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I Had the BEST French Fries Today!

  • m

This was at Five Guys at the Gallows Road & Lee Highway (Merrifield) location. Maybe it was the potatoes from Rigby ID that they had today, maybe they're using a different kind of oil, maybe they got the fryer temperature and time just right. But whatever, these fries were absolutely stupendous. A good bite on the outside, soft on the inside without being mealy, hot, not greasy on the surface, and by the time I finally choked down the last one before giving up, they were still a bit warm. That was about 15 minutes away from the counter.

Maybe they can do it again, maybe they can't. But when a restaurant, particularly a factory like Five Guys, does something really right, they deserve a pat on the back. I only wish they had a smaller order than the small. Half as much would be fine. I'll have to redeem myself tonight by eating boiled chicken and steamed broccoli.

I know that all the Five Guys shops are different, and usually any one is different at different times, but of the few that are on my circuit - Leesburg Pike & Beauregard St, Clarendon, Annandale (where Whole Foods used to be) and Merrifield, the Merrifield one seems to be consistently the best, both for service and food. Somebody there must care.

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  1. Just curious about something: Has anyone had fries at Five Guys made from potatoes that weren't from Rigby, ID?

    4 Replies
    1. re: Bob W

      5G is now franchised over the East Coast, like 90 of them.
      Some are great. Some are...not. I was amazed to find a really good one at I-83 and Rt 30 in York PA,

      1. re: chowsearch

        They seem to be gearing up for a massive expansion - they just opened stores in Texas and Minnesota.

      2. re: Bob W

        I'm sure I've seen potatoes from other places in Idaho. I remember some from Washington (state) more than once. I doubt that the origin of the potato really matters a lot, but you never can tell. I'm not a farmer.

        1. re: Bob W

          The Five Guys fries we had last weekend were from somewhere in Washington, causing my wife to exclaim,

          "What, they couldn't find a good enough potato in Idaho that they had to keep driving all the way to Washington?"

          (Incidentally, I agree... great fries. The burgers? Meh.)

        2. I was at the Gallows 5G a few weeks back and the fries were excellent as you described. I think those were the best fries I've had at a 5G in this area.

          5 Replies
          1. re: dpan

            I mostly go the one on Wilson Blvd. near Courthouse, and they range from perfect to just OK.

            1. re: Henry Spencer

              OK, besides 5G, where are the best fries in the DC-Baltimore area? If we're going to bust the diet, it should be good. And maybe they'll use trans-fat-free fryer oil for a little less guilt. In Baltimore, Cafe Hon is pretty decent. Salt has duck-fat fries but they're not God's gift to fries lovers. Petit Louis' frites are OK, for little skinny ones.

              1. re: chowsearch

                Elevation Burger (Falls Church) cooks the fries in olive oil. Some love them, I've never been enthusiastic about them. It's not the oil (or maybe it is) but the few orders I've had there before I quit ordering them were inconsistent, sometimes overdone, sometimes limp. And they're "shoestring" size and cool off very quickly. If you try some, bring a buddy, share an order, and if you like them enough to want more, get a fresh order.

                1. re: chowsearch

                  The best fries (IMO) I ever had in DC were at a restaurant called JoJo. Steak fry size, crispy but not burned--perfect.

                  1. re: chowsearch

                    Rosemary garlic fries at Brewers Art

              2. I've never had what I thought were outstanding fries at 5 Guys, although I've never been to that particular location.

                Among my favorite fries are the crispy sensations served at Southside 815.

                1. Love Five Guys french fries....they are usually great......doesn't matter if they come from Rigby Idaho or Washington state...all potatoes from the NOrth West have less water then Eastern or Midwest potatoes because of the volcanic soil in that region......thats why those potatoes make better fries.

                  I just wish Five Guys would offer a "kids size" french fry or a small that was really SMALL ! THey think they are being generous by giving alot of fries in their "small" fry, but if I'm by myself I won't order them because the order is just TOO BIG for one person! ( and they are soooo good I would eat them all and feel guilty all day,,,,,,,,,,,)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: MDicecreamguy

                    I've said exactly the same thing about the size of an order of fries at Five Guys. Maybe we should have a Chowhounds "meet for fries" section so we can have someone to share with. <G>

                    1. re: MikeR

                      You know there's a serving size problem when my family of four shares a small and get more than enough.

