You might recall it was this time last year that Shake Shack kicked the year off with a promising looking Korean update; that limited special saw their chicken sandwich and fries get a touch of South East Asian inspiration. Likewise the start of this year sees the ‘Shack take a similar move, updating the fries and sandwich again. Mind you, the 2022 update is far less inspired – I might even go as far as to say it’s sedate and dull.
The first limited time release from the brand in 2022 is the new Buffalo Chicken Sandwich and Buffalo Fries. I grabbed both this week to give you the full lowdown and let you know – should you buy it? First up, the price – $7.99. The brand always prices their products at a premium level, and this one is no different. This is one of the most expensive fast food chicken sandwiches available.
The new sandwich takes Shake Shack’s well known fried chicken sandwich and douses the fried breast in Buffalo sauce. That is then topped that with some cooling ranch before being finished with pickles and lettuce. The whole thing comes on a toasted potato bun. Before I dig into the tasting, here are some pictures of the sandwich:
As you can see, visually it’s all a bit of a mess, seemingly thrown together in a hurry. This could well be my local Shake Shack, as I’ve experienced the exact same sloppy presentation and poor selection of ingredients with last year’s Avocado update. For the premium price the meagre flurry of poor quality lettuce is a little galling.
The small chicken breast that comes with this sandwich is doubly frustrating. This was one of the smallest fried chicken sandwiches I can remember in recent memory. Again, for the price I could secure TWO Popeye’s Classic Chicken Sandwiches – which individually are better than this sandwich. Overall this one was a real disappointment out of the bag.
The Buffalo Sauce coating is as precisely as you’d expect, offering some minor heat and plenty of acidic zing. The sauce quickly causes the exterior coating to become soggy, peeling from the chicken in places; the bun fares worse still, becoming a mushy mess. Shake Shack also still insist on buttering their buns too – which is a complete taste turn off for me. It really messes with the overall flavor as far as I am concerned. I can’t imagine there’s a sane person who prefers this flourish over mayo.
The chicken itself offers a single saving grace. It’s really high quality stuff, demonstrably actual poultry and tastes fantastic. Is it enough to save the sloppy presentation, a lackluster execution and high sticker price – for me – it’s a hard pass. Keep driving to Popeyes or even KFC for that matter.
Surprisingly then, the fries were my favorite thing about this new release from Shake Shack. Priced $3.99 (again, what!) or $4.99 with cheese sauce – they come dusted with a Buffalo seasoning. And wow, it really has some kick:
The condensing of the Buffalo Sauce into a seasoning powder really amps up the spice levels. There’s some real deal heat here, and it’s genuinely fun. Fast food never really delivers on the spicy promise, always holding back. Not these. I’d happily order these time and time again. On their own though, they’re just not enough to bring me to the Shack on a regular basis. The size is on the smaller end of the scale too for a four buck side dish.
This is the second poor release in a row now (if you count the avocado bacon update) from Shake Shack for me. I’m not really sure what the point is – perhaps it’s timed just for the Super Bowl weekend? A suitable stand in for buffalo wings?
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic Salt Lake City, and a former freelance restaurant critic. I’ve worked extensively with local, regional and national food and drink organizations. I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have been writing about food and drink for more than fifteen years. I’m largely fueled by a critical obsession with rice, alliteration and the use of big words I don’t understand. I don’t mind admitting to a certain secret obsession with fast food as well – and that’s where Menu And Price comes in…