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Five Guys

I'm a fan of Five Guys from years of eating at their original store in northern virginia.

Walked by their 55th street location (43 W55) last night (what a block! menchanko-tei, tang pavilion...), and grabbed some fries, on impulse, even though I wasn't that hungry.

Really really nice people (sassy nice, not sappy nice). Everybody seems to be really into the food. The fry guy discarded a batch that came out not to his liking.

And the fries were killing. A very happy large styrofoam cupful (not the best way to do it....it causes condensation which causes mushiness...so I dumped immediately into the enclosing paper bag). Burgers looked really good, too.

This place may turn careless and cynical, but for now it's a breath of fresh, greasy air.

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  1. Just ate a CB and fries there last night for the first time. I think ShakeShack is better perhaps on the burger side, but I think this burger was on par with or better than The Burger Joint. I liked their fries quite a bit too. Very friendly staff.

    THEY NEED SHAKES on the menu.

    1. I love Five Guys burgers, and I also was happy to find the midtown location since I fell in love with them while in D.C. The burgers are really juicy, and the selection of toppings suits my tastes perfectly. I also agree that the fries are great, especially when you dump them into the bag. In fact, I usually eat a lot of the fries first to let the burger marinate a bit more in its wonderfulness.

      Now that this place is only blocks away from my job, I do not know what I am going to do to stay in shape!

      1. I don't think Five Guys lives up to the hype. We went once after reading an article that made it sound like we were going to have the best burger--better than any we've ever had before. What a disappointment! It was just okay. I've had far better elsewhere. I hope that this one on 55th keeps its dining area cleaner than the ones in the DC area.

        23 Replies
        1. re: MizYellowRose

          It's important to bear in mind that there are two sorts of objects that are both called "hamburger". There are big, fat, steaky, coarse-ground gourmet pub/steakhouse-style hamburgers and patty-ish fast food style hamburgers. One isn't trying to be the other, and IMO one isn't "better" than the other, but those who prefer the former often express contempt at great versions of the latter. You've got to take genre into account.

          Five Guys in Virginia makes an excellent, excellent fast food style burger. it ain't a steakburger, much like the guys who painted my house weren't trying to produce a Tuscan fresco. But just as I don't inspect their brushwork through a loupe, I adjust expectations to genre!

          5 Guys in midtown is actually a hybrid, at least according to my quick look. More steakburgery. But still not aiming to go head to head with that genre.

          1. re: Jim Leff

            Great post, Mr. Leff. I love the burgers served at brewpubs which are definitely in the pub/steakhouse style. I also love the fast food style burgers served at places like White Rose. And I love 5 Guys, which, as you said is a hybrid. All depends on what kind of mood I'm in.

            1. re: Jim Leff

              Jim-this reminds me of an argument I've had previously. www.chowhound.com/topics/417054. I believe there is sentimental value attached to what you classify as "fast-food" genre burgers, hence the fascination with slyders...everyone remembers their drunken college nights at White Castle. But I don't believe that steamed patties a la Shake Shack deserve equal billing with the truly great grilled, thick, rare, meaty, bloody platonic burgers you call "pub" style. Next thing you know people will be nostalgic for "Dominoe's" style pizza over NY or neopolitan style pizza.

              1. re: guttergourmet

                I don't believe one genre of anything is better or worse than any other genre of anything. You can believe otherwise, and you'll be in very populous company. But I judge iterations of things, not classes of things.

                My judgement of Dominoes is, btw, drek.

                1. re: guttergourmet

                  Shake Shack doesn't steam their patties. Also, I think you're confusing your preferences for objective quality. Rest assured, I and many others are just as skeptical of pub-style burgers. For example, I think the Corner Bistro burger is really, really disappointing...

                  1. re: a_and_w

                    " I think you're confusing your preferences for objective quality"

                    I'm not sure what this refers to.

                    1. re: Jim Leff

                      I'm replying to gutter's comment that fast food burgers don't deserve equal billing with pub style. Just because someone prefers pub burgers doesn't make that style objectively superior -- and vice versa. Some people like me prefer Shake Shack, while others prefer Corner Bistro (blech). Still others, like you, enjoy both styles.

