Five Guys Burgers and Fries: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly.

Five Guys InteriorSo I just, finally, hit a Five Guys burger joint.  I’ve been meaning to for a while, but put it off because I’m lazy.

Recently though, I heard someone say people were claiming it was the East Coast version of In-N-Out Burger, which is heady praise, no matter how accurate it is, so when my kids were requesting some FOOD (such pains in the ass), I found myself in the neighborhood and we grabbed lunch.

Here’s the upshot: Five Guys does a lot of things right. They also do at least one thing horribly wrong. And they aren’t the East Coast In-N-Out, if for no other reason than the lack of a secret menu, and the fact that food costs almost twice as much. My specific thoughts:

The Good

  • No extra dosh for toppings, of which they have 15, and of which one is fresh, not pickled, jalapenos.
  • They fresh cut potatoes on site to make fries, and they’re pretty damn good. Plus, order a large (at least where I went) and they dump an entire extra HUGE scoop of loose ones into the bag.
  • They have bottles of Heinz malt vinegar for fries, in case you feel like having Belgian English french fries.
  • Fries are available “cajun style.” Didn’t try ’em this time though.
  • Bacon is well, not overly, cooked and has a nice flavor. It’s also free (on the burger, I don’t think they’ll just give you a plate).
  • They have hot sauce.
  • They wouldn’t grill the fresh jalapenos for the dude behind me.
  • They have a white board on which they name the actual farm the potatoes they’re using that day are from. Mine was in Idaho. I didn’t believe it.

The Bad

  • Burgers are like five bucks (add 50 cents for cheese), so they’d better throw in those toppings. Lunch for me and my two kids cost me $25. Bite me.
  • They smish the burger meat onto the grill, which is no way to treat burger meat, fool.
  • No milk shakes.
  • Burgers are served cooked one way: well done. (While I can’t really fault them so much for that in context of fast food, the price elevates it to the next level of burgerdom, and I’d like me some options – like ordering it cooked as I’d like, and un-smished).
  • Red and white motif is somewhat irritating and reminds me of someone I disliked in grade school.
  • If you bump into another customer you’re likely to get hipster all over you.

The Ugly

  • The cheese sucks. And there was too much of it on my burger.
  • Really. The cheese sucks.

Five Guys Burger PhotoOverall, though, it was a pretty good munch.  It doesn’t live up to the hype in most respects (but things rarely do), though it exceeds in in others (fresh jalapenos, fresh-cut potatoes, vinegar…did I mention fresh jalapenos?).

I’ll never order another cheese burger from Five Guys for the rest of my life, but I wouldn’t complain if I find myself holding one of their  bacon burgers topped with jalapenos, raw onions, grilled onions, lettuce, and hot sauce at some point in the future.

I’d give the entire experience a 3 out of 5, and recommend it if you like lots of toppings and don’t mind a well done burger (in its defense, it’s still juicy) . If you want to keep the meal cheap, though, you’ll need to leave the ankle biters at home.

Photos from Flickr users tapps and slice

Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon

This entry was posted in Eating Out, The Meatist and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Five Guys Burgers and Fries: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly.

  1. Amiel (Popo) says:

    Being a college student with less income than a serf, I rarely eat at Five Guys in favor of an enormous burrito from Moe’s or Tijuana Flats, but I always enjoy their offerings. The cajun fries are amazing, and I’m a freak for malt vinegar on my fries. Rounding out the experience are the sesame seed buns, toppings (try A-1 next time), free peanuts, and the way they ghetto-wrap the burgers that leaves the buns soaked in grease. I didn’t know that bacon was free, though. Free bacon? That’s quite a dilemma for this Jew.

    • Bradford Schmidt says:

      I haven’t had A-1 in years, I’ll have to give it a shot next time. Totally forgot about those free peanuts, which is a neat idea, and I should have mentioned the grease-soaked buns, which are also most fine.

      Moe’s I found to be a real let down, though I’m comparing it to the burrito joints in Brooklyn that I fed at for years, at which the meat is grilled fresh per order. Those steam table pans of shaky meats at Moe’s didn’t do much for me. Oh, except give me the runs for a day.

