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Overland Park's Snack Shack Is Unintimidated By Shake Shack's Arrival In Kansas City

Jen Chen
KCUR 89.3

As you may have heard by now, Shake Shack is opening on the Plaza.

The New York-based burger chain has a devoted following, and the news of its fall opening sent many Kansas Citians into a tizzy. There’s been so much buzz about Shake Shack that the moderator of a local food group on Facebook had to tell people to stop posting about it.

“I can taste the Shake Shack burger without actually tasting it,” said Elizabeth Paradise. “I crave it that much.”

Paradise, the pastry chef at Story, traces her nostalgia for Shake Shack to when she lived in New York. She attributes its cult following to consistency and high-quality ingredients.

Then, there’s the burger.

“It’s a thin patty and it’s just sort of smashed on the griddle a little bit,” she said.

“I don’t even know what they do, it’s like crack to me. It’s a perfectly seasoned patty with the perfect amount of caramelization on the perfect bun,” she added.

However, there’s another shack in Kansas City. And it might be just as good as Shake Shack.

Credit Jen Chen / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3

The Snack Shack on Santa Fe is located in downtown Overland Park, at the corner of a strip row building. It’s a small place, with vinyl records hanging from the ceiling, eclectic wall art, counter seating and a walk-up window.

KCUR's Central Standard team took Paradise there to see how it compares to Shake Shack.

“We’re an old-school burger joint,” said general manager Jack Tolle. His parents opened the restaurant in 2011.

“We provide a premium steakburger that we live and die by, for sure,” he added. “We hand-cut our fries, so that’s kind of a big catch here. And there’s not too much like us.”

Snack Shack burgers are made from an 80-20 ground chuck blend from McGonigles. Tolle presses the patty on the flat top to get a crisp sear, then sprinkles on salt and pepper.

Credit Jen Chen / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Jack Tolle, General Manager of The Snack Shack.

“That’s all we use, a good salt and pepper blend,” he said. “You can’t get too crazy.”

When it’s done, the burger is served on a toasted Roma Bakery bun.

“We stay local, so that’s great. Everything’s local,” said.

As for Paradise’s verdict?

“That’s really delicious,” she said. “It’s seasoned really well; it’s not too salty and it’s got a little crisp on it, which is so nice … it’s a really good patty.”

Comparing Snack Shack to Shake Shack is apples and oranges, though.

“It’s not in the same style,” she said.

And it’s unfair to compare an incoming corporate chain to an awesome local place that she’s trying for the first time, she said.

“But this is really delicious.”

Jen Chen is associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at jen@kcur.org and follow her on Twitter @JenChenKC.

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