity to challenge ourselves," said Nick West, "to challenge all of us from supply chain to operations and training, to feature two completely unique sandwiches that have entirely different ingredients across the board."

Enter the Korean BBQ burger: an American cheeseburger topped with crispy fried onions, fresh-cut scallions, and an umami-packed Korean BBQ mayo. Similar to the Shackmeister burger, this new burger is a love letter to Korean BBQ on a bun, inspired by the smokey charred notes of golbi beef. The cheeseburger is reliably solid, but the crispy onions and the BBQ mayo make this an absolute home run. It's savory and rich, with the fresh-cut scallions providing a nice fresh bite for balance and crunch. It's everything you want in a burger and so much more.

Spicy Korean BBQ Fries

spicy korean bbq fries
spicy korean bbq fries - Sara Kay/Tasting Table

If you're familiar with the Shake Shack menu, you know its crinkle-cut fries are a distinctly special menu item that sets it apart from other burger competitors. Inspired by the spicy, sour flavors of Korean kimchi, the kimchi spice featured on the new spicy Korean BBQ fries is undeniably one of the best additions to the menu. "Spicy fries are really popular among our guests, so using that hotter red kimchi was a perfect opportunity," said Nick West.

The hot, crisp fries are taken above and beyond with the red kimchi dust, packed with the funk, heat, and aroma you would find upon popping the top of a jar of kimchi. Accompanied by the pungent yet smooth Korean BBQ mayo, it's an ideal combination that makes for a notable side to the burger or the chicken sandwich without stealing the show.

Spicy Korean BBQ Cheese Fries

spicy korean bbq cheese fries
spicy korean bbq cheese fries - Sara Kay/Tasting Table

As if hot, crispy fries topped with fiery kimchi seasoning weren't enough, topping them with cheese really takes them to a whole new level. And that addition of cheese isn't just because cheese on fries is delicious; cheese has become a popular ingredient in many Korean dishes. "If you put mozzarella cheese over tteokbokki," says Nick West, "it's pure magic." While not precisely the same, the gooey cheese on top of the crispy fries — already topped with a spicy kimchi dusting — is certainly a nod to this funky, flavor-packed dish.

Whereas the fries with just the seasoning and dip are a great side, the cheese fries are good enough to stand alone as a substantial snack, burger or not. The yellow sauce, made from American cheddar, is melty, creamy, and just a little bit sweet, making it the perfect contrast to the fiery kimchi dust. Even with the cheese draped on top, don't forget about that Korean BBQ mayo, an absolute explosion of savory richness, for a bite you'll be returning for repeatedly.

Is The Shake Shack New Menu Worth It?

spicy fries with and without cheese
spicy fries with and without cheese - Sara Kay/Tasting Table

Unlike many of its competitors, Shake Shack has continuously gone the extra mile to provide innovative, unique culinary creations on its menu. The team has taken inspiration from Shack locations around the globe, from Mexico and the United Kingdom to Dubai and South Korea, and does its best to deliver fun, outside-the-box items to get people excited to eat there.

This newest menu concept is no exception. Despite the price points being slightly higher than the core menu items (which are already on the high end of affordability), the new Swicy menu is worth trying out — and going back for repeatedly. We found the ingredients to be on par with Shake Shack's standard of quality, with well-constructed flavors. All in all, if one of the burgeoning food trends of 2024 is to bring renewed angles to comforting foods, Shake Shack delivers.

For John Karangis, executive chef and vice president of culinary innovation at Shake Shack, it's the spirit of innovation that keeps the team creating new and exciting items for guests to come back to. "We're seeing a bigger appetite from our guests to try new flavors and combinations. Spicy food with big, bold flavors keeps becoming more and more delicious and interesting, where it's not just about heat levels but also about crave-able and intriguing flavors that go along with it. That's key for us." Crave-able indeed. We know we'll return for more, and you should, too.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.