Over the holidays, Elizabeth and I went down to 123rd street and picked up my good friend Tyler for lunch before he flew back to Chicago. We hadn't been able to squeeze in as long of a visit with him as we'd wanted, so were making the best of just having lunch together, the underlying point being that lunch was not about the food. It was about catching up and having a casual atmosphere in which to talk and enjoy our short time together.
Tyler suggested the first thing that came to mind: a chain burger joint called 5 guys. Being out of our element (midtown), we were game for whatever Tyler suggested, so off we went to this place that reportedly had "amazing" burgers.
Walking in, patrons are greeted with huge bags of the potatoes the restaurant uses to make their better-than-average french fries. As you wait on your order, stick your mitts into one of the open boxes of salty peanuts, and have a few. Nowhere to put your shells? No worries - just toss them on the floor. (Don't mistake my facetious attitude here for acceptance. I actually hate this dirty little idea. It's gross... straight up.)
Ordering is a cinch. Choose a burger or, if you're a weirdo, a hot dog. There are a couple sandwiches on the menu, but - I mean - really?? I opted for the bacon cheeseburger with lettuce, grilled onion, ketchup, mustard and pickle, with a side of fries.
These are thick-cut fries... not artfully done, but they do have a decent crispness to the outer friend shell and lots of pillowy russet goodness. I didn't finish the whole portion, which tells you something about where they stack up.
The burgers were served, to our surprise, with two thick patties of beef. And somehow, between those fatty beef patties and the ooey gooey American cheese melting all over the place, I hardly noticed (read: tasted) any of the other toppings. No crunch from the lettuce or bacon. No contrasting texture or flavor. Just softness and grease.
Eating this burger was not a bad experience, but it wasn't a good one either. Before I was even done eating, I had a clear assessment of 5 Guys: it's a step up from a Back Yard Burger - still a chain but with a better burger - but a big step down from my favorite burger in town - Blanc. Yeah, the prices are lower than at Blanc, but I don't go out for a burger often. And I can make a good burger myself. So if I am going to go spend time and money at a burger place, it needs to be special, and something I'm not going to whip up on my own grill. 5 Guys didn't give me that.
Bottom line - it's not prize winner but whaddya expect? It's a chain.
Rating: one napkin