East Coast transplants and fans of smash-style burgers should probably start setting the stage to call in sick to work on Monday, February 3, as that’s the day San Francisco’s first, long-awaited Shake Shack is set to open its doors.
Founded by food magnate Danny Meyer in 2004 Shake Shack now boasts about 281 locations around the world, Culinary Director Mark Rosati tells Eater SF. With that many locations, one might assume that — like most other international brands — each restaurant will follow the same playbook, template, and menu. “That would probably be easier,” Rosati says, “and it would definitely be faster.”
But instead, the company tries to think of each new Shake Shack not as another iteration of the same formula, but as “another restaurant in our restaurant group,” applying a fine-dining idea of scale to what’s now “most definitely a chain,” Rosati concurs.
In many cases, that means figuring out the best way to integrate with the local businesses, Rosati says, as the goal is to make each location “different and give each one a soul.” In the case of the Cow Hollow Shake Shack, that means that its menu of burgers, crinkle-cut fries, and frozen custard desserts will also include items that involve local makers.
For example, there’s their California Cold Rush concrete (a concrete is what Shake Shack calls its blended frozen offerings — think a Dairy Queen’s Blizzard, but with custard instead of soft serve). The Cold Rush is composed of frozen vanilla custard, salted caramel sauce, and B. Patisserie’s vaunted Kouign Amann.
Rosati says that “it’s always been my dream” to work with B. Patisserie’s Belinda Leong, and that as soon as Shake Shack planned an expansion into San Francisco, he started plotting a way to bring the Pac Heights bakery into the fold. “I was super nervous to approach them,” Rosati says, suggesting that the artisanal bakers might turn their noses up at a collaboration with a behemoth like Shake Shack. “I gave them every possible out.”
But they agreed to a Shake Shack collab, as did La Cocina tenant Omar Mamoon, whose Dough XX is included in a dessert called The Great Escape (vanilla custard, strawberry puree, Dough XX salted sugar cookie dough). Shake Shack has also entered into a partnership with West Coast ranch company Richards Grassfed Beef to create a Bay Area–specific burger called the Golden State Double (that’s it in the photo above), which features a 100-percent grass-fed beef from a local ranch certified in regenerative agriculture.
Cow Hollow’s final local hook is its drink options, which (in addition to its standard offerings) will include local beers from Fort Point Beer Company, 21st Amendment Brewery, and Drake’s Brewing Company — that is, once the spot gets its liquor license, a matter that is still pending. “It’s just always felt natural” to work with small, local food companies, Rosati says of Shake Shack’s Cow Hollow collaborations. “It’s always about the quality,” he says. “That’s always been our mindset.”
Shake Shack has had a long road to San Francisco, and the Cow Hollow spot had to prevail against neighborhood opposition and San Francisco’s laws regulating formula (aka chain) retail before it could open in the former Real Foods Co. space at 3060 Fillmore Street (at Filbert). It shares the spot with Indie Superette, a Hawaiian-inspired health food market and cafe from local restaurateur Michael Mina that opens on January 30.
And Cow Hollow isn’t the end of Shake Shack’s Bay Area invasion. It already has outposts in Palo Alto, Marin County, and San Mateo, and is planning locations in the Westfield San Francisco Centre and in Valley Fair in Santa Clara. When he spoke with Eater SF, however, Rosati was reluctant to discuss the company’s future plans. “Right now,” he says, we’re just focused on making Cow Hollow the best feeling and tasting Shake Shack in the world.”
Shake Shack Cow Hollow opens at 11 a.m. on Monday, February 3. Operating hours will be 11 a.m.– 10 p.m., Sunday – Thursday, and 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Friday -Saturday.