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Can I Get Some Fries with That Shakespeare?

Thursday night is date night.  It’s a tradition that my husband and I started in 2009, shortly after I signed my life away to began working for a big law firm, as a way for us to make sure we spent some quality time together at least once a week.  Now that I’m working in higher education, we admittedly don’t have the same need for a designated date night, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

For our most recent date night, we decided to do something pretty unconventional for us and take in a play at the Yale Repertory Theatre – specifically, a production of Hamlet directed by James Bundy and starring Yale College and School of Drama alum Paul Giamatti.  Neither of us is particularly big on theater (I suspect that for my husband, it has something to do with all of the cringeworthy plays and musicals that his high school students have made him attend over the years…), but we do like to try new things and we’re both fans of Shakespeare, so we were pretty excited about our first Yale Rep experience.

Of course, dinner and a show go together like YLS and “virtual grades,” so we figured, what more appropriate way to whet our appetites for Shakespeare than with a meal at Shake Shack?  The bard and the burger.  A winning recipe for date night, to be sure.


And so our evening began with a visit to Louis’ Lunch’s newest competitor, the ever-popular burger-fry-and-shake chain conceived by NYC restaurateur Danny Meyer.  For those of you who may not be familiar with Shake Shack, it’s a restaurant that is known as much for its food as for its commitment to the environment.  Shake Shack prides itself on using beef that is all-natural, hormone- and antibiotic-free, vegetarian fed, humanely raised, and source-verified.  Other ingredients are locally sourced from artisanal producers whenever possible.  Each Shake Shack restaurant is built from recycled and sustainable materials (e.g., the wooden walls of the New Haven Shack are made from the Yale Bowl’s old bleacher seats) and uses LED lighting and energy-efficient kitchen equipment.  To further reduce its footprint, Shake Shack offsets its electric usage through wind power and Renewable Energy Certificates, reuses its cooking oil to produce clean energy, and composts its food.


I should note – though this is a bit of a tangent – that one of the most interesting panel discussions I attended at the Law School this year featured Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti.  The panel, which was presented by the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy, Yale Environmental Law Association, and the Yale Sustainable Food Project, was called “Health, Safety and Sustainability in the Modern Food System.”  Like every event at YLS, it was accompanied by free food.  In this case, it was – what else? – burgers and milkshakes from Shake Shack.

On this particular visit to the Shack, my husband and I kept it simple and ordered a hamburger (me), a double ShackBurger (him), and a black and white milkshake (to share).  I won’t go into an in-depth review of our meal, but here’s an interesting attempt to compare Shake Shack to other burger favorites In-N-Out and Five Guys.

Suffice it to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my burger, which was griddle-smashed (but still juicy) and seared to perfection in the signature Shake Shack way.  Just look at that deep brown, all-over crust!

My husband’s burger was also juicy and cooked well, though he felt that with the double cheeseburger, there was just too much meat and that a single probably had the right ratio of beef to bun (proving once again that wives know better!).

The black and white shake, which I thought was going to be a half chocolate/half vanilla shake but tasted more like a vanilla shake with chocolate syrup, was creamy not icy and had just the right thickness.  But a bit pricey at $5, if you ask me.

To cap off the meal, we ordered one of the three “concretes” (frozen custard blended with tasty mix-ins) that Shake Shack specifically customized for its New Haven location.  The Elm City Coffee Break is a heavenly combination of vanilla custard, coffee cake marshmallow sauce, and pecan shortbread.  We did have to do some additional mixing of our own to evenly distribute the sauce and the shortbread, which had mostly collected in a pool in the center of the custard, but it was worth the effort.  The concrete had a great cinnamon flavor and really tasted like what you’d think coffee cake would taste like if it were reincarnated as a frozen custard.  As an added bonus, we had the satisfaction of knowing that 5% of sales from the Elm City Coffee Break concrete go toward Solar Youth, a non-profit that empowers youth through environmental exploration, leadership, and community service.

With Act I of date night already a success, we continued on to Act II, which took place at the University Theatre on York Street.

Given that this is not the first 203 Blog entry on the Yale Repertory Theatre, I won’t say too much about the theatre itself and its illustrious history.  I will say that my husband and I were not the only ones who were interested in catching this particular production of Hamlet, which sold out its entire run from March 15 to April 13.  (And if the traffic on the Wall regarding Hamlet tickets was any indication, almost every YLS student saw the play as well!)

I’ll leave the formal theatrical review to the pros, but for us, Bundy’s Hamlet – a modern adaptation of the 400-year-old play – was intriguing and entertaining.  When Hamlet delivers his famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy, he is wearing blue boxer shorts, a long plaid bathrobe, and argyle socks with house slippers – all part of his plan to put on an “antic disposition.”  He later trades in these dowdy clothes for a tuxedo and red Converse high-top sneakers, as he attends the play intended to reveal his uncle Claudius’s murderous actions.

Although it was a little difficult to buy into a Hamlet who was almost as old as his mother and twice the age of his love interest, Giamatti’s impassioned acting and his creative – and often unexpected –  injection of humor into Hamlet’s character made up for the dissonance.  (When he first sees his best friend, Horatio, Hamlet expresses his exuberance by jumping into Horatio’s arms and wrapping his legs around Horatio’s waist!)

Again, we’re no theater buffs, but we enjoyed ourselves so much that by the end of the evening, my husband and I were wondering whether we might want to make date nights at the Yale Rep more of a regular thing.  Yale University students get a discount on season passes, so think about getting yours for the 2013-14 season!  Shake Shack meal (unfortunately) not included.

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