      • Amiel (Popo) says:

        Moe’s is admittedly one of the worst chain restaurants I’ve eaten at, but their Moe’s Monday (5.99 for 2lbs of burrito, chips, and drink) is the only reason I go. I saw Julian and Matt there this past monday, so it looks like I’m not alone.

        • Bradford Schmidt says:

          I made my trip to Moes with Julian and Matt as well. Seems like they may be there a lot. Lavola groupies: you know where to hang now.

  2. Ann Larson says:

    Sadly, I have to correct you on one thing. Malt vinegar on the fries is BELGIAN? Give me a break, it is English through and through! Malt vinegar is the traditional topping for one’s fish and chips (aka fries). Wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper, of course.

    They even make crisps (aka potato chips) in a salt ‘n vinegar flavour. Puts your teeth on edge to eat them!

    I believe if you want a real Belgian experience with your fries, you’d eat them with mayonnaise. Not Hellman’s, the extra yellow kind you only find abroad (don’t even want to know what makes it so yellow!!).

    Good column though I agree with the red & white aversion. Also made me very hungry for a bacon-cheese-mushroom burger!

    • Bradford Schmidt says:

      You’re right. While it may be a very British thing, I’ve had vinegar offered on fries in almost every country I’ve traveled to, with the exception of 98% of the places in the states.

      And Belgium is widely credited with inventing the french fry (the french part being a reference to cooking style rather than country of origin, which made the US House of Representatives look even more moronic than usual – an impressive achievement – when they started serving “freedom fries” in the cafeterias). Somehow I idiotically compressed those two facts. C’est la vie.

      You’d think I’d know this too, because Pommes Frites in NYC makes Belgian fries, and offers them with like 784 different mayos. And I LOVE mayo on fries, despite the fact that I can feel it clogging my arteries.

      Thanks for the correction – I’ve made it in the copy. And also, bite me.

      • CEdward says:

        Southern Belgium is so intensely french, they make french Canadians seem personable. As the birthplace of your cherished ‘pommes frites’, it seems logical that such mollusk loving epicureans would dose them heavily with warm, yellow mayonnaise… what we in the lower 48 refer to as ptomaine. Bon appetit !

    • Amiel (Popo) says:

      I went to Belgium a few years back, and visited many frietkots (french fry trucks), and that yellow mayo was present, but was nowhere near as popular as the other sauces, such as an odd combination of ketchup and curry powder, known simply as curry-ketchup. Mmm-mmmmmm!

  3. Ann Larson says:

    Thanks for the correction, Brad – in a previous life I was a technical author so am used to accuracy.

    Mayo on fries is one of god’s true inventions. As is also the humble burger – a much-maligned but worthy meal.

    Did the House change the name in the “cheese eating surrender monkeys” period in history?

    The issue I have with burgers in the US is that they are so damned huge. You don’t need 8-9 ounces of meat on a burger – you only need a balance of ingredients. And great quality ingredients.

    I love good meat, but in small, terrific portions, rather than huge, crap ones.

    And thanks for the bite offer, but not this time.

  4. Matt Hanser says:

    The fresh jalapenos were the redeeming factor for me, too.

  5. Pingback: Five Guys Burgers Review - Update | The Meatist

  6. Pingback: Five Guys Burgers and Fries

  7. RgR says:


  8. president chef awesome says:

    Make your own mayo and leave the yolk in and you will discover the yellow. In fact if you make your own mayo either plain or not, you will never go back to the lies in a jar. Also, miracle whip, this is what you top your enemies sandwich with. If you hate someone go buy the “MIRACLE” (whip?) and feed it to their children by the bowl whenever you can. Ive never eaten at 5 guys but I saw one open up near my house recently. I may try it since the bacon is free. Can anyone tell me if the burgers are actually from cows or plants? Also, before I almost go to the hospital with food poisoning is there meat washed with ammonia? If it is real I will make the trip and totally anger them by ordering all toppings at max coverage since I am obviously paying for them. Glad to take the advice and leave off the cheese (lies by the slice). God should have put in the bible if its not cheese and you call it that your a nastier sinner. I hate when filth is colored and called cheese duping only most humans and their offspring. If I wanted colored filth I would eat at MMM-ickDonaldsCANCER (the cancer is silent). Well that is all for today I am out to mingle with other humans on the highway, you know the ones that give to charity, go to church, and cut you off using the finger. Humanity, they should rename it wanters.

