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I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

[Note: This is not a paid post.  The opinions expressed in this review are based on our personal experience dining there.]

Prior to traveling to and staying at our vacation home in Florida as well as the many road trips we make while there, we do a bit of research looking for new restaurants to try.  We follow Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (host: Guy Fieri) and You Gotta Eat Here! (host: John Catucci) on Food Network Canada.  We also look for reviews and forum comments of restaurants in the various areas we will be traveling through or stay in.  Somewhere along the line, my husband heard about a restaurant chain called Five Guys that has quite a following of devoted fans.  It went on our list of restaurants to try.  We had the opportunity to finally try Five Guys during our fall vacation in October.

five guys exterior
Five Guys is a privately owned restaurant chain specializing in hand-formed burgers cooked on a grill and fresh -cut fries cooked in pure peanut oil.  The combination is a sure fire winner!  The first Five Guys location opened in Arlingon, Virginia by Jerry and Janie Murrell  and their four sons, Matt, Jim, Chad and Ben as the original "Five Guys".  Jerry and Janie had a fifth son, Tyler, two years later.  Today, the five brothers are the current "Five Guys".  There are more than 1,000 locations across 40 US states and 6 Canadian provinces.   We visited one of the locations in Lakeland, Florida.

five guys peanuts
The colour scheme for Five Guys restaurants is black and crisp white with lots of cheery red accents for both the interior and exterior. A red checkerboard patter appears not only as part of the interior decor but also on their signage and packaging.   Five Guys restaurants do not have drive-through service but you can order online then wait for delivery or pick the order up yourself.  This is easy on your mobile device using their app (iPhone, Android) or through their website.  Signing up is required.  After signing up you can place your order and pre-pay via credit card online at any of their participating locations.

We stopped at Five Guys for a late lunch so it wasn't busy. Upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted with a bright, cheery atmosphere.  Boxes of help-yourself complimentary peanuts and 50 lb bags of  fresh potatoes were neatly lined up across from the open style kitchen and order counter forming a friendly, unique barrier between the counter and sit down dining area.  There is no limit on the complimentary peanuts but you can't take them out of the restaurant.

five guys interior
The interior of the Five Guys restaurant was quite spacious, bright and airy.  Clean line tables and chairs in a blond wood expanded bright and airy and yet the restaurant had some of the charm of a 50's diner.  There was ample indoor lighting combined with large expanses of windows.  The were wall-mounted cork boards on either side of the entrance with a stack of note cards and crayons for customers.  There is a self-serve drink bar and condiment counter.

The menu was neatly done on a board above the counter.  Five Guys is well known for their  simple menu consisting of burgers (hamburger, cheeseburger, bacon burger and bacon cheeseburger) in regular (2 patties) or little size (1 pattie) , hot dogs (Kosher style, cheese, bacon and bacon cheese), sandwiches (veggie, cheese veggie and grilled cheese), cold drinks (soda, bottle water) large or regular size, and fresh-cut fries (Five Guys style or Cajun style).  There is no tea, coffee, milkshakes or juice.  All toppings are free.  Those written in black on the menu board are included if order your burger with everything or all the way.  Those topping written in red are still free but you have to ask for them to be included.  Drink refills are free.  The drink cups are a hard plastic so they can be reused at home.  You can watch them make your burgers while you wait on the pick-up side of the counter.

five guys fries
The fresh-cut fries is just one thing that sets Five Guys apart from other fast food style restaurants and burger joints.  Fresh-cut fries taste so much better than the anemic ones some fast food restaurants have.  They are the selling feature for the restaurant chain and the only side offered so they have to impress customers and they certain do.

We ordered the large size salted Five Guys style fresh-cut fries to share ($4.99).  We measured out ketchup in the provided dipping bowls at the condiment station.  I would have liked malt or apple cider vinegar for my fries but there wasn't any.  From our personal experience, serving vinegar with fries is not all that popular in the US unless the restaurant serves English style fish and chips.  Vinegar with fries is more of a British and Canadian thing.

