Shake Shack's New Swicy & Savory Menu Review: It Could Use A Little More Seoul

Shake Shack Swicy and Savory Menu items
Shake Shack Swicy and Savory Menu items - Michael Palan / Static Media

The fine folks at Shake Shack are never afraid to think outside of the kitchen, even borrowing a few elements of Korean cuisine to spice up the chain's fare. After working magic with a chicken sandwich at its South Korean locations, Shake Shack brought it to our shores in 2021. Three years later, Shake Shack is upping the stakes and tastes, and for a limited time only, the Korean Style Fried Chicken, Korean BBQ Burger, Spicy Korean BBQ Fries, and Spicy Korean BBQ Cheese Fries will be there for ordering.

John Karangis, Shake Shack's executive chef and vice president of culinary innovation, said in a statement, "We're always seeking out ways to bring fun and delicious menu offerings to our guests, and the 'swicy' (sweet/spicy) and heavy umami flavors in these new items do just that." This includes working once again with Portland, Oregon's Choi's Kimchi to include its White Napa Kimchi on a fried chicken sandwich. For that company, the return is bittersweet, posting on Instagram, "What makes this partnership so special to us is this was [co-founder] Matt [Choi]'s last project before his sudden passing."

As we predicted in our 12 Food Trends That Everyone Will Be Trying In 2024 piece, "Spice and sweet flavor combinations will reign supreme." Will Shake Shack's Swicy and Savory offerings be the king of this reign, or more of a jester? I popped into my local one to find out, and here are the results of that chew and review.

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What Does Shake Shack's Korean Style Fried Chicken Taste Like?

Shake Shack Korean Style Fried Chicken
Shake Shack Korean Style Fried Chicken - Michael Palan / Static Media

Under a sweaty potato roll bun, a large chicken filet juts out from the sides. It has a hue similar to sesame chicken, seeds and all. Shredded cabbage of various sizes is strewn about, completing a pretty package ready to be taken down.

The kimchi slaw, made by Choi's Kimchi, isn't as pickled, crunchy, or as wet as I wanted it to be, but it still had a nice bitter tanginess to it. The chicken is covered in a sweet and spicy glaze of gochujang chili sauce, which coats a super crispy yet thin skin shell. Taking it all together in one bite makes for a decent chicken sandwich but nothing to write home about, so save those stamps. Something seems to be missing here. Perhaps a second sauce, like a squirt of ShackSauce, or even a spoonful of sour cream to turn the kimchi into coleslaw, could have helped to make this one have more of a lasting impact.

The chicken sandwich nets 600 calories, 27 grams of total fat, 105 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,020 milligrams of sodium, 55 grams of total carbohydrates, of which 1 gram is dietary fiber and 13 are sugar, and 34 grams of protein.

What Does Shake Shack's Korean BBQ Burger Taste Like?

Shake Shack Korean BBQ Burger
Shake Shack Korean BBQ Burger - Michael Palan / Static Media

Shake Shack's salaciously salty Angus beef hamburgers are some of the best in the fast-casual business, and that's why it's always no-brainer to order one up with two patties in tow. The two in my Korean BBQ Burger literally looked like they were escaping out of their potato bun and trying to take the boatload of crispy onions with them. I didn't want my juicy-looking burger to disappear, so I made sure to gobble it up as soon as possible.

Beyond the visible elements, under the hood lie thick-cut scallions, melty American cheese, and a Korean BBQ sauce that seems to be barely there. This item, too, seems like it could have benefited from a little more sauce, and luckily some was leftover in the cup that came with the fries for me to do some dipping.

I'm not sure this burger fully represents the flavors of Korean cooking, but it is still an awesome burger through and through. It would actually take a natural disaster to ruin the greatness of a Shake Shack burger. I really liked the dual options of the green onions and crispy onions and hope Shake Shack utilizes them in future burger adventures.

The double-patty burger I ordered was good for 980 calories, 68 grams of total fat, 185 milligrams of cholesterol, 2,790 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 8 of which are sugars, and 53 grams of protein.

