If you think the line at Shake Shack in Dupont Circle is long, just wait until tomorrow when restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group opens its second outlet in Washington — at Nationals Park. You might want to bring some reading material. Or at least have a keg at your disposal.
The Nats begin a three-game homestand against the St. Louis Cardinals tomorrow, which is when USHG will roll out its latest Shake Shack in Washington, along with three other concepts. Other than Shake Shack, the most highly anticipated may be Blue Smoke, the pan-regional barbecue joint that Meyer launched in Manhattan in 2002. The two others are El Verano Taqueria and the Belgian-inspired Box Frites, both of which have outlets at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.
All of the new food stands will be located on the upper level right field concourse, otherwise known as the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk.
Both Shake Shack and Blue Smoke will offer scaled-down versions of the menus found at their brick-and-mortar locations, says USHG spokeswoman Theresa Mullen. “It’s food definitely geared toward ball park eating,” she says.
I had the chance to eat at Blue Smoke this past weekend in New York and was, for the most part, impressed with the array of smoked meats on my “Rhapsody in ’Cue” plate, for which I substituted brisket for chicken. The Kansas City-style ribs were underseasoned but well-cooked, not quite fall off the bone, and slathered in a sauce that was neither too sweet nor too spicy. The somewhat dry brisket had a gorgeous bark and a smoke ring as well-defined as Lady Gaga’s lips, but the best protein on the plate was the pork sausage, as good and spicy as any Elgin Hot Gut.
Unfortunately, the sausage won’t be available at Blue Smoke at Nats Park. In terms of main dishes, the stand will sell only pulled pork sandwiches, Kansas City spare ribs, chipotle chicken wings and a “Barbecued Beef Bologna Sandwich,” a Memphis specialty that doesn’t get much play outside of Tennessee’s borders. All the meats will be smoked on the premises in Ole Hickory Pits.
Shake Shack will likewise downsize its offerings to the namesake burger, the vegetarian ’Shroom Burger, the ’kraut-covered New York dog and the Shack-cago Dog, a riff on the all-beef Chicago dog. El Verano will serve three tacos, including ones with chicken mole and chile-marinated skirt steak, while Box Frites will serve up thick-cut fries with five dipping sauces. One of them will be a “smoke bacon aioli.” Repeat after me: Smoke. Bacon. Aioli.
First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. tomorrow, but the park opens 2 1/2 hours before then, in case you want cheap beer and don’t feel like waiting in line at Shake Shack.