We also shared a large unsweetened ice tea ($2.29) and a tray of peanuts.  Now, we fell in love with unsweetened ice tea several years ago so I make it at home as well.  Unsweetened ice tea is very much a southern US states delight but we've been able to find it states further north as well.  This beverage is refreshing without adding any calories, just perfect for hot weather and ideal when enjoying heavier meals.

The portion size for the fries was very generous!  They were hot, steamy and crispy just perfect.  These fries are a must even if you don't eat the entire portion and they are perfect sharing size.  You just have to taste them to know they are about as close to homemade as you can get, with all the deliciousness of homemade, fresh-cut fries.

The peanuts are part of the Five Guys identity.  Those with peanut allergies or sensitivities should not go there.  There is signage on the doors to indicate that peanuts are served in bulk on the premises.  The peanuts were delightfully roasted, not too salty

Be warned, while most fast food is not the best food for you, Men's Health Magazine (2008) listed Five Guys fries in their 20 New Worst Foods in America Eat This, Not That!  A large Five Guys fries contains 1,474 calories, 71 g fat (14g saturated) and 213 mg sodium.  Overall, Men's Health gave Five Guys a grade of C in terms of healthy choice offerings.  However, you can reduce the calories by sharing as we did and simply asking for no salt on your fries would greatly reduce the sodium.

five guys burger
We each ordered a regular cheeseburger ($5.79).  I ordered my with the everything and added jalapeƱo peppers.  My husband ordered his with lettuce, tomato and grilled onions.  All of the regular size burgers come with two patties while the little size comes with one.  The patties are made with 100% fresh beef with no fillers or preservatives.  The beef is neither organic or free range but it is purchased from producers that treat the cattle humanely following all the procedures set by the USDA.

These were really tasty,  juicy, homemade style burgers.  We certainly enjoyed them!  Fully loaded, they were a bit drippy to eat but that really is part of the enjoyment.  These burgers seriously are some of the best.  To borrow a term from several reviewers, Five Guys' burgers are Burgericious, well worth the culinary experience.

Men's Health Magazine in the same rated the regular burger sans cheese or toppings as an unhealthy choice at 700 calories and 20 grams of fat.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest listed Five Guys' bacon cheeseburger (920 calories) in their 2010 list of the most unhealthy meals available at US chain restaurants.  The burgers are quite large especially with the two patties so you could cut calories by sharing a burger and simply omitting toppings like cheese, grilled onions and bacon you can certainly reduce the fat content but that's not the point.  I mentioned the unhealthy ratings for the Five Guys' food for a reason.

Five Guys is basically a meat and potatoes restaurant that has never claimed to be health food.  Of course it is not the healthiest food you can enjoy but it is down right good food!  If we are going to a burger joint it is to indulge a bit, and because we eat healthy the majority of the time, a bit of occasional indulgence is fine.  They use fresh, never frozen 100% ground beef and potatoes unlike many fast food restaurants that use frozen burger patties that may have preservatives and fillers and frozen French fries.  All of their products are trans-fat free.  Most fast food restaurants horribly over salt the food but we asked for just a little salt on our fries so ours weren't too salty at all.  I'm sure if we had said no salt that would have been fine as well.  However, I would not consider Five Guys a fast food restaurant.  It is a burger joint, and a mighty good one at that.  Unlike burger joints that have turned into fast food restaurants with drive-through windows and pre-made patties, fries and other menu items, as well as gimmicky characters combined with toys for the kids, Five Guys has stuck to its roots in offering fresh, handmade, homemade style menu items without complicating the menu by adding a lot of extras.  Instead they have focused on perfecting what they do best.  They also don't offer coupons or discounts but rather offer high quality products at reasonable prices.  All around, Five Guys gets a two thumbs up from us!

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