day thirty-three: five guys
June 29, 2011 § Leave a comment
In the spirit of yesterday’s post, I am, unabashedly, writing two hamburger reviews in a row. Five Guys has the best burger on route 13 and, at $5, is the best burger deal in town. Those eschewing mega-chain fast food restaurants but still (occasionally, admit it) craving the taste of a beefed-up Wendy’s burger might feel (slightly) more comfortable, perhaps, indulging this desire in this smaller chain burger joint.
Though Five Guys originated in Virginia, the place feels like something straight out of Pittsburgh, a city famous for serving its coleslaw and fries on top of its burgers.* The menu is simple, pared down grill food: Burgers, hot dogs, fries, and three vegetarian sandwiches (veggie sandwich, cheese veggie sandwich, and grilled cheese).** All meat is cooked, as Five Guys accurately describes it “juicy and well-done.” As someone who, at home, cooks her meat rare, this sounded, at first, like an utter aporia. But, Five Guys isn’t/aren’t lying: The meat is, in fact, juicy and well-done. Well done, Five Guys, well done.
The regular $5 burger at Five Guys consists of two patties; the “little” hamburger is actually reasonably sized has only one patty. Either one comes with any number of your choice of a long list of toppings free: Mayo, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup, mustard, relish, onions, jalapenos, green peppers, A-1 sauce, BBQ sauce, hot sauce. Bacon and cheese are each extra. I’ve tried a number of combinations and my favorite, by far, is a bacon burger with lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms and BBQ sauce. The only cheese option Five Guys offers is American cheese — I went for the bacon cheeseburger once and found that the cheese subtracted from the burger more than it added and never went for it again.
If you’re for some reason tired or burgers or want to try something new, Five Guys hot dogs are amazing, too. Like the hamburgers, they too are juicy, and have a nice, taut texture with a good amount of grilled meat seasoning. You can get any of the toppings on your hot dog as well: I went for the traditional mustard, relish and grilled onions and found all of these toppings to be flavorful and high-quality.
Another Pittsburgh-like aspect of Five Guys is the sheer quantity of fries that comes with every order. The cups in which the fries are served runneth greatly over. (In fact, the one time in which I received a totally reasonable order of fries wherein the cups did not runneth over, I was, admittedly, disappointed.) Five Guys is also one of the few places in town that does not seem to batter-coat their fries before frying them. The Five Guys classic fries taste like real potato, and a sign on the wall proudly boasts of the farm from which today’s potatoes came. (Granted, it’s probably a huge, industrial-style farm, but at least we be sure that it’s not, say, a fry laboratory?) The cajun fries are loaded with spice and absolutely delicious.
When Five Guys first opened, there would be a line out the door almost every time I stopped in. I couldn’t stop thinking about the sheer brilliance of their marketing scheme: Find cheap, abandoned late capitalist shopping mall centers wherein to open a location, keep the menu and decor simple (try not to get sued by Purina brand dog food), and rely on great reviews and word-of-mouth to do the rest. Also, give people endless amounts of roasted peanuts to crack open and crunch on while in line and they’ll never feel like they’re left waiting.***
The beef at Five Guys isn’t free range, organic, or local, but it is fresh, never frozen, which is certainly a plus over other fast food chains. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Five Guys has the best fast food burgers I’ve ever had, In and Out burger included. East Coast, reprazent. Now, if only we had a real beach around here…
* Ask for your fries or coleslaw on the side in some Pittsburgh joints and you’ll either never receive your order or, not jokingly and quite rudely, be asked to leave the restaurant.
** Vegetarians, take note: These are not veggie burgers. These are just the sandwich toppings, minus the meat. None of these options are vegan, as the buns contain eggs and dairy. Five Guys does, however, say that they cook the vegetarian options on a different griddle to avoid meat splatter. The fries are cooked in peanut oil, so are appropriate for most all -ivores.
** Fortunately, the initial glee that Five Guys customers felt at the store’s opening that propelled them to, in parade-like abandon, toss their peanut shells onto the floor, has subsided and the place looks less like a high-end elephant cage than it once did.
Price: Fast-food friendly (< $8 for a double hamburger and massive quantity of fries)
Hours: 11am – 10pm every day
Recommended: Burgers, hot dogs, fries
Location: 222 Elmira Road (Route 13 on the corner of the shopping plaza where Northside Wine & Spirits is located)
Website: Five Guys