Review: The Original Double ‘n Cheese from Steak ‘n Shake

My quest for quick serve burger perfection has taken me to another location; Steak ‘n Shake. Heralding from the Midwest with 457 locations, this truly old school burger joint has been expanding all over the country. Recently in Virginia, we received our first Steak ‘n Shake. Can this veteran of the burger business compete in the home state of Five Guy’s Burgers and Fries?

Steak ‘n Shake is a little weird. It’s kind of like a Denny’s with a smaller menu, drive thru, and more pretentious diner-aesthetic where the servers wear bow ties. It’s bright, neon colored, and there is metal all over the place. I feel whoever came up with this specific restaurant theme fantasized about eating lunch in a steel mill where for some inexplicable reason a circus was performing. Regardless of the dated and metal shop-creepy decor, if they serve a bangin’ burger, I am in heaven.
I figured I would go with what most would order; The Original Double ‘n Cheese (aka the Double Steakburger with Cheese).

Our most popular Steakburger! Two cooked-to-order Steakburgers with cheese on a toasted bun and your choice of toppings. Served with our famous thin ‘n crispy fries.

$3.99 gets you the burger, mandatory fries and choice of toppings. I went with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and thousand island, or as they call it; Frisco Sauce. Seems like a bargain, right? Not so fast. The patties are minuscule lumps of beef they smash to paper thin thickness on the flat top. While not bad, they are under seasoned (if seasoned at all), and about the size of a regular McDonald’s hamburger patty. The smashing technique can work out really well, but in this case, it just makes something small and really flat. I dig the leaf lettuce and fresh tomato, but the onion is sliced so thin, it may as well not be there.

I’m a huge pickle fan, and I love that they use the sandwich stacker size on the burgers. The problem though, is that there is a higher pickle to beef ratio than any burger I have ever seen before. Be careful what you ask for I guess.

The bun was average and the Frisco Sauce was very ketchup heavy. In-N-Out Spread this is not. All in all, with two more patties, onions that aren’t there just to tease me, and some salt and pepper, this would be a winner. As is, it has reached the bar of just okay and has no plans to go further.  The fries are stock and perfectly match the theme of “just getting by”. To put the small size of the burger in perspective, those fries are really tiny. $3.99 doesn’t get you a lot of food. Although, you get what you pay for. This is smaller than a BK Topper and about 4/5ths as good.

I wanted to like Steak ‘n Shake, but it just doesn’t make any sense to me. All I want is a counter that serves an awesome burger, and instead I get an average run of the mill sandwich, served by an unnecessary waitress, in the most obnoxious setting possible. If I had no other burger options around, this wouldn’t be a cringe worthy choice, but with so many other options within less than a quarter mile of this Steak ‘n Shake (Sonic, Wendy’s, BK, McDonald’s, Red Robin, Hardee’s, Foster’s Grille, and finally Five Guy’s), I just can’t see myself eating here again. Maybe I should have tried a shake?

Pros: Fresher than average produce. BIG PICKLES. Caps lock is cruise control for cool. The price... kind of...

Cons: Onion slivers. Whoever thought it was a good idea to not season or under season the meat. I feel like I'm eating in a clowns nightmare. Unnecessary servers.

Taste: 6.00/10
Value: 6.00/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 7.00/10
Price: $3.99

Overall GrubGrade: 6.00/10

More Info: SteaknShake.com
Nutrition Facts:
Double Steakburger with Cheese
Calories -450
Total Fat -25 grams
Saturated Fat -11 grams
Cholesterol -70 milligrams
Sodium -590 milligrams
Carbs -31 grams
Sugars -5 grams
Protein - 22 grams

50 comments on “Review: The Original Double ‘n Cheese from Steak ‘n Shake

  1. Santiago C says:

    Sadly, the amazingness of a Steak n Shake burger is very dependent on the location. Some can compare or even outdo a burger from an In N Out or Shake Shack. But then again, some can’t even surpass McDonald’s. These are the perils of franchising and mass expansion. The lack in consistency suddenly becomes very apparent.

    • SkippyMom says:

      Exactly what happened to 5 Guys. They’re ruined now.

      • alexg says:

        Totally agree about 5 Guys. The ones in Virginia and DC area knock your socks off and can compete with In N out. The ones in direct competition with In N Out in Northern California absolutely suck!! Dry meat and mealy bread. It’s In N Out in California and all of them taste exactly the same. That’s what makes them so special,.

    • Jarry says:

      I don’t think franchising is necessarily the main issue. Most of these places lack consistency in the first place and franchising only makes it more apparent to a larger demographic. That’s why I think that In-N-Out, if they keep expanding, will eventually fall under. They offer a “decent” product, but the more they expand, they lose the hype they first created by fanatical Californians.

