Shake Shack

photo by Peter Mauss/ESTO Photography

When Danny Meyer, having firmly established his Union Square Hospitality Group, launched a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park in 2001, he had no visions of building an empire. But because his presence helped revitalize an underused part of New York City, he was soon asked to set up a permanent kiosk. So he opened Shake Shack, doling out juicy, cheese-paved burgers, thick shakes, and custard-based concretes at fast-food prices to the relentless hordes of Flatiron workers, burger pilgrims, and passersby that gathered day after day. In the years since, Meyer has become an international hamburger kingpin — Shake Shack has expanded to several states and around the globe. But no location offers the open-air charm of the original, where the crowds continue to congregate, lingering over burgers and beers from the moment the windows open until long after they’ve shuttered for the night.