What Do Shake Shack's Spicy Korean BBQ Cheese Fries Taste Like?

Shake Shack Spicy Korean BBQ Cheese Fries
Shake Shack Spicy Korean BBQ Cheese Fries - Michael Palan / Static Media

The next best thing after Shake Shack's burgers, with apologies to its vanilla shakes, are its crinkle-cut fries. Even if they're underdone, their ridged texture always keeps some part of the potato crunchy. These fries are therefore perfect canvases to host whatever Shake Shack dreams up to be poured all over them.

While the Spicy Korean BBQ Fries come in two versions, I opted for the one that comes with cheese, for maximum flavor overload. My choice rewarded me when I quickly realized that this was easily the best of these limited-run Korean-tinged items.

The fries are dusted in a burnt orange kimchi seasoning that almost makes this side order look like a fried saganaki. Underneath it is an oozy cheese sauce that keeps the semi-spicy seasoning afloat and makes it easy to take in the whole affair with one delicious bite. As is, these are a savory treat, but don't sleep on dipping them into the muddy peanut butter-looking sauce cup that comes on the side. Served chilled, this thick goop runs strong on the magic of umami, and when it coats the fries, this awesome dish just gets even awesomer.

The cheese fries contain 980 calories, 70 grams of total fat, 115 milligrams of cholesterol, 2,110 milligrams of sodium, 72 grams of total carbohydrates, including 1 gram of fiber and 5 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of protein.

How, When, And Where To Order Shake Shack's Swicy And Savory Menu Items

Shake Shack Swicy and Savory Menu items
Shake Shack Swicy and Savory Menu items - Michael Palan / Static Media

The Korean Style Fried Chicken, Korean BBQ Burger, Spicy Korean BBQ Fries, and Spicy Korean BBQ Cheese Fries are available at Shake Shacks nationwide for a limited time only. Starting January 9, eaters who utilize the Shake Shack app will get first crack at the four items. On January 12, the items can be ordered any which way. This includes ordering through the Shake Shack website, in store via the register, a kiosk, or the drive-thru, and by way of delivery, where available.

The items can be ordered any time of day that Shake Shack is open, while supplies last. Prices may vary per location, but the base prices are $8.49 for the Korean Style Fried Chicken, $7.79 for a single-patty Korean BBQ Burger, $3.99 for the Spicy Korean BBQ Fries, and $4.99 for the Spicy Korean BBQ Cheese Fries.

The burger can be ordered as a single or a double, and the beef patties can be substituted for veggie patties. Both the burger and the chicken sandwich have the option to add cherry peppers, avocado, bacon, or a gluten-free bun. Those options come at an additional cost. The burger also allows the option to swap out the buns and be served in lettuce wrap, at no extra charge. As for the fries, customization options include adding chopped bacon, having them made with no salt, and ordering the cheese sauce on the side.

The Final Verdict

Shake Shack Swicy and Savory Menu items
Shake Shack Swicy and Savory Menu items - Michael Palan / Static Media

I have to give credit to Shake Shack for taking three of its major menu items and giving them a Korean spin. What I'm not sure of is just how much this chicken sandwich, burger, and pile of fries pay proper tribute to Korean cuisine. Come to think of it, none of them were all that sweet or spicy, aka "swicy," as promised, either. While there are certainly notes, hints, and flavors that seem to be pointing in those directions, something seems to have gotten lost, or went missing, along the way.

The Korean Style Fried Chicken is serviceable but is easily the weak link of the bunch. I'm not sure how it tasted in 2021, but let's just say I'm not already counting down to a possible return three years from now. The Korean BBQ Burger isn't a revelation but is nonetheless still an excellent Shake Shack burger. Perhaps it deserves a second life as an everyday menu item called the Onion ShackBurger. The Spicy Korean BBQ Cheese Fries rightfully own the top prize for best in this show. The side sauce alone is a reason to stop in during this limited-time run. If only Shake Shack served salads, it would definitely make for a most delightful dressing.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.