      I mean, there are people who always get an In-In-Out burger when in California, and with that mind-set, even if it’s not very great, which their burgers honestly aren’t, you’re going to believe that it is, because you’ve been pounded over the head by “IN-N-OUT IS THE BEST BURGER EVER” rhetoric from self-proclaimed “foodies” and general band-wagoners.

  2. Edmond says:

    Is tipping required?

    • Tracy says:

      Yes tipping is required. You’re seated at a table with a server taking your order and bringing it to you. There is the option to take-out though that doesn’t require tipping.

      • Manavee says:

        Question on that: If you go to a place like Denny’s or Steak and Shake solo and have a bill of $10, do you still tip 20%? I feel like a bit of a cheapskate if I only leave 2 bucks as a tip.

  3. John says:

    I live in the Steak n’ Shake heartland (Central Illinois) and almost always receive an immaculately cooked and seasoned burger. It actually looks like what you see in a television ad.

  4. Biff Bagel says:

    Never had a bad experience with Steak ‘n Shake in Nashville… Best burger ever! 5 Guys blows.

  5. Jessica says:

    I love Steak ‘n Shake. Cheese fries and a frisco melt (maybe a shake) may kill me one day, but it will be a great way to go!

  6. Aaron says:

    Wow never realized Steak n’ Shake wasn’t a national thing. They make a solid burger, miles better than anything you’ll get at the big fast food burger chains. That’s what happens when you use an actual grill.

    And I don’t recall ever seeing pickles like those before.

    • wenkie says:

      Had a Steak ‘n Shake in Orlando FL that I grew up with – was very good food. Loved the grilled buns and the pistachio milkshake. But I don’t remember anything like that bad burger in the review. Maybe like a lot of places the quality has dropped over the years..

    • wenkie says:

      also I don’t remember french fries – I thought steak ‘n shake did hash browns..

  7. Matt says:

    They just opened the first Steak ‘n’ Shake in Colorado around Thanksgiving, and while the drive-through wait time was 1hr+ for the first several weeks, the craze has died down and I’ve visited a few times.

    The food was pretty good, but I will never return to Steak ‘n’ Shake again. I’ve been there 5 times since it opened and my order has been incorrect 4 of those times. I went there this past weekend and that was the final straw. Not only was my food prepared incorrectly again, but my ticket time was 23 minutes (I spent the last 15 of that at the window watching the time tick away on the expo monitor). Two cars behind me left the line after ordering because it was taking so long. I’ll give every place a chance to redeem themselves after a bad experience, but SnS got a third and fourth chance and they still messed up. Never heard back from a manager or corporate person after sending in a complaint the last time.

  8. James says:

    Hash browns with everything is the Waffle House schtick.

    Too bad you didn’t get a good burger, I’ve been very pleased with my meals at S&S.

    I’m surprised you went to a Steak n Shake and didn’t get a shake. Their shakes are really good.

    • Chefprotoss says:

      Shakes aren’t really my thing. I’m not the best person to review them opinion wise. I have a serious sweet tooth deficiency.

  9. Chefprotoss says:

    @ George Nope, I have waited tables before and I know two things; waiting tables is a bitch and those servers earn every penny, and yes, you do get what you pay for. If you tip like crap and make a return visit, don’t be suprised when you have empty glasses and wait an hour for the check. I also enjoy making someone’s day. Depending on certain factors, I have no problem tipping 100% on an $80 check. I’m not saying you should fallow my lead, but you should never tip less than a minimum ammount. A six dollar omelet order by a one top can take up just as much realestate and time as a three top with a fifty dollar check.

  10. rob says:

    Never liked S & S myself, though the one in Gainesville used to serve beer which was good.

  11. Mike says:

    Love Steak and Shake. I normally get the triple which makes up for the size and the meat is steak ground up which has a really good taste. I agree that location is key and the wait staff has to be up to their game for the place to leave a good impression with you. I have been to Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia without any issues. Luv me some S & S….

  12. jali says:

    not a fan of the food…but their shakes are the best. i feel sorry that you didn’t get one while you were there! i promise it would have changed the experience for you.

  13. Ryan (not Grubgrade Ryan) says:

    I have never had a bad meal at Steak n’ Shake. As others have said, it probably varies by location. The ones in Winston-Salem and Raleigh, NC are always great. The fries are tiny, but they’re so good, and the burger patties are bigger than what you have pictured above. Also, their hot dogs, “steak franks”, are amazing.

  14. Cynthia says:

    I do enjoy Steak and Shake, though I do agree the prices are a bit high. The burger is good, once you season it yourself, but I just love those tiny little fries! The shakes are really good, too, with a good variety.

  15. Peter says:

    Great observation about the meat/pickle ratio. “Want some meat with your pickles, sir?”

