“The Shake Shack is back!”
Stasha stared at me with a puzzled look on her face.
“I didn’t know it was gone,” she replied.
“Well, no, but it was closed for several months while they made some renovations,” I explained. “Today while driving past it on Coast Highway I noticed the parking lot was packed. We should go check it out.”
“Didn’t you tell me you used to ride your bike to the Shake Shack?”
“Yes I did. In high school my friends and I used to ride our bikes from Huntington Beach to Laguna Beach, and we’d stop at the Shake Shack for their famous date shake before heading on to Laguna. Can you believe that was more than 30 years ago?”
“Well, Mr. Nostalgia, since I’ve never tried a date shake, my curiosity is now piqued. Let’s take an office break and go get one.”
As we drove down Coast Highway, I described how the Shake Shack had been an Orange County landmark since 1945, when it was known as the Date Shack due to its famous date shakes—although they also served sandwiches and other goodies. Over time the name changed, as did ownership. In 2006, Ruby’s bought the Shake Shack, repainted it white (for decades it had been a bright yellow) and revamped the menu. The recent renovation restored the original color and added new menu items, but shakes are still the focal point: nearly two dozen versions of the frozen treats are listed on the menu.
We timed our visit to miss the lunch rush and actually found a parking space in the tiny lot (which has a 30 minute time limit). We strolled to the Shack’s order window and peered at the menu. A handful of sandwiches, hot dogs, soups and sides were listed, as were shakes, malts and other beverages.
“Look—they still have the signature Peanut Butter, Banana and Honey sandwich on the menu,” I said excitedly. “And they have the date shake, and a few new ones.”
“Which is your most popular shake?” Stasha asked the girl at the order window.
“That would probably be our Monkey Flip. It has chocolate, banana, peanut butter and dates.”
“Now that’s what I call a shake—sounds good to me,” I said.
We placed our order and walked to the newly expanded patio, which offered a panoramic vista of the Pacific Ocean.
“You know, Orange County has changed a lot over the years, but at least the Shake Shack is still here, and this view is the same,” I told Stasha wistfully.
“It is beautiful,” she agreed. “No wonder you rode your bike here.”
We admired the seascape until our order was ready. I grabbed the cup, inserted a straw, and took a sip. A grin instantly appeared on my face.
“This is amazing—try some,” I said, handing the cup to her.
“Mmmmm, delicious. I see why you like it so much.”
“Tastes like a peanut butter cup,” I said, grabbing the milkshake out of her hand. I proceeded to inhale what remained.
“Are you content now that you revisited the Shake Shack?” she asked.
“Yes indeed—that was good. It brought back memories, but I’m glad that the Shake Shack s also creating new memories for visitors.”
As we drove away from the Shake Shack I was still in a nostalgic mood, so I shared another memory.
“Did you know that the original Ruby’s restaurant is the one located at the end of the Balboa Pier?”
“No, but since you did write a history book about Newport Beach, I bet you know all about it.”
Knowingly, I launched into the story of how Ruby’s founder Doug Cavanaugh convinced the city of Newport Beach to let him have a long term lease on an old bait shop at the end of the Balboa Pier so he could turn it into a 1940’s style diner (a reflection of Balboa’s heritage). Doug opened his restaurant – named after his mother – in 1982, and it was an instant hit. Ruby’s expanded over the years and opened dozens of restaurants in several states, all modeled after the original Ruby’s on Balboa Pier.
“And you used to ride your bike there too?”
“Sometimes, but mostly I drove. That was back in the mid 1980s, when the Balboa Theater used to show classic movies. I’d drive to Balboa, eat at Ruby’s, and go watch a movie. The theater is closed, has been for years, but Ruby’s is still going strong. Ironically, I worked for Balboa Theater several years ago, and we had weekly staff meetings at Ruby’s. Whoever was late had to buy breakfast for everyone, so I always made sure I was on time.”
“They’re open for breakfast?”
“Yes, and it’s a pretty extensive menu—omelettes, pancakes, waffles, breakfast tacos, and other traditional breakfast items. And you get to dine with a fabulous view of the ocean, and the fishermen casting their lines from the end of the pier.”
“Since you’re reminiscing, I vote we have the weekly Indy staff meeting there and you can treat– for old time’s sake!”
Ironically, we did have the weekly staff meeting at Ruby’s, but not in Balboa. Turns out that the Shake Shack started serving breakfast (7 to 11 a.m.) this week, so we returned with other Indy staffers and sampled the morning menu. We ordered a Breakfast Burrito filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, salsa and low-fat cheese, served with Rubyspuds, plus an order of Cinnamon Roll French Toast—a cinnamon roll dipped in egg batter, then grilled golden and served with butter and syrup. And for fun, we added a Date Shake to the mix, plus a new menu addition: Milky Way Latte.
The burrito was tasty and filling, but the French toast was even better—bursting with flavors of cinnamon and butter, and when dipped in syrup a decadent delight. The coffee was rich and reminded us of a dessert drink, while the date shake was so thick we needed a spoon to devour the delicious beverage.