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REVIEW: Five Guys Burgers [moved from L.A. board]

I just went to Five Guys (www.fiveguys.com) Burgers and Fries for lunch. It’s at the Southbay Pavillion, Avalon x 405 in Carson. Five Guys has lots of locations back East, but this is the only location in California and it just opened. This is my review.

To me, Five Guys is a cross between In-n-Out Burger and Fatburger. It’s like In-n-Out Burger because it has a very limited menu, uses fresh meat and potatoes, company colors are red and white, and focuses on speed, quality and service. It’s like Fatburger because it is in a mall set up with indoor and outdoor seating, offers several burger toppings, the meat is very juicy, and it’s not cheap. For example, I ordered a hamburger, small coke and large fry and paid over $10.

I’ll start with the fries. At Five Guys, the large fries is enough for two but it’s not worth the $4. They use a natural cut with the skin left on and use standard seasoning salt. Their whiteboard said the potatoes were harvested from some city in Idaho on some recent date. This is similar to the way Starbucks posts the roasting date of their new Pike’s house blend. The fries were hot, perfectly fried and not too greasy. It seems to me that if you leave the skin on your fries and use seasoning salt, you can charge a preimum for your fries.

The burgers were delicious and reminded me of a backyard burger I make myself, except without the outdoor grill flavor. Five Guys uses a regular griddle and not an open grill. The Five Guys burger tastes like one I made myself. Maybe it’s because I chose the condiments. At Five Guys, you get to choose which of the many toppings and condiments you want on your burger, all at no additional charge. Toppings include sautéed mushrooms, grilled onions, jalapenos, pickles, green peppers, and others. I chose my standard mayo, mustard, ketchup, plus grilled onions and lettuce.

If you order a burger you get two patties automatically. Good thing because a burger is $4.39 at Five Guys; A cheeseburger or bacon burger costs more. You see how you get over $10 pretty fast? The patties are not quarter-pounders. They are probably eighth-pounders so you aren’t really getting more meat than other quarter pound single patty burgers. However, the quality of the meat is clearly superior. It is juicy without being greasy, has an odd hand-formed shape and has a great beef flavor. This might be due to never frozen beef.

The atmosphere is like any fast food place but with new, excited employees out to impress the boss who was wandering around the whole time asking people how they liked the burgers. There are signs all over every wall saying “Zagat rated” and “#1 Burger in Pennsylvania Two Years in a Row”. They really are proud of these ratings and voting results. The problem with these signs is they are only necessary for my first visit – to raise my expectations a bit. After that, they are just annoying and self-aggrandizing. Who cares if you were voted the "best all-American burger" by Washingtonian Magazine in 2000? Makes me wonder what happened in the years since?

There were some minor problems that come with a new store opening. The soda machine was out of Coke syrup until I told someone who quickly fixed the problem and dutifully informed me that it was fixed. There were about 50% too many employees. Several were standing around doing nothing. The ketchup comes from these dispensers and one of them was broken or empty. Most of the tables were people sitting waiting for their to-go orders. I don’t think I would open a fast food burger place without a drive through. They need benches or an area for all the to-go lunch customers.

I forgot to mention the one feature that no fast food restaurant has. They give away peanuts in bulk the way Northwoods or Johnny Rebs does. You can grab some peanuts after you order and go sit down to wait for your number to be called.

To summarize, the food was delicious but overpriced. The atmosphere was average and the service was excellent.

I will be interested to read what others think of this place.

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Five Guys Burgers
20700 Avalon Blvd, Carson, CA 90746

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  1. While I haven't tried the Five Guys in Carson, I have had it while traveling in South Carolina.

    I agree with you that the burgers are pricey. I think part of that is you are subsidizing everyone else who decides to opt for "all" of the toppigs that they offer. If you want just a straight up burger with cheese, then I think the price is a bit out of whack esp. when compared with a Fatburger or In-N-Out.

    Also, I don't like how "tall" the Five Burgers are. The patties are too small in diameter, and not wide enough, so what you get is a really messy burger that is hard to take a bite out of.

    That said, I did enjoy my burger (which was a bacon burger with sauteed onions).

    With their pricepoint, I think their real competitors are Fatburgers and not In-N-Out.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      This post just made my entire day! I used to live in DC and would eat at Five Guys pretty regularly as there is no In & Out or Fatburger back there. I actually enjoyed it more than either of those places. Although I live in the OC there may be hope for more showing up! I'm currently pregnant and someone recently mentioned this place which sparked a craving i thought I would never be able to satisfy. Wahoo!!!!!

      You didn't mention that you can order a junior burger with just one patty that is less expensive. That's what I used to get. It always seemed to fill me up. And from what I remember (although it has been several years since I lived back there) the smaller burger is bigger than the small/junior burger you can get at FatBurger.

      Thanks for the post! You just made a pregnant lady very happy indeed!

      1. re: OCGirl

        OCGirl, that's called the "Little" cheeseburger/hamburger, and it's plenty big enough. I never get the regular size - way too much food for me - but the "little" burger is great.

    2. Anyone know what their business hours are?

      1. Five Guys recently moved into my area of PA in a big way. The first time I tried it, right after they opened, I thought the burger was great, juicy and beefy, and I loved the fries. I'm more than willing to pay a few extra bucks for a better burger, and they also have a darn good hot dog. However, after going back a few times, I noticed the food getting progressively worse, and the workers more lackadaisical. I suspect that they bring in corporate ringers to work there for the first week or so, and everything's great. Then the local slacker kids take over, and things go downhill. The last time I ate there, I decided not to go back.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Vladimir Estragon

          Five Guys is a franchise operation, so they sell the use of the name and business model, but the individual owners are in charge of their stores, including enforcing standards for taste/cooking. If you don't like the one closest to you, get the word on the one a few miles away and it may be very different in quality. There are many Five Guys in my area, but I only like 2-3 of them. There's a new one opening near my house and I'm hoping it's one of the good ones.

          1. re: weezycom

            You seem to be right, weezycom. I went back to the first one I tried, and it was much better. They workers were older, friendlier, and more interested in turning out a quality product. I think I've reached the conclusion that I pretty much don't want anybody under age 20 cooking my food.

            So if you're going go to Five Guys in Lancaster, try the Lincoln Highway location, and avoid the one on Fruitville Pike.

        2. I live in CT and we just got a couple of 5 guys joints around here and I have to say, I love them. I always get the Little Bacon Cheeseburger. I LOVE that they deep fry the bacon just because it's always super crisp...which is exactly how I like my bacon especially on a burger.

          I think their fries are better than any local CT fast food joint (but we don't have In and Out or Fat Burger here to compare it to). I definitely think 5 guys is good enough to be on anyone's favorite burger list regardless of your region. That it's "fast food" is even better.

          1. I think Five Guys burgers are good. I have eaten at two locations,Somer Point and Rio Grande (both in South Jersey) I always find the burgers juicy, never overcooked. The fries are also good and abundent. Malt vinegar for the fries is a nice touch, as well as the free peanuts in the shell while you wait for your order.

            1. Last month I was stuck in Dulles Airport waiting for a flight in Terminal A. Fortunately there was a Five Guys in the terminal, and I ended up having dinner there. Best part was that their prices in the airport were no higher than their regular locations. Oh yeah, my burger was juicy and the fries were great. Two thumbs up, especially if you're ever stuck in Dulles.

              1. Good to hear the new 5Gs are selling a decent product. The ones here in DC have been hit-or-miss for years.