Well, I did a search first and there are 9 different threads, all with the words "Five Guys" in them (maybe more if you substitute "5" for "Five"). I had my first (and most likely only) experience with 5Gs today and I have to say, what a remarkably ordinary hamburger.
Let me start with the positive. The location I visited in Park Ridge, Illinois has an open kitchen arrangement so you can watch your burger being assembled. I paid close attention as the counter man carefully put together my sandwich, squirting a thin drizzle of ketchup and mustard on both
the top and bottom buns. He then piled on a generous handful of raw onion. Then (and here's the most impressive part) he thoughtfully placed the pickles so that they covered the entire bun/burger surface, not just plopped into the middle like so many lower end fast food places. I was most pleased.
But that is where my happiness stopped. Now, before I proceed, I will admit that I only ordered a "Little Hamburger". I'd had a modest lunch a couple hours earlier and was only looking for a snack. I was on my way to the Al's Italian Beef outlet in Park Ridge to pick up a foodie gift for The Dr. of BBQ in Springfield. I'm driving down to the American Royal on Wednesday and I always stop in to see Jack. He usually loads me up with his amazing 'Que and I try to surprise him with a local Chicago delicacy.
Anyway, the 5Gs location is just two storefronts away from Al's and I thought, why not. So I got the "Little Hamburger". Maybe if I got their full sized burger I would have had a better reaction, but as it is I was deeply unimpressed. On the plus side, the burger was served fresh off the grill, almost inedibly hot (better that than luke warm, I suppose) and was nicely presented. It was cooked to a well done state which, I discovered in reading their website, is the only way you can get it cooked, even if you order the bigger, presumably thicker full size burger. Points lost, right there. But most importantly, the flavor of the beef was quite simply bland. It didn't standout at all.
Yeah, I know, I had all those condiments on there. This was not the first Hamburger I've ever had, ya know. I've eaten, quite literally, thousands of burgers in my life. Some good, some not so much. I've had some with fewer condiments and some with more, and even more pungent condiments. On all the good burgers, the flavor of the beef held its own and stood out. This one just didn't make it.
I understand that their fries are supposed to be something special. Hand cut, skin on, fried twice like they're supposed to be. Trouble is, around the Chicago area, that is just not that uncommon. Plenty of places are doing fresh fries ranging from above average to outstanding. The much lauded fries at 5Gs may be a draw in other parts of the country, but they'll need to do better than that around here.
As for my preference of a "pressed" griddle burger or a (for lack of a better term) "free range" grilled burger (note the different spellings and understand the different cooking methods before you comment), I like them both. I'll always love a fresh, handmade 1/2 pound, medium rare pub burger. But I also enjoy the crispy. lacy edges of a skinny pressed burger. In fact, comparing apples to apples (okay, maybe this is a golden delicious to Jonathon comparison), I'd pick a mashed griddled Culver's burger every time over what was served to me at 5Gs.
Finally, and this is the part that's going to get me in the most trouble, I took note of all the glowing press quotes covering the walls. Most of the compliments came from the east coast media, specifically the Baltimore/DC area, which I guess is where 5Gs started. I've got to tell you east coast, if Five Guys burgers are "The Best Around", you've either got some really low standards for Hamburgers, or else 5Gs is going up against some really poor competition.
Five Guys will probably succeed in this market just because people are always looking for something new and different. But based on flavor alone they won't be getting anymore of my business.
<message edited by BuddyRoadhouse on Tue, 09/28/10 6:18 PM>