I was very excited to open my email and see an invitation from Shake Shack inviting me to their pre-opening Housewarming Party the day before they opened to the public. It had been quite some time since my last burger and concrete fix in NYC, so a glimpse inside the new location turned my normally pajama-laden netflix watching Tuesday night into something a bit more newsworthy.
I did have a bit of hesitation knowing that the new Shake Shack was in the rage inducing cement trap otherwise known as the Trader Joe's parking lot. Since it was stormy & balmy evening, I decided why not alleviate the rage factor of searching for parking, or worse yet playing Frogger across 17-92 in the rain and treat myself to an Uber escort to the event. I hadn't yet used Uber here in Orlando, and was curious to see if my delightful trips in D.C. would translate here in the dirtier south.
Our first Uber driver arrived quickly just five minutes after we requested our ride. He was an older gentlemen whose accent I couldn't place and his car smelled like sweet baby powder. He greeted me warmly and we started chatting right away. His name was Mervyn and I instantly loved him. We chatted about his experiences with Uber, the seedy underbelly of political ties here in Orlando between the Mears Corporation and Mayor Buddy Dyer, and what his wife should buy when she finally attempts to go to Trader Joe's. Once we arrived at Shake Shack, I didn't want to part with my new dear friend, but burgers were calling so we parted ways while he assured me he would pick us up anytime for a ride. We rated each other with 5 stars on our phones, which I believe will become the new way our society compliments each other.
A line had already formed outside the Shack, with rain clouds looming and humidity making some people's odd choices in long silk sleeve button down shirts regrettable - I'm looking at you "Mr. Winter Park Somebody". Thankfully we were towards the front of the line so we didn't have to wait too long to get back into the sweet flow of air conditioning.
Once checked in we were given Shake Shack branded sweat bands, possibly one of the oddest choices in swag material, and directed to the almighty gif maker positioned right in front the large menu wall as the backdrop. I did happen to think this was pretty slick, since making gifs is pretty popular right now. See my gif here
We grabbed a beer, the ShackMeister Ale, which is brewed exclusively by Brooklyn Brewery in New York, and were told that the food would be passed by servers around the restaurant.
As we walked through the restaurant we saw some people eating, but no trays of food, and not a server insight. We walked outside on the beautiful patio overlooking Lake Killarney, still saw some people eating, but no food trays. Back inside, we paced continuously in front of the obnoxious live band that was deafening me as we continued the search for sustenance. After some time I realized perhaps all the food that was ready as they opened the door had been all snatched up and now the busy shack kids were in the kitchen making more.
I decided to hover over by the counter where you could see a small Shake Shack army of teens furiously prepping, cooking, and wrapping food, but to their credit for as hard as they were working, food was not making it onto the floor and understandably so.
Some time went by, and a young girl with a terrified and exhausted look on her face finally had a full tray of hamburgers and offered them to us and we graciously and quickly accepted two.
We found a spot in the crowded seating area and tore apart our burgers. I have no idea what burger I had, but it was hot. Not piping hot fresh off the grill hot, it was burn my taste buds off and make me scream for milk hot. I learned trying to cool your mouth down with beer is probably worse second only to a wasabi milkshake. I was so hungry I ate through the pain, and thankfully the burger was really good.
Burgers in belly my eyes scanned the restaurant again. My gaze never met a tray, but instead other eyes looking for grub just like we were. It was time to distract myself, and what better way to do that than with wine. I got a glass of red wine, branded "Shack Red" which is bottled by Frog’s Leap in Napa Valley, CA from an organic farm. Again, all was good and pleasing to my taste buds.
Wine tumbler in hand we walked toward the lake to enjoy the ambiance, when I walked by the fire pit. Yes a fire pit that sent a wave of heat rage through my entire body. There is no need for a working fire pit in Florida in July unless someone was planning an ex-wife effigy.
It was time to kick up the food search Jack Bauer style, stealthily walking through Shake Shack as though it were a crowded mob outside the U.S. Embassy in London.
My hovering spot by the counter had quickly become the place to be for about 40 other people all searching for food. The same girl was there, and didn't even get a chance to walk with her trusty tray. She just turned her body and the mob accosted her to get their free grub. The sight sickened me as I refuse to be one of those people who is rude just to claim their free stuff, so back to the seating area we went. Eventually my husband saw a tray, got up, waited politely while it was scavenged by the mob and walked away empty handed.
I then got up when I saw a tray. It was just me and one other woman and two items left. She took them both.
The whole restaurant was Joey from Friends.
At this point an hour had passed and I was done. I missed my warm bed and my fridge full of Trader Joe's goodies that no slender woman in a Tory Burch dress could steal from me just to barf up later. I pulled out my phone and requested that Uber send a driver to bring me home.
This time my driver was Ivan. He arrived quickly, this time a young male, with another accent I couldn't identify, perhaps Russian, and we got in and sat and waited. The line to get out of the parking lot was long and made more complicated by valet workers. Yes that's right, valet in a parking lot with no parking!
As we sat not moving, a parked car wanted out of their spot but there was simply no way to accommodate this desire. The driver proceeded to get out of her car and started yelling at Ivan. This woman, who looked like she could be Honey-Boo-Boo's mom had just pushed me past the breaking point and I replied back to her with rapid fire speed and a whole lot of neck swerving that her request made no sense and she could be patient like the rest of us. Ivan loved it, even rolling down my backseat window to make sure she could hear every word. He laughed heartily and said "I like you, I like you." We were officially friends.
Ivan and I swapped road war stories and he told me that Uber users in our fair city in his opinion had one thing in common. Despite differing ages, income brackets and races; they were all savvy people that knew what they wanted and made sure they got it.
I'm sure those invited that stayed the duration of the event eventually got their bellies filled with tasty burger, fries, and custards, but I simply couldn't handle a crowd of greed-mongers, loud unnecessary music, not to mention Winter Park mucky mucks loudly claiming Burger Fi is better.
While things could have possibly been better executed, my years in the hospitality industry have taught me that people are greedy, self-entitled animals, and when you add FREE to the equation, they really show their true colors. I would have preferred to pay for food at the event if it meant I would get some.
I still love Shake Shack as a brand and I was very grateful to have been invited, and will gladly go back to satisfy any burger or custard cravings; but the real winner of the night was Uber. The next time I venture to one of the most poorly planned parking lots in Orlando, that by the way Winter Park spokesperson Clarissa Howard says is no big deal in the Orlando Sentinel: "When Winter Park Village opened, you couldn't find parking their either", I will definitely be calling my boys over at Uber.
See that amusing story here.