NEW YORK icon Shake Shack is building a home in the Philippines with the opening of its first branch in BGC’s Central Square.

The favorite of frequent flyers, a bite of Shake Shack has been seen as a badge of honor. A photo of a Shake Shack burger in its white wrapper tells your followers on Instagram, “I’ve been there.”

Shake Shack, while having its base and origins in New York, has more than 200 branches worldwide (including those in the United States), in such diverse locations as Seoul and Tokyo to London and Shanghai. The restaurant started in New York in 2004 as an actual shack in Madison Square Park, as part of the city’s rehabilitation efforts.

It’s not a wild stretch of the imagination then for the country’s SSI Group to be the New York restaurant group’s partner in the country. The SSI Group has been behind bringing the Starbucks concept to the Philippines, after all.

“We want people with a proven track record,” said Shake Shack Culinary Director Mark Rosati. Meanwhile, Steven Sarmenta, EVP-GM at the SSI Group, said about bringing food icons to the country, “It’s not just the brand, and the product itself, but the lifestyle [associated with it.”

BusinessWorld got a bite of the ShackBurger, its original with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and special secret ShackSauce, along with the Shack-cago Dog, with Ricks Picks Shack relish, onion, cucumber, pickle, tomato, sport pepper, celery salt, and mustard. As a Shake Shack virgin, unlike the more seasoned travelers at my table, I really couldn’t pass a verdict on how similar the taste is to the burger in New York. I can say, however, that the burger was moist, tender, and any deficiencies in flavor are balanced out with textures and freshness. The hotdog, I can also say, was one of the better ones I’ve tasted in this lifetime.

The Philippine branch also has exclusive offerings, sourced from partners in the Philippines: there’s the Ube Shake, the Calamansi Limeade, and the concretes (frozen custard ice cream). The concretes include the Uuuube-by Baby, with ube (purple yam), coconut marshmallow, ube cookie, toasted coconut, and pinipig (popped rice), topped with leche flan, while the Shack Attack, a Shake Shack classic, has been remade with Filipino chocolate. Lastly, there’s the Calamansi Pie Oh My with Calamansi Pie from Wildflour Bakery.

No insane pricing here either: the basic burger is about P250, which Mr. Sarmenta points out is 16% cheaper than the same burger in the US, 21% cheaper than in Hong Kong, and 19% cheaper than in Singapore.

“We’re the lowest,” he said.

There are a lot of burgers at this price range with far more flavor and edge, but I suppose you can go and line up so you can also say “I’ve been there.”

Shake Shack opens to the public on May 10 in Central Square BGC. — Joseph L. Garcia