by WhereIF

Five GuysI am still on my quest to find the best burger around. There are really three awards, Best Fast Food Burger, Best Restaurant Burger and Best Overall Burger. No, I am not including homemade burgers.

So far, on my quest I have sampled burgers from places like: Carl’s Jr., McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, In-N-Out, Jack-in-the-Box, BJ’s Brewhouse, Rockbottom Brewery, The Britannia Arms, Johnny Rockets, Fuddruckers, Red Robin, Chili’s, and the list goes on. By the end of the year I will dedicate a podcast to my burger experience.

Yesterday I visited a new contender in the Bay Area: Five Guys. This is a chain that has been around in other parts of the country for a long time. They are new to the West Coast, however. The shocking and controversial news recently from Zagat’s is that Five Guys is the best fast food burger in America, ousting the home town favorite In-N-Out. Now, anyone who knows me at all, has listened to my podcast, read my blog, or follows my Titter feed, knows full well that I believe that In-N-Out is the most overrated burger in America! With a burger connoisseur buddy, @kevincrossman, I ventured into what some call a burger paradise.

The Environment

Your surroundings can have an impact on your burger experience. Should it? We can argue that later… Anyway, I thought that Five Guys reminded me of a mix of Johnny Rockets and In-N-Out. It has a fast food joint look from the 50s. Fairly stark, clean and full of potatoes! What? Potatoes? Yes, that is what I said. Apparently they are very proud of using Idaho potatoes. The lobby is filled with bags and bags of them! The bags are arranged in such a way that it marks the boundary between the line and cashiers and those just scoping out the menu.

There were far too many quotes of how great Five Guys is for my liking. Zagat reviews on the wall, quotes from national and local reviewers on the walls. Who are they trying to convince, me or themselves? I am hoping that this isn’t the typical decor and that it is only because they are brand new to this area. Still, it put me off.

They have a box of peanuts that you can freely partake of while you wait. I am not sure why this is a good idea. Peanuts in a burger place? I mean, unless there are arcade games around or they serve beer, what the heck are they thinking?

The Menu

The menu is simple, which is fine with me. No need to mess with your focus. Compared to In-N-Out, Five Guys does have a bit larger selection. They have hamburgers, cheese and bacon, so you can order a burger in any combination of those items. You can also order the burgers in little sizes, I assume for kids. They have a hot dog, cheese dog and bacon cheese dog. They have a grilled cheese sandwich and something veggie. I don’t know if it was a veggie wrap or veggie burger. Honestly, every time my eyes strayed to the veggie item, it burned my eyes and made my head hurt. Why have such an abomination in a burger joint? I mean, if you are a meatasaurus why would you drag your chlorophyll loving friends here? Seriously?!?!?

Anyway… I was impressed with the toping choices. Five Guys has all the classics: ketchup, mustard, mayo, pickles, onions and such. They also have grilled onions, jalapenos, A1, grilled mushrooms, hot sauce, BBQ Sauce and green peppers. Nice selection!

The fries come in two sizes which are basically big or bigger. They come in two styles: cajun and normal.

As for drinks, Five Guys has the normal assortment of fountain drinks. One addition, they did have caffeine free Diet Coke at the fountain. You don’t see that very often. Something shocking: They do NOT have shakes. This is, in my professional opinion, a HUGE miss. They have unneeded extras like a veggie sandwich and grilled cheese but no chocolate shake? I thought they were supposed to be serious?

This isn't my actual burger, but it could be its long lost twin!

My Order

I ordered the bacon cheese burger with ketchup, mustard, mayo, pickles, lettuce, tomato and grilled onions. I also got regular fries and a Diet Coke. Yeah, that’s right, a Diet Coke. Deal with it.

The Fries

I’ll start with the fries. Basically, they were good. Unlike those nasty, cardboard-like, denizens from potato hell that In-N-Out doles out, Five Guys fries are tasty. They are not the best fries in the world, but worthy of being categorized as Good Eats. They are thick, almost like steak fries, but just shy of crossing that line. My regular sized fries had tons! Way more than I should have eaten.

The Burger

First, let me start with the good. It was big. I almost had to unhinge my jaw and go all python on it. Also, the bacon was EXCELLENT! Crisp, thick enough and tasty! Best bacon in a fast food place ever, hands down. I was in awe over how they made the meat… instead of one patty, they made two smaller patties. In between these two mini-meat mines, they melted the cheese. Brilliant!!! Well, it seemed brilliant at the time…

My first bite, I was not in heaven, but I thought it was a good burger. My main focus on that first bite was the great bacon! As I eased out of my bacon bliss, I began to realize that the burger itself had some major flaws. Originally, I thought the two smaller patty idea was a good one. Turns out, not so much.

I know that fast food burger places will never have nice thick burgers like you make at home or get at a full service restaurant. I also know that due to health reasons and the fact that their patties are thin, fast food places cook their burgers well done. So, knowing this, making your burger patty smaller and thinner is not a good idea. It didn’t even seem like the meat was kneaded and massaged into a decent patty. They were barley smushed lumps of ground beef. Without my pile of condiments, the burger would have been dry.

That brings me to the bun. Just like at In-N-Out, they grill the inside of the bun. This is a good thing in my ratings book. That is the only good thing that I can say about the bun. I did not care for the taste of it. Now, a good bun can certainly enhance a burger and bring it to new heights. At the very least, you can get away with a substandard bun as long as it does its job, namely: HOLD THE CONTENTS OF THE BURGER TOGETHER! Why did I yell that? Because the flimsy, weak-ass bun that Five Guys gave me can’t even do that. Less than halfway through my meal it started falling apart. I have no problem with a good, messy burger, but that is only when things fall out of the sides. When it is messy because it falls apart, that is an entirely different story. Epic bun fail!

The Verdict and Rating

Five Guys hardly has the best fast food burger in America. As you already know, I do not worship at the altar of In-N-Out, so I have no hidden burger agenda when I say that Five Guys Burgers and Fries is not better than In-N-Out Burger. Although, even with its annoyances I did think it was a decent burger. It wasn’t an embarrassment, Five Guys is just not as good as its reputation. If I was with friends who wanted to go to Five Guys, I could deal with that. I just would not seek Five Guys out on my own.

To be fair to them, I will try Five Guys one more time before my big burger podcast. Thank goodness they have bacon, it really does make everything better!

WhereIF Rating: 3 sets of wings out of 5.

3 out of 5


  1. Meilei on 08.22.2010

    When Rob and I lived in Arlington,VA we used to go to five guys for burgers. Back then it was great. Although I personally don’t care for their fries
    (I like mine more crispy crunchy) the burgers
    were great! Having said that I don’t know if they were such a big chain back then. Thanks for the review even though I didn’t know how you felt about in n out. We will have to agree to disagree on this

  2. WhereIF on 08.22.2010

    Just to be clear, I like In-N-Out. It is a good burger, it just isn’t the best burger around. I happen to think that it is the most overrated burger there is. Since the fries there suck so bad, it is hard for me to get myself excited for an In-N-Out trip.

  3. Fan from Across the Pond on 09.09.2010

    WhereIF, My partner and I actually love your writing along with your current webpage all in all! The posting is quite clearly created and effortlessly understandable. Your current WP design is wonderful as well! Would definitely be good to know where My partner and I can obtain it. Be sure to keep up the very good work. All of us require a lot more this sort of website owners like you online and also much fewer spammers. Great job mate!

Leave a Reply