BRANSON, Mo. When I noticed that the Burger Shack had opened, diet or no diet, I had to stop by and try it. I very seldom write restaurant pieces, but as I was eating my burger, facing back toward the “fry” station and noticed the way it appeared that they were making their fries, I realized that it was just possible that I was looking at the equivalent of the “Branson Trifecta” for burgers, fries and shakes. That piqued by curiosity and I decided to check it out after I finished eating.
As things worked out, I talked with Jon Rasmussen, the General Manager of the Burger Shack and the son of one of the partners, who was kind enough to sit down and chat with me for a few minutes even though it was the lunch hour. When I asked him why they decided to open another burger place in Branson he said, “Burgers are one of those things that everybody likes. Everyone wants a good burger. There are good burgers in town, but we thought we could do things our own unique way.” As the interview progressed, it became very clear that burgers are not the only thing done in a unique way at the Burger Shack.
Everything at the Burger Shack involves high quality ingredients and freshness. Every Burger Shack Burger is made from 100 percent fresh ground chuck that is ground locally; is always fresh, never frozen and is cooked after it is ordered. This takes about eight minutes and is one of the primary reasons they don’t have a drive through. Another unique feature of the Burger Shack is that they have free peanuts guests can help themselves to while waiting for their order.
The burger is just under a quarter of a pound uncooked. Rasmussen said, “Gentlemen should get doubles and the ladies singles. From my perspective, the cheeseburger, with mayo, green peppers and grilled onions I had, along with an order of fries and diet coke, was plenty big enough.
As you order your burger there is a list of about 15 condiments and other things that you can top your burger with from the standard catsup, mustard, mayo, lettuce and tomatoes to mushrooms, grilled onions, green peppers and more; the possible combinations are endless. Rasmussen said you can add as many as you want without any additional charge.
Typically, to me, a burger’s bun is just to keep my hands from getting greasy while I eat the burger, but in this case the bun was delightful. It was warm and soft yet not soggy and really noticeably added to the overall enjoyment of the burger. When asked about the bun, Rasmussen said that it is all part of what makes a Burger Shack burger unique and special and it didn’t just happen. He said, “I have eaten a lot of buns in the last three months.”
About 50 years ago this writer worked part time in a McDonald’s when they made their fries from scratch, that’s right, from the raw potato to the finished fries right in the store. Well, those days are back again at the Burger Shack.
When asked what makes their fries “famous” and so different from most others, Rasmussen said, “The amount of effort we put into them. Those boxes of potatoes that you see stacked when you come in are the potatoes that will become the fries that we serve.” Rasmussen took me back into the kitchen where the potatoes were being washed, sliced and made ready to go out for the multiple step “frying” process. The one difference between the McDonald’s fries of 50 years ago and the Burger Shack’s is that McDonalds took the skin off the potato, but the Burger Shack’s fries leave the skin on. One thing for certain though, the Burger Shack’s process sure adds new meaning to the term “natural cut fries,” and, speaking from personal experience, they were delicious.
Even their milk shakes are made the old fashioned way. Each is made from ice cream, not mixes, that is hand dipped. In deference to my diet, as I scoffed down the cheese burger and fries with gusto, I washed it down with a Diet Coke and did not get to try a milk shake, but they looked really really good. They also have a full selection of soft drinks and will be offering, bottled beer within a couple of weeks.
The Burger Shack is located in the building where Schlotzsky’s, followed by Gloria Jean’s Coffee, used to be, on the south side of Highway 76 across from the Grand Country Complex. It is open seven day a week from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. right now, but will have extended hours during the summer and holds about 88 inside. Rasmussen said that during the summer they will also have patio seating and special parking up front for “cool cars” and hot rods.
It is basically a self serve restaurant with the customer placing the order, getting a number and drink cups which they fill themselves. When their number is called they go up and get their order. Although the Burger Shack serves some other items such as a Salmon Burger and has a kids menu, it’s the burger, fries and shakes that their menu emphasizes. The single cheese burger that I had, with a soft drink, regular order of fries came to $8.81. The cheese burger alone was $4.49 without tax.