ShakeShack Has A Dupe in Köln


ShakeShack Has A Dupe in Köln

Years ago in expat forums someone said there was a dupe of ShakeShack nearby. I assumed they were bullshitting as American style burgers and whatever Americanized dupes typically sucked i.e. z.B. Miss Pepper's or the now dead Flynn's Arcade. We had been to or ordered from plenty of burger joints that always ruined the magic with weird toppings, special sauces or themes from Mars not North America. However, after fighting the feeling for all this time we finally paid Phatburger a visit. This place sits tucked behind the ecke of Ehrenfeld's major gürtel. Unfortunately, with Covid we could only take it out and they do not deliver. But a quick look on Google will give a glimpse into just how much effort was put into being as close as possible to the real thing. The entire set up is pitch perfect down to the seating, packaging and production. It is a stellar example of a well done dupe. 

I mean ShakeShack is not your average burger spot. It is supposed to be the exact opposite and more like an dining experience. It's typically a luxurious place sitting in the middle of nature with lots of outoor seating. They also make their burgers with proper ingredients, phenomenal service and offering options like craft beers and wine. Of course with those premium features there is a higher cost for such an experience. So to create a dupe that even remotely impersonates that it is going to be expensive for both the owner and its patrons. That can be said for all imports and or franchises from Five Guys to McDonalds. I mean they all offer a surcharge for what people consider bad American food. However, ShakeShack is an average $25 to $35 per person for a full meal of a burger, fries and a better drink like a milkshake or beer. Same goes at Phatburger, it would be about 20€ per person to have a decent meal with all the accoutrements which is sehr teuer to a German. The perk of B.C. is you could actually dine in and get the full experience which is American all the way down to free condiments and refills. At this super duper even things like jalapeños are free too. I guess that is what negates the cost and essentially makes it "Americanized" - free things that aren't even a thing in the States or even at ShakeShack.

The menu is a tad more simplified. There is no chicken sammie or any real no meat options other than a slice of cheese zwischen a burger bun. They do offer hot dogs. The shakes offered aren't artisanal weekly specials like back home where one might only visit when Miso Salted Caramel is available. But they at least offer a Salted Caramel milkshake all the time. The fries aren't crinkled and are more or less natural hand cut. Also, the cheese sauce isn't made of white like cheddar but more or less a manufactured nacho type. Sadly, there is a chili con carne option (more on this in a future post) for the fries with actual beans but thankfully no corn. There are also no custards or desserts at all. We tried a bit of everything including the grilled cheese which is described above. We let that pass as the burgers were phenomenal. They are built almost identical to ShakeShack's with a great attention to detail. Ours appeared to be engineered just so that every bite stays assembled. The cheese also had that magical American college cafeteria golden glow. It all looks artificial but tastes natural and expensive. Because we weren't dining in I cannot say if the packaging looks different when seated inside. We got normal German takeaway packaging in the realm of recycled cardboard boxes stacked in a paper bag. What did stand out is the abundance of free condiments in plastic lidded cups and shakes in the iconic clear ShakeShack cup down to the minimal logo. Wooden utensils and a real plastic straw sort of sealed it for me. Because we parked just down from it,  right by the bus haltestelle our food was hot enough to eat in the car on a cold day. In the States, the lack of packaging is one of the biggest deterrents to taking SS out. Most people actually like dining in and lingering a while. From pictures of B.C. I think it was exactly the same for Phatburger. The dining room could practically be ShakeShack in NYC. 

We went on a Sunday about ten minutes after opening. They do open late at 12pm and stay open later until 22:00 or 10:00pm seven days a week. Because they are nearest to a lot of trains as well as buses I would assume they can get busy. But they are also on the same block as a McDonalds, Burger King and multiple popular döner shops. My hubby got our food and described a low key open kitchen concept which is just like back home but I am certain it won't have the luxury of pagers and smiling faces while you wait. From the looks of reviews most natives hate the idea of waiting forever for an expensive burger. I saw a few that explained they opted to leave and go to McDonald's instead which pales in comparison. I mean that is the problem here as people just want schnell imbiss and very few are after premium ingredients or an overall experience. And with everyone being paranoid about having to wait for their takeaway there is no incentive as before like filling up on free sodas or piling on free toppings. It's unfortunate that most Germans idea of a good burger is the sloppiest version of what they think a burger is in the United States. ShakeShack is one of our nicer concepts and I think Phatburger really wants to mimic that level of quality. For that there is a cost which includes time that most Germans do not have or never want to give. I would highly suggest this spot for the real deal but don't rush it and if you can wait until things are back open again I believe it would be a great place for a first date, family night or an extended business lunch. But it isn't the place to walk it home for twenty minutes or to walk in and demand your food is ready in five. Good, premium burgers aren't tasty when cold. As long as lockdown is a thing, we will probably make this is steady thing like a carhop without a server on skates. In fact, I was looking forward to it before I even finished my food. That is just how good it is.