                      1. re: a_and_w

                        My point is that there are "styles" or "genres" which deserve respect, e.g. I prefer NY and Neopolitan thin crust style pizza to Chicago deep dish or California goat cheese pizza but I respect all of them. As Jim suggested, Dominoe's "fast food" pizza is garbage. "Fast food" style burgers, as the name implies, derive from crappy McDonald's burgers and therefore I believe do not constitute a "style" or a "genre" nor warrant the same respect as a thick, medium rare grilled burger. However, in the spirit of CH I am happy to agree to disagree. Ironically, I haven't been to Five Guys here in Manhattan but still enjoyed a double burger at one of the locations in Georgetown in D.C. earlier this year with great fries. Of course, I've never met a pizza (even Dominoes) that I'd throw away either.

                        1. re: guttergourmet

                          You make an interesting point re fast food pizza, gutter, which I agree is generally worse than fast food burgers. But just because you're inspired by something humble doesn't mean you're unworthy of respect -- it's all in the execution. Shake Shack, for example, serves a "fast food style" burger. But equating Danny Meyer's tasty mix of sirloin and brisket to McDonald's processed "meat" seems wrong to me.

                        2. re: a_and_w

                          a and w, ah, ok, it looked like you were talking to me.

                          I totally agree. Know what really pushed me to the extreme on this? Reading food books from early in the 20th century. Lots of comments ala "chinese food is fine if you don't mind having your food chopped into bits, like baby food", or "liver is a very fine and delicious food". Such inanity was written by premier authorities of their generation.

                          A great big gaping problem with criticism would disappear if folks would stop judging classes of things and concentrate on individual iterations. Announcing that Hip Hop music or Impressionism or Peruvian food or lasagna are lousy is the height of inanity. There is no vertical heirarchy in art, just a spectrum of possibilities to produce greatness. Cassoulet is not better than feijoada 'cuz it's French, more famous, more expensive, etc. Talk to me about THIS feijoada or THIS cassoulet!

                          Same with burgers. There's a spectrum, and I aim to find treasure at every end, be it hand minced kobe beef grilled over peach tree wood or a patty slapped (with love) on a grill. Deliciousness is Deliciousness!

                          Guttergourmet, Dominoes Pizza sucks because Dominoes Pizza sucks. I respect anything delicious of any genre at any time in any form. Period. If it's not delicious, I don't respect it. If it is, I do. I discount nothing on category. That strikes me as eminently reasonable, but different strokes for different hounds....

                          1. re: Jim Leff

                            Jim- as my nickname indicates I am equally happy eating foie gras at per se or squeezing in at a pig pickin. I am persuaded by a and w's and your argument. If it tastes good, eat it-don't analyze it. Guess I had to hear it from the Alpha Dog himself. P.S. thanks for giving us the forum to share our deliciousness experiences.

                            1. re: guttergourmet

                              Geez, no! Analyze the bejesus out of it! The unexamined chow is not worth ingesting! I'm not suggesting a shaddup-'n-eat approach. Just that we embrace and respect all manifestations of deliciousness. Deliciousness is about how a given thing's prepared...the love and care and talent. Classes and genres of things are deliciousness neutral*. At least that's how I fervidly feel!

                              * - exception: potatoes.

                              You're welcome, but thanks for POSTING to the forum, or else it'd just be pretty software! :)

                              1. re: Jim Leff

                                I understand. I meant don't categorize or prejudge. You never know where deliciousness (and love) might be found.

                            2. re: Jim Leff

                              but.. but.. liver IS a fine and delicious food!

                              1. re: wleatherette

                                Would you prefer carelessly cooked liver to lovingly cooked this or that?

                                I doubt it....and that's my point!

                                1. re: Jim Leff

                                  no, i wouldn't. though i'd certainly prefer lovingly cooked liver to carelessly cooked this or that!

                                  1. re: wleatherette

                                    Then we agree. It's the love, not the liver. And the love has everything to do with the food right in front of me and how it was cooked. A specific. Not a general category.

