We are always in the hunt for the best burgers. Right up front, we’re going to say that we’re not saying the Snack Shack burgers are the best in the entire in the Philippines. We’re not even saying that it’s the best in Metro Manila. No, we’re not making that decision yet. Not yet. But we’re going to put taste buds on the line and say that the Snack Shack can give ANY burger a run for their money; definitely the best burger joint in this side of Quezon City. There are 5 things that you should know about the Snack Shack.
Smallest Serving is Quarter Pounder
The presence of choices is good but just like life in general, too much of a good thing is never good. Having too much choices is not exactly good. In the hamburger world, there’s an endless parade of choices in terms of sizes and ingredients. Burger companies spit out burger variants in the hope of capturing the widest possible market base. What we love about Snack Shack is the simplicity of choices — you get only two kinds of burgers: the half-pounder and the quarter-pounder. Nothing more, nothing less. If you don’t like it, you’re free not to visit the Snack Shack. It’s just like Philippine weather; some say there are only two seasons, the rainy season and the very rainy season. But that’s another story altogether.
You visit the Snack Shack only when you’re hungry — this is not a place for the weak of heart (literally and figuratively speaking). This is not a place for weak tummies. The Snack Shack is not the place to go for light snacks. This is a place for those who wish to have lunch or dinner, or a heavy meal. The half-pounder is not really huge — the patty is sandwiched by the same size and type of burger bun as the quarter-pounder. Everything is the same so why give yourself a hard time thinking? Choose the half pounder and see if you’re strong enough. Accept the dare? Then what are you waiting for?
The Snack Shack is a hole-in-the-wall, which is a little misleading. First, there’s no wall — it’s a fence, something close to a rusty chicken-wire fence run over by plant tendrils. Second, it’s not exactly a hole, but what used to be a main gate that was removed and substituted with a makeshift order counter. There’s a makeshift roof that is not enough to shield you when it rains. There’s a wooden bench that is almost always occupied. There are a few plastic chairs on a first-come-first-served basis. The tables? There are NO tables at the Snack Shack. You eat sitting on the plastic chairs or the wooden bench. Better still, you take the biggest bite while standing up. It’s probably the best standing position there is.
Not that waiting an entirely bas thing in all situations. The good thing about waiting at the Snack Shack is the time to talk with, joke around and bond with your friends; no worries about how weird you guys sound or look like because this is UP after all, a place which seriously expands the boundaries of what’s weird and what’s not mainstream. This is also a place for those who prefer to enjoy their burgers alone — sit on the happily discordant chairs and reflect how that dilapidated building in front is allowed to rot while the state university constantly fights for its dwindling budget, or how the nearby Kalayaan dormitory inspired the Eraserheads to compose the song Minsan, that hauntingly beautiful song about true friendship. Or perhaps explore the nearby areas of culinary interest, like the bulalo joint on the side of Snack Shack.
There’s a second branch of Snack Shack in Teacher’s Village, but we’re not going to tell you exactly where it is. We want you to visit the original site, inside the UP Diliman campus (look for the UP Post Office, or the UP Shopping Center, and you’re near the Snack Shack). Inside a campus that champions substance over appearance, the Snack Shack is definitely at home. Put it somewhere else, especially in a mainstream configuration, and the Snack Shack loses the second word, shack, which, in our opinion, is the heart and soul of this burger joint.
There’s a unique feature in Snack Shack that is based on absolute trust, in the same way that you trust its burgers are deliciously fresh — it has a cellphone number that you can call and order ahead. Lead time is around 20 minutes, the same waiting time if you place your order on the spot. Why it’s important to call ahead? There’s always a long line of hungry souls waiting at the Snack Shack. A 5-person queue is not reassuring because other patrons are most likely to have placed their order ahead.
Here’s what you should do: around 20 minutes before getting to UP Diliman, call ahead, place your order and give your name. Snack Shack will start throwing in the 100% beef patty on the smoky grill, place the cheese on top to completely melt, warm the bun on the same grill, place the lettuce, onion and tomato on top, together with the ketchup and mustard. By the time you’ve arrived, the burger is ready for the taking.
The cellphone number? Sorry, we feel it’s something “earned” to avoid prank calls. You have to visit once and get the number on site (if you ask nicely, maybe we’ll decide to give out the number).
Closed on Sundays
The perfect combination — and we’d like to believe this is something seriously considered and wisely ruled out by Snack Shack’s management — is to enjoy the freshly prepared burgers is on Sundays, after mass at the nearby UP Chapel. The usual burger joint would want to open on Sundays, a time when families are out of their homes for one reason or another. The Snack Shack inside UP campus, unfortunately, is closed on Sundays. The other Snack Shack outlet outside UP, on the other hand, is open 24/7. But we won’t tell you exactly where it is — first visit the main UP branch to experience the real deal, then ask their staff where the branch is.
There’s one caveat that you must consider before trying out the Snack Shack — if you wish to still enjoy the usual burger in regular fast-food outlets, do NOT go to the Snack Shack. There’s a different experience one gets when visiting stand-alone, specialty burger joints like the Bypass Burger and Snack Shack. Imagine a Snack Shack Quarter Pounder at P70 and Half Pounder at P135? Imagine those reasonably-priced burgers with a taste that can proudly stand toe-to-toe with any burger there is. Once you enter the Snack Shack, you’d honestly feel that it’s a sin — an affront to what a self-respecting burger stands for — to try the fastfood burgers you find in malls. Snack Shack is where you find beautiful, delicious burgers. Burger heaven in a shack.