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

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16 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

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  7. RgR says:

    THE CHEESE IS THE BEST PART YOU FOOL !

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