                    2. re: Jim Leff

                      The thinner hamburger is not fast food. It's a regional thing. There's a guy named Ron in Tulsa who made the best hamburgers ever. His restaurant (photo below) looked like a cowshed and it would be jammed with people waiting for a seat. Rich lawyers sitting next to construction workers on lunch break. Ron was a genius cook and he put each burger through about ten steps. Meat was pounded flat, seasoned with salt and spices, coated with lard using a paintbrush, cooked on a superhot grill (500 degrees), steamed under a dome. I like my burgers extra rare and this is much harder to do , so Ron took it as a challenge and he gave me the best burgers I have ever tasted. Now this style of burger is flat and very thin (about a third of an inch thick) and as big as an old 45 RPM record. The meat is succulent and juicy and melts in with the cheese. The best chef in New York could not make a better burger. Ron doesnt cook any more but there are now seven branches. Ron developed a unique franchise system. He gave each of his kids a branch, and his wife got the busiest branch, downtown.

                      1. re: Brian S

                        Hey Brian, if you haven't already tried it I strongly recommend Bosna Express in Ridgewood for thin burgers. Not your classic beef burger but incredibly good.


                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                          I've never tried it but I've wanted to for quite some time. I used to go to Ridgewood for their cool bars, which haven't changed much in fifty years, and I would pass some weird and unwelcoming Serbian clubs near Forest. But I never made it to the Bosnian burger place; I think it wasn't around back then.

                          I believe that Bosna Express now has a branch in Long Island City.

                        2. re: Brian S

                          brian, you might be interested in the belly buster at hudock's frozen custard stand in salem, nj. it's a big patty done in the thin, flat style. the custard isn't bad either but it's not true frozen custard, merely soft serve.

                        3. re: Jim Leff

                          I liken it to viewing Citizen Kane or Raiders of the Lost Ark, a so-called masterpiece of serious cinema versus escapist entertainment. Sometimes you're in the mood for one, sometimes the other. But both can be satisfying and substantial.

                          I've really enjoyed my two trips to the Queens/College Point 5 Guys. Without analyzing it to death, I just dug the burger, especially the slightly crusty exterior of the patty and the way the cheese just glopped over the whole thing. Found the fries to be way too salty, though.

                      2. timely report. they just opened in cleveland too and everyone is debating it on the local food forum. mostly favorable. they must be in full expansion mode. i've seen them, but never been to them so i may have to give it a go.

                        1. Jim, its good to see you on the manhattan board...

                          Tang has hit the skids over the last couple of years...I heard they lost the old guy that was their chef, now they cater to a much more gringo crowd.... my japanese friends tell me menchanko-tei has gone downhill too. However Hallo Berlin Cart and The "Cart" are in that hood and remain as good as ever...

                          The Five Guys 55th street started with interminable lines and very inefficient confused service and has remained so at peak hours, the only other one I have been to is at Reagan National in DC. and while its pretty decent (in that hood) would take the burger joint and fries(or even the burger at Astro Diner) anyday over a fives guys any day...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Cpalms

                            Tang has hit the skids, yes, but they were racing pretty darned fast before they put on the brakes, so there's still some velocity left (let's drop this metaphor now, shall we?). I mourn the retirement of the venerable chef, who offered a time capsule of 100 year old Shanghai banquet food. But while the soup dumplings are dryish now, and there are gringo concessions to be found, it's still a pretty good place to eat for lots of things. Lion's head is still spot on, for just one thing.

                            I've never been to Burger Joint. Terrible lapse.

                          2. I stopped by yesterday afternoon for a burger. The place was packed at 4 PM and I had to wait about 20 minutes for my order. The staff were quite friendly despite being totally swamped with work.

                            If AMPAS decided to give an Academy Award for best hamburger, Five Guys has less chance of winning it than I do of winning ten lotteries in a row. The burger was okay, but fell far short of greatness. I might be influenced by the fact that I ordered it rare and was given well-done. But it's far better than a fast food burger. The two thin patties that composed the burger were hand-shaped and composed of good, steaky meat. Oh, and the fries (which I didn't eat but which I saw on every table but mine) looked great.

