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Dec 13, 2007 08:20 AM

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 causes condensation which causes 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. 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.