Day: January 14th, 2008

Famously good burgers

Monday, January 14th, 2008 | All Things, Eats

J had tickets to Carnegie Hall tonight, so we decided to meet for a quick dinner nearby before the concert. But where? We were about to fall back on our usual pre-Carnegie Hall standby — the Burger Joint inside Le Parker Meridien hotel — until we recalled that another burger joint had opened in the neighborhood recently.

The extraordinarily well-loved, family-owned Virginia-based chain of Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries arrived in New York City last year — the East Coast’s answer to In-N-Out — opening branches in College Point and Brooklyn Heights. In early November, the first Manhattan outlet opened on 55th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues; the company plans to open 29(!) more in the borough over the next eight years. (That’s a lot, but nowhere near Starbucks’ level of ubiquity. But I digress…) By their second day of business, midtown lunch crowds had pushed waits for burgers and fries to an hour and half. Oh, what New Yorkers will endure for a good burger! Or good pizza!

At just past 7PM on a Monday, though, it is a decidedly less chaotic scene.

Five Guys counter

J had visited the Queens location before — they have a MySpace page! — but this was my first time sampling the famous burgers. Each one is made to order, and Five Guys provides all the shelled peanuts you can eat to tide you over while you’re waiting for your order number to be called.

Five Guys peanuts

The corporate policy is to cook all beef patties to well done — eek! — in spite of which the burgers do retain a surprising level of juiciness. Usual toppings include lettuce, tomato, pickles, fried onions, sautéed mushrooms, ketchup, mustard and mayo; other less standard fixins include relish, jalapeño peppers, and green peppers, and all are included in the price. I ordered what’s listed on the menu as the “little hamburger,” which didn’t seem so “little” to me; roughly the same size as the ones at nearby Burger Joint, and at $2.00 less, a much better value. (The standard Five Guys burger comes with two 3.3 ounce patties, stacked one atop the other.) Five Guys fries are hand-cut, skin-on affairs. $4.50 for a large order (plain or cajun) seemed disproportionately expensive — a quarter more than my burger was, even — but are very generously proportioned; we essentially received double what we expected: inside our grease-stained brown paper bag was a tall styrofoam cup brimming full of fries, with roughly the same amount thrown in loose over our foil-wrapped burgers. Easily more fries than we could finish in a single sitting — and I love fries. Nice touch: bottles of malt vinegar on the tables. Goofy touch: announcing the provenance of the potatoes on a whiteboard by the registers. (“Today’s potatoes are from Ririe, Idaho.”)

Five Guys burger

Peter Meehan of The New York Times had good things to say about those fries in his assessment of the Brooklyn branch (“Generously portioned… with an honest potato flavor”), but was less impressed with the burgers themselves, declaring them “not particularly salty or griddle-charred or beefy.” New York magazine was more effusive in its praise, recently naming Five Guys among the city’s best burgers; theirs was just one more article mounted along a long wall lined with glowing write-ups.

Non-press folks love them, too.

Five Guys testimonials

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