American readers, here’s what you need to know. Five Guys has been in the UK since 2013: their first store opened in Covent Garden, and they’ve been slowly expanding across the UK since. Here’s another thing you need to know. For our fast food burger fix, us UK eaters as perfectly happy with grabbing and McDonalds or Burger King burger on the go (fancy burgers are very much a different topic of conversation, but I’ll get to that).
So I’m reviewing Five Guys within those parameters, and any comments about your opinions are much appreciated. Five Guys pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin. It serves burgers and fries as well as hotdogs, grilled cheese and other items here and there. So to start off with, I’ll talk about the crucial items. I love their burgers and fries. I’ve a small tummy but I’ll happily eat nothing else in a day so I can enjoy a full hearted Five Guys meal. The brioche-like bun is eggy and doesn’t taste as throwaway or supermarket like as they do in McDonalds, and I’ve never yet felt the patties were dry, which is pretty crucial. All the ingredients seem and indeed are, fresh as can be in Five Guys. They make the burgers in front of you and when you bite into it you can tell you’re eating a good burger.
Now the fries. They come is two styles: original Five Guys seasoning and cajun seasoning. It took a me a while to really warm to them but once I tried the cajun ones: wow. I’d happily settle for just a tub of those, which aren’t crazily crispy on the outside, but fluffy on the inside and addictive like you won’t believe. They are hand cut potatoes and you can see where the batch you are eating has been sourced from. It’s a nice touch, and really adds to the whole ‘fresh ingredients’ image the store promotes (to a certain degree). The fries are fried in peanut oil and the store does offer free monkey nuts out in the open, so if you have very severe nut allergies I’d suggest you steer clear.
I love a good burger, and I love a good french fry. Job done. Five Guys offers hotdogs, grilled cheese and veggie burgers too. I don’t have any complaints with any of these, and my mother personally loves the hotdogs. I was a tad disappointed with the grilled cheese since I felt they could have given me a bit more of the cheese. I mean, it is just cheese in bread. It wouldn’t kill them to bulk up the cheese bit a bit.
But I’m going to hit on my main complaint here, and one that US readers might not necessarily share. Whilst I love Five Guys (almost unprecedentedly so), for us UK eaters, the menu is on the dear side, considering it isn’t a fancy restaurant, and chips don’t come with burgers as per a meal. A standard two patty hamburger is just over £6 (around $10) and the most basic one patty hamburger is just under £5 (around $8). Now, all of the burgers come with your choice of toppings free – there are 18 in total. You could say that the wide spread of toppings makes the money spent worthwhile, and I think to a certain extent that’s fair. You could get all 18 toppings if you really wanted and it would be far more than anything else you’d get from Ronald McDonald or the King of Burgers. They have an unlimited soda refill option with a kick – there are dozens and dozens of options. In fact, I get a little overwhelmed when trying to get my drink. Who knew there were so many Powerade flavours! This in itself isn’t cheap either at just under £4, but if you share between two or three people, you really get your moneys worth.
Ultimately, I feel what you make of Five Guys is mainly to do with how you feel about burgers. I think their burgers are better than the Gourmet Burger Kitchen or the other similar ‘upmarket’ restaurants that feel that making a burger tower makes up for any problems with the food itself. I still don’t think I’ve had the best burger I ever will have at Five Guys, but I’m happy to spend a tad more for an item where I can really taste the quality.
However, for a country where burgers are enjoyed but not really a massive national staple, I do think Five Guys needs to lower the price a tad to make themselves competitive in the market. Their food deserves to be appreciated but if they push themselves above the average price for a burger and fries meal too much, in this post recession age cynics will only see the figures and not the food.
(photo credit: urbanspoon)