I love burgers. I've said it before that, when I dine out, my eyes immediately seek out their cheeseburger because I see it as classic American cuisine and a meal that, I think, is easy to do poorly if ignored and hard to do very, very well. Five Guys does it very, very well. How they managed to maintain their semi-fast food sentiment, their diner look, and still make a delicious and juicy burger... I'll never know. But it's a definite, definite win for the owners, and for the city, I think.
Imagine this, if you will: you've heard about a chain restaurant, everyone raves about it, talks about how wonderful it is, it's lunch time in Clifton in the middle of the week, and the last few restaurants people raved about were disappointments. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, no? Wrong. We walked in -- immediately greeted by an employee who held the door for us, and walked by a sign that informed us just exactly where our potatoes were coming from that day (Driggs, Idaho) -- and were at the counter ordering our meal within three minutes. The menu was simple -- there's not much on it, dogs, burgers, brauts, drinks, and fries is about the whole of it -- so simple, in fact, that the lady who followed us in was confused enough to ask, "Are your burgers any good here? What should I order?" Seriously. You're at a freakin' burger joint.
Got my number, my drink, and waited. I will make a mild complaint that it's hard to hear over the hustle and bustle. To my count, there were no fewer than 15 employees working when we came in, and the crowd walked in shortly after. The cashier is screaming "I need two patties!" every time someone orders a burger, and then there are two guys at the end of the counter yelling your number. I got confused, but I'm sure this will all pass.
We unrolled our burgers. I got the bacon cheeseburger ($5.79) with lettuce, grilled onions, and ketchup, a side of small fries ($1.79, I believe), and a small drink ($1.39). Unfortunately, Five Guys suffers from the Penn Station syndrome: no meal deals, and kind of expensive. My whole meal was just over $10. The price was quickly forgotten. Kate and I considered each other, considered our burgers, and dove in. At first bite, it was love. The beef was exquisitely juicy and flavorful. The cheese was American, a disappointment, but the other add-ons were fresh and delicious. It was not a cheap piece of lettuce stuck on there, it was a nice hunk of iceberg piled on two patties with bacon that carried a touch of spice. The bread was soft and squishable, otherwise you would not have been able to fit my burger in my mouth.
The fries, of which you get a lot for your money, were not terribly impressive. They were fresh and thick and juicy, but I shudder now to believe that I have become so used to -- sigh -- fast food that I may never truly be able to enjoy a real fry. A tad oversalted, I felt like they could have used a touch of something to set them apart. A special spice, perhaps? Maybe just a little pepper? I had just grabbed salt (which I did not add), and I was too engrossed in my burger to go hunting for pepper, and I really didn't think about it.
Regardless, I ate every last one of the potatoes.
The set up is vaguely reminiscent of a 1950s diner. It's decorated in red and white checks. Considering the location of the line and the cashier, I was sure that the place would soon have people pouring out the door. Service was fast and efficient and pleasant, so there was nobody hanging outside waiting to get on the very hot and sticky summer afternoon. The crowd moved right through, and there did not seem to be a lack for seats. The place was full, but no one was left wandering or waiting.
Overall, I'm going back. And soon. Well, once I get paid again. I can't be eating $10+ meals every day. Perhaps just once a week. So much for my waistline.
It's an "A" -- and totally worth the hype.