This place has a name that rhymes so immediately I love them. It rhymes! Plus it permits this witty little conversation;
A: What did you have for dinner last night?
B: I had Five Guys.
There was a Five Guys five minutes from my dorm in Nashville and I came home a good few kilos heavier than I left. Believe it or not, this is no coincidence. Five Guys pride themselves on honest, good quality burgers that are simply delicious and not fussy. The menu appears simple at first, but a second glance will reveal an infinite number of combinations.
Not only do you have to decide between hamburger, cheeseburger, baconburger or baconcheeseburger, you also have to decide whether to go normal size or ‘little,’ essentially do you want two beef patties or one. Each burger then comes with as many toppings as you want from their substantial list for no extra charge, which takes some deliberating. On top of that, you then have the fries sizes – little, regular, large – and whether to go for normal or Cajun. Finally, do you want a drink? Your choices are tap water, soda or beer. We’ll come onto the soda later.
We went at 5pm so I expected a short wait, which is exactly what we got, reaching the front of the queue within five minutes. I went for a little hamburger with lettuce, ketchup, hot sauce, green peppers and grilled onions; little Cajun fries; and soda. With my order number and soda cup in hand, I went to hover patiently in the queue. As they use peanut oil for their fries, large crates of peanuts were scattered around with little brown dishes to scoop up and nibble as you waited.
Ten minutes later and my order was up. What I believed to be a ‘little’ burger and fries soon revealed itself to be a truly American monster portion. The cup of fries ended up being more like a bagful of Cajun goodness – spicy without burning my throat. The burger was tasty; juicy and yet well-done, with all my toppings generously layered on and, perhaps most importantly, a toasted sesame seed bun.
Another revelation was the soda fountain. None of your standard five-choice machines here thank you; this was the latest in Coca-Cola touch screen technology. Upon pressing, for example, ‘Diet Coke,’ you were faced with the choice between vanilla, raspberry, cherry, orange, lime – the list goes on. It was the same for Schweppes Cloudy Lemonade, Sprite, Coke, Powerade, Dr. Pepper and I’ve probably missed out some. All in all, there were at least 50 drinks choices. The average can of Coke seems indescribably dull in comparison.
What’s more, your £2.50 bought you FREE REFILLS, that beautiful American invention, which earned me the chance to try more than one flavour. Whoever knew that Schweppes Cloudy Raspberry Lemonade would be quite so fruity, or the Sprite Zero Peach would be as refreshingly delicious?
My meal cost me £10 and I was full without being stuffed. My eyes were somewhat sore, however, from the arresting red and white checkered tiles that covered the restaurant. Friend commented that the ‘little’ bag of normal fries was probably her recommended salt intake for the day, whilst I could still taste my Cajuns hours later. The burger was tasty but not something I would trek across the city to eat. I was clearly the only one though; when we left at 6.20pm the queue stretched out the door and around the corner.
Less than a week after opening day, Five Guys is still riding on that wave and Londoners are flocking to try this American favourite. With my review of Shake Shack just around the corner, America has taken over the London burger scene, so much so that I’ll probably be sitting here writing about London’s In ‘N’ Out and Fatburger before the year is up.
Five Guys Burgers and Fries, 1-3 Long Acre, London, WC2E 9BD.