Shake Shack debuted a "limited edition" fried chicken sandwich at the burger chain's three Brooklyn locations this morning. While the debut is perfectly in step with some of the summer's big food trends — namely fried chicken, sandwiches, and fried chicken sandwiches — Shake Shack culinary director Mark Rosati swears up and down that it is a coincidence: "We have been working on this for two years," he tells Eater.
The sandwich is inspired by Southern buttermilk fried chicken using breast meat. Rosati tested a number of techniques including marinating, grilling, and even sous vide cooking the breast before deep frying. He settled on a slow cooking method "similar" to sous vide cooking, using buttermilk. The three ounce breasts are cooked ahead of time and then dredged in batter and deep fried at service. The sandwich is served on a buttered Martin's potato bun, just like the burgers, but Rosati insists it was not a foregone conclusion. "We tried whole wheat, pretzel, all sorts of fun stuff," but in the end the Martin's won out for best displaying the flavors of the chicken itself. Appointed with shredded lettuce, pickles, and a buttermilk herb mayo the sandwich sells for $6.29.
The obvious question is: When will this roll out across all Shale Shack locations? It is hard to imagine that the chain would invest two years of development time on a sandwich just to run it as a special in three stores. Both Rosati and vice president of Marketing and Communications Edwin Bragg where predictably reticent on the subject. "Right now we are just focused on Brooklyn" says Bragg. When questioned whether ChickenShack might be spun off as it's own entity Bragg was adamant that "we are Shake Shack through and through, there are no plans [to open a separate chicken chain]." But a subsidiary of Shake Shack simply called SSE IP filed a trademark application in May for "Chicken Shack" and referenced chicken sandwiches. It is not unheard of for chains to trademark menu items, but why would it be filed separately from the main company? Inquiring minds want to know.