                            Five Guys, 43 W 55TH Street, New York, NY 10019 tel. 212-459-9600

                            Five Guys Burgers and Fries
                            43 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Brian S

                              i believe that five guys ONLY serves their burgers well done.

                              i had some at one of the connecticut locations; nice, better than normal fast food, but i don't have to race back any time soon.

                              i thought the fries were better than the burgers.

                              1. re: bob gaj

                                There is a sign to that effect, but I asked the woman if they could make it rare for me, she said they could, and I asked her to please make it rare. If they make it only well done, that's a shame. It's a sure-fire way to ruin good beef.

                            2. I had 5 guys this w/e for the first time. Couple of things: the burger itself is very tasty. slightly charred on the outside, juicy inside. if you like rare burgers, this is not the place for you. my beef with the burger lies in the bun, not the fresh patty. The bun is too big for the single patty (I recommend the double) which is called the little burger. If the bun were toasted, I think it would have been much better. just too much bread! now, the fries are excellent. all in all, much better fries than burger joint but not the burger itself.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: friday1

                                Sounds like the midtown store is experiencing the same problems as the one in Brooklyn. Inefficient, long wait times, long lines, and by the time you get your order either the fries or the burger is cold. They need to change their system.

                              2. I love 5 Guys...from enjoying it in CT. I rarely ever eat meat burgers because they kind of skeeve me out (gristle) but I love veggie burgers. 5 guys is about the only place where I'll happily eat a Little Bacon Cheeseburger. The burger is fresh and delicious and they deep fry the bacon to perfection. The fries, in my opinion, are spectacular too. I love that they give you way more than you expect to eat. They're brown, crispy and delicious.
                                I go to NYC to eat...never to catch a show or anything like that...it's all about dragging my SO to places for chow. We're not foodies...but chowhounds and I think 5 guys is a Burger Joint type burger...perhaps better.

                                I'm hoping NYC loves it so it'll still be there when I'm eating my way through your great city on my next visit. I'll happily stop in for a LBC with fries!

                                1. I just went to the newest burger place in Manhattan, Five Guys Burgers. The D.C. based chain just opened up a shop on 55th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues in NYC. I had conducted some reconaissance a few weeks back and popped in to check it out. It looked promising and didn't disappoint tonight.
                                  First, they have a pretty small menu on burgers are the main focus. They do offer hot dogs, grilled cheese and a veggie (dog?). They have two sizes of fries and a variety of Coke products. There are a couple of wooden barrels with salted peanuts in the shell and metal buckets to scoop with and bring back to your table. A dry erase board on the wall said that the potatoes for the fries were from F(?), Idaho today. I couldn't make out the name of the town, but it began with the letter F.
                                  They have a sign that says they cook the burgers well done unless requested otherwise. I took a chance and let them do it their way. I ordered a cheeseburger with sauteed mushrooms and a small fry. The burger took a few minutes on the flat top and a cheeseburger is actually what most places would consider a double cheeseburger: two patties and two slices of cheese. I got it to go and ate it back at my desk at work. The counter man gave me a large fry by mistake which I happily consumed. They also had malt vinegar with which I filled a couple of plastic to go containers.
                                  This burger worked for me on a number of levels. I was worried about how walking through the cold city night would affect the flavor and/or texture, but I had nothing to worry about. For starters, the bun was a sturdy sesame seeded beauty that was soft, yet held up nicely. The meat itself was very juicy and when I went to fork a piece of it, some juice squirted out. I was very happy. Yes, I ate it and the fries with a fork and knife. The cheese and mushrooms added some gooey and earthy flavor, respectively, without masking the flavor of the beef. No ketchup required on this burger at all.
                                  The fries were very good, with the skins on. They're served in a styrofoam cup, but I would recommend getting them out of there ASAP as it only serves to steam them and takes away from the crispiness. They were nice and browned and still had some of their crispy texture. The malt vinegar was a nice change from ketchup. I was very impressed with this meal and would definitely go back again and again. Most times when I eat a burger, I'm either unimpressed or I like it, but don't feel the need to run back anytime soon. From the first bite, I knew I'd be craving this again.