Look, I’m not saying that the Shake Shack doesn’t offer a fine burger, but even on a nice spring day, is it really worth standing in that line for? If you find yourself a block back from the entrance asking yourself that question here are a handful of restaurants within a block of the shack just waiting to take your business. I’ve avoided places specializing in burgers (though if you head just up to the north-side of the circle you can go to BGR for a superior product) in favor of places offering something very different.
Nandos: We Gurus love Nandos. It’s an office favorite. I tend to go for half chicken meals if I am dining in and spice wraps if I am carrying out. And you can bet there will be cartons of macho peas and Portuguese rice in my bag. Chances are if your friends are determined to stay in the shack line, you can get in to Nandos, grab your grub, and be back on the street before they have gotten in the door.
Yola: Don’t confuse Yola as just another part of the slightly-less-than-current frozen yogurt fad. Colorful and health conscious, Yola sprinkles fresh yogurt with a list of toppings that includes granola, fresh fruit, dill, cucumbers, honey, jam and mint. It’s like a enzyme-rich dairy salad — which is kind of the opposite of Shake Shack.
Maoz: If you simply must have something fried, but kind of dig the idea of skipping the beef, walk down M Street to Maoz. There you will find expertly fried falafel and Belgian frites along with a veritable rainbow of fresh toppings.
St. Arnold’s: Has the line turned you off crowds completely? Head down Jefferson to St. Arnold’s. The basement dining room feels like a secret even in the middle of lunch rush. I recommend the mussels St. Arnold’s, which are steamed in a rich beer broth.
Public Bar: Want highlights with your burger? It’s no roadside saltbomb like what you’ll find at the Shack, but Public Bar’s burger is served in front of dozens of sports-channel tuned televisions.
Nandos: Did we mention how much we liked Nandos?