Shake Shack's DC invasion is officially underway. The New York chain opened its doors in Dupont Circle at 11 a.m. today serving up burgers, dogs, shakes, fries and more to Washingtonians who have waited patiently since the announcement was made last August. And the scene was, in short, controlled chaos with wait times varying from 30 minutes to an hour for a crowd that was mostly people who work or live in the area.
As expected, the line for burgers wound its way out the door and past several storefronts — Lupe Cantina, Public Bar and Mattress Discounters — finally hovering somewhere in front of Nando's Peri Peri for most of the lunch hour. Most in line found it took about 20 minutes just to reach the front door of the restaurant. Shake Shack employees came out with trays of chocolate and vanilla custard samples to ease the wait and passed menus back with the aim of smoothing out the ordering process. Passersby were checking out the scene, taking pictures and gawking at the size of the line, naturally.
Once finally inside the doors of Shake Shack DC, the wait was another 20 minutes or so until food was in hand. But most people didn't seem to mind, sporting the lime-green-and-black retro sunglasses that Shake Shack was giving away for free and standing patiently by the windows with their beepers. The kitchen was almost as packed as the front of the house and seemed to already be working like a well-oiled machine. As promised, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. played a short set starting around 12:30 p.m., entertaining line-waiters just inside the front doors with a few of their tunes and a cover of "God Only Knows."
Interestingly, even though this Shake Shack aims to be more of a hangout space than other locations, the majority of customers seemed to be on the go. The dining area was not quite at capacity at the height of the lunch hour — we even saw the mezzanine level completely empty. But judging by the National Geographic identification badges and anecdotal evidence, it appears most of the crowd worked in nearby office buildings — and after roughly 45 minutes spent in line, likely had to get back to those office buildings.
Shake Shack is open until 11 p.m. today. If you're heading down, let us know how it goes in the comments.