  9. Nick says:

    Had a Five Guy’s with 7 co-workers in UK, beef in burger could be better as the quality of meat is key to great burger, generous toppings and fries portion, the cost here is far more than USA 8.00GBP per burger and no better I guess.

  10. anon says:

    Five Guys costs double what it should, something that In-N-Out realizes. I know very many people who won’t eat at FG because of the outrageous prices. About the only thing they do right is cook the burgers well-done, which not only tastes better, but eliminates any chance of food poisoning.

  11. Bill Lambert says:

    Canadian reporting in! We’ve only had Five Guys up here since 2012, and I can say that at least in the capital, they are the best damn fast-food chain burger I’ve had. A very select few pubs offer a better burger than FG, and not by much. Let me put it this way: last month when we got our first car in many years, the wife and I both decided our first drive should be to FG, since they’re all in weird suburban areas out here, a pain to reach via public transit.

    Yes, they’re a bit pricey, but around here everything is also pricey. What happens is they don’t offer any kind of combo deals, so you’re always paying full price for fries & drink, which ends up costing as much as your burger… That’s a bit shitty IMO. Put it this way: their little burger is $5.49, which is what we pay for a Big Mac. Their big (double) burger is $7.19. If they offered a combo for $2.59 extra, like every other fast food chain EVER, then you could have a massively satisfying lunch combo under $10 instead of the current $15-ish.

    To be fair, I think their fries are kind of meh, so I often skip them altogether.

  12. Red Haven says:

    I think you pretty much nailed it. My kids also selfishly request that I feed them from time to time and they almost always request Five Guys when I offer to get take out. I don’t mind the cheese so much although I am from New York and live near philly so I am a white American cheese guy through and through.

    The fries used to be almost inedible at most stores because the employees were not making them correctly so they made an effort to retrain all of their employees and it paid off. They are very good now, especially the Cajun and I love the malt vinegar. I have not travelled outside the United States but I am a convert. I keep a bottle in my cabinet at home because of Five guys.

    Speaking of the employees, I know they have a program in which they do secret inspections and if they pass, the employees split a percentage of the day’s profits. I always thought it could pay off big time for the employees in the center city Philly store which was always packed when I used to go. The program is working for them because their stores are always clean and the employees are always pleasant. Even in Philly where they are mostly adults who and really busy, they always seem like they are enjoying cooking the burgers.

  13. Darryl says:

    Not sure if things are different from 5 years ago, but I’ve been going to Five Guys out here in Northern California for at least 2 years and Bacon has always been extra (actually separate menu items – Bacon Burgers and Cheeseburgers), that are anywhere from 50-70¢ more depending if you get a double or a single (Little) or if it has cheese.

  14. Pingback: Allegro Burgers, Five Guys Style - Make It Like a Man!

  15. I have a complicated relationship with American cheese. Publically, I can’t stand the stuff. I don’t even think it’s real cheese. I eat only the finest artisan cheeses, unpasteurized if I have to smuggle them into the country. And I’m not just aping this: I love those cheeses and fully appreciate even their subtlest aspects.

    But privately, when I’m sure I’m in the company only of those whom I trust with my deepest secrests, I have to admit to admiring American cheese for the one thing it can do better than any real cheese: meld with meat. Whereas many cheeses will melt, American cheese renounces its solidity as if meltedness were its tru state, and it then willingly intertwines itself with meat in an intimate, till-death-do-us-part kind of way. Nothing else can come close to this transcendant union on a hamburger, hotdog, or cheesesteak. It enhances the texture of the meat, rather than merely adding another layer of flavor.

  16. Venkatrao says:

    As a burger connoisseur, I think Five Guys is truly outstanding although I do feel that their offerings are not for the faint hearted. Therefore I am not eating there frequently (1-2 times a month as a treat per se)
    And what is all that talk up there about no milkshakes? We get them in our restaurant.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *