Sunday, August 25, 2013

Five Guys Burgers and Fries (New York)

Burger reviewed: The Bacon Cheeseburger All The Way

Venue: Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Date: 13 August 2013

Currently in New York City, the Burger Friday fellows decided to make a quick stop at the chain restaurant Five Guys Burgers and Fries (Five Guys), on route to catch a ball game at the house that Ruth built.

Having originally opened in 1986 in Washington DC by the entrepreneurial Murrell brothers, the business exploded like an Alfonso Soriano home run when it decided to franchise in 2003. With over 1000 stores in North America and a further 1500 in the pipeline, it is the fastest growing fast food chain getting around.

Perhaps the most important indicator of its influence is that it holds the enviable mantel of being one of the most talked about burgers on the internet. With a focus on quality food and good service, it has gained a cult like status with celebrity endorsements even ringing all the way up to Barack Obama, which is exactly why it was on our list of venues to try.

An example of its commitment to quality is its shunning of twentieth century technology by refusing to have freezers in its stores. The end result is that all meat, potatoes and other produce are fresh. This attitude somewhat reminds me of the Olympic runner Abebe Bikila who just said screw you to footwear and won a gold medal in the marathon barefoot. While I am definitively not averse to technology, it is nice to know that the food is fresh.

The burger reviewed today was the bacon cheeseburger served all the way, which I was reliably informed by the guy behind the counter was in his opinion "the only way". At Five Guys, they give you the option to add whatever toppings you want – for free. With as many as 15 free toppings there is literally 262,143 combinations of burgers available, if you ‘do the math’.

When you go all the way, you get almost all of them. The all the way bacon cheeseburger consisted of a soft sesame seed bun topped with a double beef pattie, crispy bacon, cheese, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup, mayo, and mustard.

And lets just say all the way was almost better than the first time you got past first base. The pattie, which was clearly handmade, was cooked to a very good medium well, with a nice bit of char on the outside, giving it bite and flavour. The bacon was crunchy and complemented well by the sauce combination of ketchup, mayo and mustard. Every bite of the burger was mouth-wateringly good, with seemingly different flavours and textures between the current bite and the one previous.

Ably accompanied by handcut chips with the skin on and endless soda refills, it is easy to see why Five Guys is cult worthy. While your waist line might not thank you, your wallet definitely will. Total cost for the meal came in at under $14USD for what is a very good quality burger.

While a distinction exists for burger purveyors between gourmet burgers (served on a plate, and generally neater in appearance) and fast good burgers (served wrapped and delivered in a bag), of which the Five Guys clearly falls into the latter category, the flavours and quality of their offerings can be held up against any of the gourmet burgers we have tried.

In light of its punch above its weight stakes and not necessarily good looks, this is the Phil Mickelson of Burgers. Mickelson is an unabashed fan of Five Guys who once in a press conference, unprompted, told a roomful of reporters that Five Guys served “hands down the best burger he has ever had.” It was revealed a week later that Mickelson was an investor in Five Guys franchises. Regardless, who doesn't mind a little bit of self promotion when the burgers can back it up?

This is one burger chain I would love to see come to Australia. If in North America skip the Clown (McDonald's) and the Crown (Burger King) and definitively get to Five Guys!

Burger Friday rating: 42.5/50

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