Two weeks ago, local burger aficionados were treated to a three-day Shake Shack pop-up at the St. Regis’s EMP Winter House. It was a stunning ordeal, set in the yurt-filled courtyard, where attendees could grab burgers and fries with an alpine flare for a below-the-alpine fee. There was also a yurt bar serving up cozy cocktails, including a spiked hot chocolate that I will think about every day for the rest of my life.
Beyond the stunning setting and the thrill of a blink-and-you’ll miss it appearance, the Shake Shack pop-up brought to town something die-hard burger-ers each have – a loyalty burger. A loyalty burger comes from a rare or regional burger joint that you swear is the absolute best contender in the greasy game. Shake Shack loyalists can not separate from the delectable taste of 100 percent all-natural angus beef with a side of cheese fries with the actual atmosphere of dining at the Shack mothership – the mothershack! – in Madison Square Park.
On the days I was willing to risk an extended lunch break while working in midtown Manhattan, I would stand amongst all the other suckers in a line that stretched through the park in order to get my burger fix. The timing always worked out pretty well that as your order arrived, someone was just getting up from the tiny wire seats and tables scattered throughout the plaza, and you could scarf your score while people-watching in New York, which is the best entertainment for the dollar to this day.
Not all those who have lived through the life-altering experience of Shake Shack are Shake Shack loyalists. Because the thing about burger loyalty (any loyalty in general – I’m looking at you Petyr Baelish) is that you have to choose one. I would say the top loyalty burger contingency goes to In-N-Out Burger. With a rumoured entrance into the Colorado market in 2020, the famed fast food may soon be adding to its overzealous devotees.
I’m not saying that I don’t purposeful reroute road trips to make sure I pass any In-N-Out within 20 miles – of course I do! But personally I believe the most fun part of the store is ordering the secret not-so-secret off-the-menu items. You feel so cool for being in the club, it’s like a speakeasy with a deep fryer, and by the time your meal comes the actual product doesn’t matter as much.
I’d like to shout out to my Whataburger loyalists. If In-N-Out burger has the lockdown on West-Coast surfer cool, Whataburger is the reigning chain of the south and a proud son of Corpus Christi, Texas. The town was a regular vacation spot in my grandfather’s younger days, and my guess is he started his habit there. All I can tell you is that at 98, Whataburger remained a consistent component of his diet, and scooting into the booths with him are some of my favorite memories of the last years of his life.
And now is where I admit to you my own loyal burger and set out to try to convert you. A Boulder original, it tastes exactly like childhood to me. It’s been so long since I’ve had one that I don’t know if I can actually tell you what is special about the burger. But their standard fry is a seasoned waffle fry that I will never forget.
Though it wasn’t far from our house, we only went to Good Times for special occasions, so I still associate it with the pride of achieving a good grade, or not crying during a shot. I don’t know if it has quite the following that others on this list have, or even that the standard big dogs – McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King – have. But I do now, if there was ever a three-day Good Times pop-up in Aspen, I’d go there four times.