Monday, August 2, 2010

[Review] Five Guys Burgers & Fries

I don't do a lot of restaurant reviews, but this place is really "hot" so I thought it was worthwhile to share my experience. In fact, the only reason I ate there at all was because of all the buzz I'd heard both before the local restaurant opened as well as after.

I stopped and ate at the new Fairmount Fair Five Guys on Friday. I'd been hearing for months about what a terrific place Five Guys was, and when it opened in Fairmount the restaurant had lines out the door for the first several weeks.

The restaurant is small and simple - they have two cash registers where you order and pay, a space to wait while your order is prepared, and then a simple dining room that appeared to seat about sixty people (with another fifteen or twenty at the patio tables outside). The menu is equally simple - they have four types of burgers - regular, cheese, bacon and bacon cheeseburger. Then there are fifteen toppings that you can add on for free if you're so inclined. They range from the traditional ketchup or lettuce to hot sauce. The burgers come in single or double-patty varieties, and they also serve hot dogs (in the same four styles as the burgers), veggie sandwiches, and grilled cheese. Their "famous" fries come in a regular or large-size cup, and can be ordered plain or Cajun-spiced. That's the whole menu, so if you're looking for anything more than you could get at a New York City pushcart, you'll need to go somewhere else.

I ordered the baconburger and a regular fries. Now, let's be honest, a burger is a burger. They're hard to screw up completely (unless you burn it or under-cook it) and they're hard to make really exceptional. I thought Five Guys served an acceptable burger. It was kind of small, but it tasted like ground beef, was served hot, and the bacon tasted like bacon. And there's not really much more I can say about it. It wasn't "heavenly" as their signs proudly quoted. It was just a burger that had been properly cooked and served on a fresh bun with ketchup and bacon. I didn't dislike it, but I don't see what all the fuss was about. Is it really that hard to get a good burger?

The fries were disappointing. I'm familiar with this style of medium-cut fries - neither shoestring nor steak fries, but right in-between - and they've never really impressed me. The flavor tends to be bland and the consistency tends to be limp, as these were. They weren't mushy-limp, but only a few were good and crisp. Perhaps the cajun-fries are more impressive, but I don't care for cajun-style spices so that wasn't an option. I just like plain, well-made, lightly-salted fries and these didn't impress me.

The size was impressive - the "regular" fries was in what appeared to be a 12-ounce cup which was full to overflowing - my bag had probably 30% again as many fries in it as were in the cup, but a lot of mediocre fries is not necessarily a good thing. According to their website, it's meant to be two servings, which was about right - by the time I'd eaten half of mine, I'd found all of the "best" ones and didn't really want any more. If they'd been good fries, though, I could easily see me eating the entire thing - all 620 calories worth. Yow! My single-patty "Little" baconburger was 560 calories. Note that the double-patty "Regular" baconburger would have been 780 calories. Opt for the "Regular"-size Bacon-Cheeseburger and you're in for nearly 1000 calories, or up to around 1300 if you add in a serving of fries. This isn't particularly outrageous for fast food or for restaurant food in general, just as long as you're aware that you may be getting a significant percentage of your full-day's recommended caloric intake in a single meal.

So the bottom-line? You can get a decent burger and crappy fries at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. It's definitely nothing to get excited about and the amount of love this place gets baffles me based on my experience today. Yes, given the choice I'd rather eat a Five Guys burger than one from McDonald's, but then I don't go to McDonald's when I want a great burger, I go there when I'm in a hurry, and Five Guys isn't quick enough to meet that need.

Blending together the perfectly adequate burger with the fries that I didn't really like, adding in the lack of a drive-through option (which is really pretty mandatory these days for fast-food places. If you want to be a sit-down-only joint, you should really serve better food), and the sparse menu, I can't give Five Guys more than a C. I don't expect to ever go back unless I'm with somebody else who wants to.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad I read this write-up since I (we) were a little bit curious as to just how good can this place be? We thought we'd wait for the crowds to get smaller and try it out. I think when you said the fries were pretty bad that might have been the clincher. The infrequent times that I break down and have french fries I have always enjoyed Ruby Tuesday's along with their delicious Angus burgers.

    Looks like we won't be wasting our time at 5 Guys and will be saving the calorie load for Ruby's...also, maybe Cheesburger, Cheesburger. Dad said their burger is great.