    Also, I gather there’s big variation in Five Guys output as a function of region. Here in N. California Five Guys also omits the seasoning which to me is a big “fail”. Is that the practice elsewhere? I love their fries though, the only ones not from McD’s that I actually really like. (I HATE In ‘n Out’s fries)

  16. Deanna says:

    You think Steak & Shake is pretentious? Hahahahaha! You must LOVE the Chocolate Wonderfall at Golden Corral.

  17. Natalie says:

    I fcking love Steak n Shake. Every time I go home (to Georgia) I have to get a frisco melt and chocolate shake. When I was there a couple months ago, they had a happy hour, half priced milkshakes from 2pm-4pm and 2am-4am. Pretty good deal.

  18. Mikey F Baby says:

    Being from Ohio, we’ve had Steak ‘n’ Shake as long as I can remember. I’m not diehard fan, but I feel a little defensive when a SnS newbie comes around and starts bashing it lol.

    I love the Frisco melt, but they’re deals on Double/Triple Cheeseburgers are good values, IMHO. And hey, when it’s two AM and you’re starving and/or inebriated, this is the spot!

  19. Alex says:

    Clearly you are not a regular at Steak n Shake. Frisco Melt is the sandwich of choice for most. Along with a cherry coke. chili cheese fries as well.

  20. Alex says:

    Also, the best Steak N Shake around is the one in downtown Indianapolis. Every single thing they make looks like it should be on a commercial.

  21. Sascha says:

    I won’t go as far as saying I’ve NEVER had a bad meal at SnS, but I’ve had hundreds, and the bad experiences are easily in the single digits. I wish I still had close access to one.

    As far as somebody saying they’re too pricey, what do you want? SnS prices are more than fair, if they’re too high for you, stick to Dollar Menus.

  22. Chefprotoss says:

    I should have elaborated in the review. If this was a 10/10 I’d pay triple. As is, it’s a four dollar plate of food that tastes just ok and won’t fill anyone up. I think the dollar menu burgers are better tham S&S. Although, I’d rather go somewhere awesome and pay 12 bucks for my meal.

  23. Mike N says:

    BTW, Roger Ebert did a great essay on the wonders of Steak ‘n Shake: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2009/01/car_table_counter_or_takhomasa.html

  24. CM says:

    Coke with cherry and vanilla flavoring, a guacamole burger hold the weird red mayo sauce junk, and some fries.

    It’s what I order almost every time.
    Thankfully, I’ve never had any problem with under-seasoning or lack of produce, or too much produce. At mine, we don’t even get those huuuuge pickles. Which I am thankful for since that is a whooole lotta pickle.
    I guess it all depends on the Steak N Shake that you are going to.

  25. Hunter-m3 says:

    Did anyone see the Food Network Best Thing I Ever Ate burger episode. Suprisingly, this was Mark Summers favorite burger.

  26. Katie says:

    Tried breakfast at Steak and Shake once. It was…not bad. It just wasn’t great either. Mediocre and inoffensive, I would say.

    I wasn’t really expecting much, but I won’t be returning. Not worth it really.

  27. jali says:

    p.s. they have a nutter butter milkshake right now

  28. Charlotte says:

    The general rule is the closer the Steak n Shake location to the flagship in Indianapolis the better the food. Also, it’s a new place probably staffed by people who’ve never had Steak n Shake before so maybe in time they’ll get better? We don’t have one around here but I try and stop any time I’m on a road trip because I friggin’ love it! Cheesy shoestring fries and Frisco melts!

  29. Hart says:

    so brave, thank you for trying this garbage so I don’t have to

  30. Lindsay says:

    My best burger is still a Culver’s burger, hands down.

    • Sascha says:

      Ooh, can’t argue with that. Their meat has a really unique and special flavor to it. Very good stuff.

  31. belinskaya says:

    The flagship is not in Indy – that’s where they are headquartered now, but the original home is Bloomington-Normal, IL. (I grew up there.)

    And yes, Steak ‘n’ Shake is awesome, but they do vary considerably. That said, I miss it like crazy. Tiny fries and bean crock and orange freeze FTW.

    Wish they had opened closer to DC than Fredericksburg. I’m never down that way!

  32. Chefprotoss says:

    Its only a 45 min drive. Check it out. Its literally on a 95 exit. 129 I think. I would like to know what the hard core S&S fanatics think of this location. Plus that area is Mecca if you are into fast food. Fredericksburg being a corporate whore has its advantages lol.

  33. [...] look to the place, it makes a great dining experience.(for another take on Steak ‘n Shake, Chefprotoss reviewed the Original Double ‘n Cheese)Pros: Great flavor, nice atmosphere, good price. All around a good meal.Cons: A bit messy, lacking [...]