How Does Costco's 'Shake Shack' Burger Stack Up Against An Actual Shake Shack Burger?
The Costco burger first reared its head around May, when the internet stumbled upon this bovine anomaly on the shopping conglomerate's food menu. It was all very hush hush. Costco brass didn't do a whole lot in generating fanfare for the new item; instead, news of its existence trickled down from the Orange County-based food blog Foodbeast. This goes without saying that the burger was elusive; down here in Southern California it was found only in three Costco locations, none of which were especially central to the City of L.A.
The burger started to really gain traction this past week, when it exploded across the slate of media outlets, making us better-acquainted with the (possible) newest addition to the Costco food court. As Costco management tells LAist, the burger is going through a kind of trial phase. "No decision has been made [as] to when Costco plans to roll out to all stores," a representative said in an email, adding that it's currently available in Lakewood, Pacoima and Corona. It's also making appearances up north in Livermore and Folsom, as well as five other outposts in Colorado, North Carolina, and Seattle, Washington, among others.
As is the case for any nascent chain-based burger, comparisons were made with the existing options. In the case of the Costco burger, Eater LA had lumped it with the fare at Shake Shack, saying the two sides looked "remarkably similar" and that the ingredients also lined up closely. Other outlets have noted the similarity.
In this spirit of making figurative Venn diagrams, LAist went out to Pacoima this past weekend to sink our teeth into the Costco burger, and to see how it compared with the famed ShackBurger. We also roped in a Double Double from In-N-Out because, well, that's the benchmark for all burgers in California, and because the weekend heat wave had already put us in a semi-delirious mood, and any idea seemed like a good idea at that point.
So! The Costco burger! It's $4.99 a pop, and the composition is fairly straight-forward: organic ground beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a "brioche style bun" (per Costco representatives). There's also a "special sauce" that, unsurprisingly, tastes like some variation of Thousand Island.
There's little nuance in the burger's main draw: it's just very big. When it comes out in a foil wrapper, you think you may have purchased a tiny weather balloon, like something that could terrorize the residents of Roswell, New Mexico. As advertised upfront, it's got a one-third pound of beef, compared to the quarter pound that comes with a Double Double or a ShackBurger.
Unfortunately, the burger's strength is also its weakness. There's just too much meat (and this is coming from someone who will gladly wolf down a pastrami sandwich). This would be fine if the protein was livelier—if, say, the patty was juicier, or given a slight char to add an extra level of depth. Rather, it's just straight-up, well-done ground beef: a single droning note of meat and even more meat. There's the slight tang of the special sauce, and the pinch of sweetness from the brioche bun (which Foodbeast says is actually a challah bun!), but it's not enough to break through the monotony of a huge slab of hamburger.
Certainly, there's no need to overthink a burger. And the Costco burger is pretty clear-minded about its task, which is to make you feel impossibly full (and in this vein it aces the test). But there's something off when you start feeling burger fatigue about halfway in— you'll definitely need a soft drink to help ferry you through. If there's any suggestion we'd like to make, it's that the burger could be made smaller so that it's not quite as overbearing (a quarter pound, perhaps?). But to ask Costco to downsize something is like asking a bear to kindly stop clawing at your back.
How does it stack up with a Double Double and a ShackBurger? We'd gladly take the latter two over the Costco burger. The ShackBurger, which boasts a rich and buttery profile, comes in the perfect size with relation to how indulgent it is. And the Double Double—which really plays up the added assemblage of secret sauce, crispy leaves of lettuce, and a rather inconspicuous bun that's deftly toasted around the edges— tastes weirdly fresh and clean for something that packs nearly 700 calories in a single serving. Speaking of calories, the ShackBurger clocks in at 550, and the Costco burger delivers a whammy of 1140.
This is all to say that, with the Double Double and ShackBurger, you get the perfect calibration of everything. With the Costco burger, however, it feels like a movie that's 20 minutes too long; something that a bit of editing could have possibly fixed. The burger is still worth a try, however, especially if you're feeling ravenous after buying a 50-count bundle of Charmin. Your hunger will be pounded into submission with brute force; you'll leave feeling perfectly sated. Though, these ends could also be accomplished with the wonderful chicken bake and maybe a churro or four.