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Restaurant Review: Five Guys Burgers and Fries


The Five Guys restaurant chain encourages their self-described fanatics to send in photos of them wrangling one of their burgers into submission.

What could be more American than a hamburger, French fries, and a great big drink to wash down the whole mess? Nothing, that’s what!

Five Guys Burgers zeroes in on this most iconic of meals and delivers the goods with the stopping power of a 12-gauge shotgun blast. This restaurant chain is said to have a cult-like following and over 900 U.S. locations. How could I resist finding out what all the fuss is about?

The Food

The menu is simple and centers around burgers and fries with a nod towards international cuisine (the hot dog). There are other offerings, but a grilled cheese or a veggie sandwich is not the reason to go to Five Guys, for Christ’s sake, and if you do, you are an idiot.

The simple bacon cheeseburger at Five Guys is not so simple. Au contraire! It consists of a two patties (!), enrobed with their attendant cheese slices (American) and bacony-looking flotsam, along with as many of the free toppings as they can slop on. The result is a burger that hits the scales at 1000 calories with sodium content of 1300 milligrams (the maximum recommended daily is 2300). Ooooh mama!

Your French fries and cheeseburger at Five Guys will look something like this. Even before you open it, your brown bag will already be sporting authentic grease stains and the burger, due to some rough handling during the topping assembly process will be misshapen. Bon Appetit!

Teamed up with a large fries (1500 calories, 300 mg sodium) that is generous enough to sustain a Somali refugee camp for a week, and in a 24 ounce Coke (300 calories, 80 mg sodium) and you have hit a jackpot of 2800 calories, 1680 mg sodium, and Christ only knows what all else.

After cooking, your burger food sits around while an unhealthy-looking teenager figures out which order has how many of the 16 toppings, so your formerly hot burger is lukewarm by the time you take your first bite. The whole thing is wrapped up in aluminum foil in such a way that, when you unwrap it, it looks fatigued and dejected, like a cheeseburger experiment gone horribly wrong from the movie The Fly.

I almost forgot to mention how the food tasted. On second thought, no reason to mention it at all.

Ambience & décor

The décor is mélange of decorating styles:  Midwestern slaughterhouse (walls covered in easy-to-rinse white and blood-red tiles), downtown bus station men’s room (tiled walls, unwholesome fluorescent lighting), and an industrial loading dock (40 pound bags of potatoes forming the aisle that shuttles you to the order counter).

The decor provides a post-modern mash up of styles.

The chairs and tables are simple, sturdy, and uncomfortably designed with your speedy departure in mind— not unlike what you might expect to find in the visiting room at your local penitentiary. Each tabletop is haunted by ghostly presence of recent patrons, with impressionistic smears of grease and ketchup punctuated by the odd pickle or a gobbet of rejected gristle.

The highlight of your evening will be when your number is called and you advance to the counter to pick up your bag o’ food. All orders — take out or eat in — are delivered in a signature kraft brown paper bag, with the overflowing order of fries already staining the bag dark with honest grease, a defiant proclamation of our exceptional American values.

The help

Despite the gaggle of teens milling about, none of them is there to deliver your food to your table or clean off debris left by previous diners. The motto at Five Guys is: You want it? Come get it and clean the fuck up up when you leave!

In keeping with the fast food tradition of turning customers into both waiters and janitors, there are no servers at Five Guys, but only teenagers who take your order, teenagers who cook your food, teenagers who bellow out the number of your order, and teenagers whose purpose seems to be anything except being of service to customers. A large waste can is provided for you to clean up after you have choked down your meal. Apparently any cleaning is done after closing when they can hose down the whole place.

The Customers

The slogans on the walls of Five Guys promise a “fun” experience. Yet, I didn’t see anyone who actually seemed to be having fun.

I saw lot of people having trouble fitting their food into their mouths. Some were wrapping up the uneaten portions of their meals with an expression of stuffed dismay. Many of my fellow diners looked as though this meal was the end of a 12 to 14 hour working day, and they were looking for something approaching relief or some small satisfaction. Boy oh boy, were they in the wrong place!

One or two looked as though they might be trying to commit suicide by food. Okay, yes, there were some soon-to-be obese teens who looked as though they might be having fun or at least relieving the food craving that follows getting very, very high.


Two double-pattied cheeseburgers, two small drinks, and a “small” order of fries cost just over $20. I honestly can’t decide if this is a good value or not.

To the extent that you think that you will derive something approaching enjoyment from dumping more calories than you need in one day in just one meal alone, then Five Guys is the perfect place for you.

If you have high blood pressure, incipient diabetes, or are morbidly obese and want to die as quickly and painfully as possibly, this is also the place for you. If you simply want an unhealthy meal, served in an institutional environment, save $10 and go to McDonald’s.

Better yet, for real fun and a touch of honest oblivion, buy a bag of Cheetos and a six quarts of malt liquor and stay home and watch The Dirty Dozen.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Five guys are the best from the natural freshly cut potatoes to the burgers, and i especially love the fact that i can have jalepenos on mine! Great Place!

    April 12, 2012
  2. It is kind of weird being in a place where potatoes tell you where to go.

    April 13, 2012
    • Potatoes have a wisdom of their own and an underrated sense of direction.

      April 13, 2012

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