That’s a Good Damn Burger: Five Guys Burgers and Fries

February 6, 2010 at 5:00 am in Food & Drink, South Bay

It tastes a lot better than it looks.

It tastes a lot better than it looks.

Here’s how you can tell I’m not originally from California: I don’t like avocado on my burgers.

Really. I enjoy avocado in general. It’s nature’s answer to butter. And I’m the guy at the party who sits down on the couch and makes sweet love to a bowl of chips and guacamole until everyone in the room is staring. But I just don’t think avocado and burgers mix. Something about the cool smoothness of the avocado manages to distract my mouth from the burger and the remaining toppings, and then my mouth gets confused and angry and resolves to keep saying stupid things, like that maybe a flat tax wouldn’t be such a bad idea, or that those jeans aren’t doing my girlfriend’s hips any favors.

So I avoid avocado when I’m ordering burgers. I also avoid iceberg lettuce, but for entirely different reasons I’ll get into another time.

Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about avocado when I go to Five Guys Burgers & Fries, one of the most recent east coast transplants. A smallish, DC-based burger chain best described as In-n-Out East, Five Guys was voted “best burger in Baltimore,” which is a great endorsement, if only because it allows me to imagine that I’m eating burgers and fries with Omar Little or Bunk and McNulty.

Five guys (fairly) recently opened up a restaurant in Carson, so I decided to give it a try after spending my Sunday morning with a crowd of kindergartners and their parents for reasons I’ll get into another time. The verdict? While In-n-Out probably won’t be losing market share anytime soon, Five Guys is goooooooood.

The Burgers. I’ll admit it: While I like my steaks as pink as Angelyne’s wardrobe, I like my burgers well-done. I’ll have a medium rare burger if I trust the chef, but when dining out it’s well-done or it’s nothing. The problem here, of course, is that most fast-food burgers are well-done to the point that you’re eating what amounts to a colonial-era leather bridle. Five Guys burgers are well-done but still magically soft, falling apart in your mouth. A standard burger has two patties, which has apparently caused Men’s Health magazine much consternation, as this results in a sandwich that’s about 800 calories per serving and roughly one hundred percent of your recommended daily allowance of everything that’s bad for you. To which I say: Go soak your head, Men’s Health magazine. And if you’re wondering what to soak it in, maybe you should wring out some of those cologne samples that litter every third page of your magazine.

Toppings-wise, there’s a great selection, and the burger techs at Five Guys aren’t shy. It’s the first time in my life I haven’t sat there wondering whether I should ask for more pickles.

The Fries. The fries come in standard and cajun varieties, and if there’s ever a worldwide potato shortage, we’ll know where to look. I ordered a regular-sized serving, which not only filled an entire paper cup (see my photo), but overflowed to about two-and-a-half inches deep in the bag my meal was served in. I couldn’t come close to finishing them, so packed them away for my girlfriend, Alanna, who said they were just as delicious cold. I enjoy shoestring fries; she, steak fries. Five Guys fries are somewhere in between: Thick yet crispy, with just enough surface area to hold the right amount of spice rub.

The Drinks. Drinks are pretty standard. Nothing remarkable here. I had iced tea.

The Hot Dogs. I didn’t try a hot dog. My tummy only has so much room, and I hadn’t had time to evacuate myself that morning so my digestive tract was packed to capacity as it was. But you should know that (a) Five Guys serves hot dogs, and (b) they will wrap them in bacon if you so desire.

The Nuts. I suppose if anyone were to complain about Five Guys, they’d complain about the wait; it took a good 7 to 9 minutes for my food to be ready. To me, quality is worth waiting for, but I know there’s no shortage of people out there who want their food NOW NOW NOW GIVE IT TO ME WHY ARE YOU BEING SO SLOW OH MY GOD I’M GONNA TAKE MY BUSINESS ELSEWHERE. I’m looking at you, Yelp reviewers.

To placate the impatient, Five Guys offers free peanuts. Peanuts are the ultimate distraction; like a psychological experiment, they present a brief puzzle (cracking the shell) with a reward at the end (the nut itself). I hadn’t brought a book or a magazine with me, so I had some peanuts. They tasted about as good as peanuts can taste, but I appreciated the effort to keep me entertained.

The Service. Service was excellent: Friendly, respectful and attentive. Serving fast food isn’t rocket science, but I imagine these guys deal with more than their fair share of unpleasant customers, so their welcoming and cheerful attitudes earn a double check mark.

So yeah: Next time you’re in Carson — I dunno, maybe you’re going to Ikea or visiting an elderly aunt in her condo — make a stop at Five Guys. It’s worth the trip, I promise.

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