Five Guys Menu Update
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Five Guys Menu Review
How I did it:
Over the course of two weeks, I went to two Northern California Five Guys a total of three times. I ordered every single item on the actual menu, plus one off-menu item, and ate a bunch of peanuts for no reason while I was waiting.
A note on the peanuts:
They’re fine? Shelling peanuts is more about the process for me, which I found mildly relaxing. But in the end, they’re still just peanuts, and since the phrase “I bought it for peanuts” doesn’t suggest they’re a HUGE value-add, I’m not spending more time on them.
Five Stars/Guys Who Are Enjoyable To Be Around:
Many moons ago, I reviewed nearly every major chain cheeseburger. Much to the chagrin of my In-N-Out fanboy California family, I proclaimed Five Guys as having the best. (Note: this was before Shake Shake began their intensive expansion, so they weren’t yet in the mix, and it was a confusing time for the fast food vs fast-casual debate I mentioned earlier.) But after spending the last few years eating 330 burgers from independent restaurants all over the country, I hadn’t been back to Five Guys.
But lo and behold, upon my revisits the burgers were again a minor revelation. Each time, I saw char on the meat, hand-formed patties that broke apart easily, a well-griddled bun that didn’t get soggy, and the exclusive use of American cheese, which is THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE CHEESE on burgers. They aren’t perfect (they tend to undercook the griddled onions, which doesn’t allow them to properly caramelize), but they are definitely in the In-N-Out,/Shake Shack pantheon of quality fast-casual burger chains that sit above all the other major players.
The best cheeseburger order at Five Guys:
Little cheeseburger with grilled onions, barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, jalapeños, and pickles. I’m not a fan of doubling up the meat on burgers (I’d rather just eat two burgers, and vary the condiments), so I like a single patty, but there is some sort of alchemy to mixing barbecue sauce and mayonnaise, and when you combine that with the acid from the pickles and the heat from the fresh jalapeños, it’s a pretty damn glorious burger.
There are other winners on the menu, too. The extra spice in the “Cajun” fries are clearly superior to the regular fries, and I very much appreciated the fact that they wrote on a chalkboard where the potatoes came from that day (last visit it was B&S Farms in Saint Anthony, Idaho). The standard hot dog is cut butterfly-style down the middle and griddled, which should be the only way you cook a hot dog. Add relish and mustard and raw onions, and you will feel more American and look wise beyond your years.
The milkshakes are all delicious, but I truly struck gold when, after hearing an Elvis song en route to the restaurant, I ordered a bacon, banana, and chocolate milkshake. Every other sip, I sucked up a tiny piece of real bacon, and the chewy saltiness combined with the banana and chocolate was blissful.
But the most delicious thing on the whole menu was something I only heard whispered about in Reddit threads and banner ad-draped corners of the Secret Menu Internet: the patty melt.
Essentially it’s just a grilled cheese, but with an added burger patty and grilled onions. The patty melt benefits from the fact that they flip over a regular bun and double grill it with what would normally be the inside of the bun as the outside, and two layers of cheese encasing the burger patty. The grilled onions in the mix makes the entire thing a gooey, griddled delight. Honestly, I can’t recommend it enough. I ate the entire thing AFTER I’d sampled two burgers, two hot dogs, two other sandwiches, two orders of fries, and two milkshakes. I think my body created another stomach just to sate my needs.
The essential Five Guys order:
Do you really want to live like you’re dying, as the Tim McGraw song I heard while in a Five Guys passionately suggested? Then go with this: a patty melt; (don’t forget the grilled onion); a regular hot dog with relish, mustard, and raw onion; Cajun fries; and a Banana Bacon Chocolate milkshake. I challenge you to find a better order than that.
One Star/Guy Who is Kinda Sad:
The worst thing on the menu, quite predictably, was the Veggie sandwich. Essentially just a pile of vegetable toppings, it tasted exactly like they forgot to add a patty to a burger order, and, out of guilt, threw every other topping in the bin inside a bun. The cheese and bacon hot dog was a lesson in too much of a good thing, as the saltiness of the hot dog, the saltiness of the bacon, and the saltiness of the American cheese made me long to pour pickle jar vinegar or really any type of acid directly into my mouth. The BLT also tasted and looked like you’d just removed a cheeseburger from a bacon cheeseburger, but honestly, other than the Veggie sandwich, nothing was bad.
I am extremely impressed with Five Guys—as impressed as I’ve been with any of the places I’ve reviewed so far. I remember visiting one in the early aughts with my friend who grew up in Northern Virginia. Back then, just the act of knowing about Five Guys was cool, and every little quirk (the peanut boxes, the standard order being two patties, etc) built the lore that has somehow sustained itself as the chain becomes a behemoth.
And now, as I was sitting eating six different items at a Five Guys in a strip mall in Sonoma County in Northern California, it still somehow, improbably felt a little cool. The lack of advertising, the lack of real trendy innovations on the menu, all of those things seem like very wise counterintuitive choices now. They’re not chasing the customer, they’re letting the customer come to them. And from here, it seems to me, to quote the elegant Baird of Boston, like they’ve got just the right amount of guys.