Welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues. Today’s post is not about a food that is extremely disgusting like some of my posts in Beijing or Korea, but rather a dish that has been adapted throughout the world for local tastes. What might that be? The hamburger. This simple, extremely meaty riff on a classic sandwich is often considered to be the quintessential American food alongside hot dogs and apple pie, compliments of a certain clown and golden arches. However, today I will be talking about Five Guys, the new kid on the block when it comes to expansive burger chains.
Although the franchise started back in 1986, it hadn’t really caught on like wildfire until 2003 when they expanded to their current status of having over 1,000 locations in 47 states and 6 Canadian provinces. The concept behind Five Guys is simple: fresh, made to order burgers with handcut French fries that are made each day. The quality shone through on the most recent occasion I visited since I have already been there. Their menu isn’t very elaborate offering mainly hamburgers or cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and some sandwiches that cater to the vegetarian crowd. This time around, I got a cheeseburger ($6.20) and a side of Five Guys fries ($2.50). You also have plenty of options to choose from in terms of toppings to put on the burger, so I went “all the way” with mayo, lettuce, pickles, ketchup, mustard, grilled onions, and no mushrooms but you can get them if you like grilled fungus on your burger. The cool part about Five Guys was that I could watch them make the burger from grill to completed product along with my fries in the deep fryer. They were efficiently assembled, and I received my order in a paper sack. I opened up my mini aluminum silo of beef to find a burger that was stacked with two substantial patties and two slices of American cheese along with all of the toppings I mentioned. I had to step back and admire this bad burger with the same reverence that Edmund Hillary probably had before scaling Everest, but I sallied forth into the wilderness that was my cheeseburger. From the first bite, I was hooked. The juicy beef patties and creamy cheese laid the foundations for the lighter condiments to shine especially the savory grilled onions. The ingredients were superb, but construction-wise, this burger was a real leaning tower of flawed artistry. Bigger doesn’t always equal better especially when trying keep the burger together. I suffered from a mix of Newtonian physics and plate tectonics in food form where the patties would rub together with the liquid condiments and would slip in the opposite direction of where I was biting. Thus, half my burger almost ended up flying out the back end of the bun onto the table top. Never a good look. Once I demolished that beefy behemoth, I turned my attention to the wonderful fries that were spilling out of the cup and filled some nooks and crannies of the bag. These fries were obviously hand cut due to their irregular shape and still having the skins on them. I noticed the slightly nutty flavor the peanut oil imparted to this classic partner to the burger. They toed the line in terms of being too salty, but then again, I’m not a huge salt fan. Based on previous experiences, I wouldn’t recommend their Cajun fries because they always seem to overdo the seasoning which makes the fries taste more like a spicy salt lick than potatoes.
Overall though, I’d highly recommend Five Guys burgers and regular fries that are pure Americana. I pledge allegiance to the pure flavor of the United States of Burgerdom, and you should too!