                  2. I had heard a lot about Five Guys over the past couple of years, before I moved here and got to try them. I have eaten at various 5G locations in MD and NJ. Sorry to report that the burgers and the fries were very disappointing. I find Johnny Rocket's burgers more tasty.

                    For fries... I think this is an extremely personal taste. Some like shoestrings that are thin and very crispy. Others like the softer thicker fries of chains like Wendy's. Chick-Fil-A's waffle fries have their fans as well.

                    For me, personally, there is only ONE "Cadillac of french fries." My fried tater of choice has to be Nathan's. Thick rough-hewn crinkle cut slabs of pure potato goodness. Thick enough to have a slightly crisped skin and exterior, and still have a moist, steaming interior of tender spud delight..

                    A close second are the places that still have and use those old Broasting machines. Sort of pressure-fried cookers I think. Hard to find, but worth choosing if you find one.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: chaordic

                      I used to love Nathan's fries from Coney Island (along with their pizza, raw clams, chow mein sandwich and, of course, hot dogs). However, I do not think I have ever had a good experience with their fries at one of their franchise operations. So, I stopped going.

                    2. I love 5 Guys.

                      Other fries
                      - Ollie's trolley - 24 seasons, I like
                      - Frites and Moules @ Granville - very underwhelming
                      - Bistro Du Coin - Decent
                      - Les Halles - good

                      1. The description of the fries at Nathan's reminds me of the fries served at The Boiler on Columbia Pike in Arlington.

                        1. try the poutine at victoria gastro pub in columbia. fries cooked in duck fat served with duck confit, duck gravy and melted guyere cheese.....oh my god!

                          1. Central has the best fries in our area by far.

                            If you are willing to travel the boardwalk fries served at Thrasher in Ocean City are sublime.

                            Of course as a real MDer our favorite are hand cut boardwalk fries with vinegar and old bay. But I find that for me it is about consistency in cooking, if you have shoestring they need to be crisp, if they are limp you have lost. If you have thick cut fries that aren't crisp on the outside you lose. I like all sorts of fries, they just have to have the right ratio of crispness to doneness. With Five Guys they just lack consistency. I think that is why Central for me is tops their french fries are consistently crispy but not too crisp, salty but not overseasoned.

                            16 Replies
                            1. re: ktmoomau

                              5 Guys french fries, going back 25 or so years, really were an attempt to copy the original Thrasher's on the lower end of the Boardwalk in O. C. The Canopy in Baltimore also copied them along with "Boardwalk Fries" in shopping malls. Personally, I believe it is only the original Thrasher's that are truly phenominal but this may just be tradition for me.

                              Totally agree about Central. I am not a fan of the duck fat fries at Bourbon Steak. In fact I believe that these are overrated at a number of places excepting one in Chicago: Hot Doug's who only has them one or two days a week. They are phenominal there.

                              If anyone is old enough to remember the ORIGINAL McDonald's fries from 1967 and before (sliced in house with skin on and fried in 70% animal fat there is one place on the face of the earth that still has them: Dick's Drive In in Spokane, Washington. This is NOT related to the Seattle Dick's-it is an independent.

                              1. re: Joe H

                                The chain boardwalk fries aren't the same, I think the difference in the crispiness again. Thrashers stay crisp even when you add the vinegar, they don't get soggy, but they absorb just enough of the vinegar. Maybe they also use different oil? I kind of like the vinegar soaked fries at Rustico, but not close to Thrashers. It's really the only reason I go to Ocean City, I really kind of despise the beach there... I go to pick crabs and eat fries. I have actually had to be bribed with food to go there.

                                Sometimes you can find good fresh cut fries done right at fairs, the Rotary Club in my community makes a killing, they even have a mobile unit now that goes to events because they have mastered the art of the "boardwalk" fry aka hand cut fresh served with choice of condiment, but they always have vinegar available.

                                I hate Elevation fries... totally inconsistant, and the new McDs fries just don't do it for me too much sodium, not the right balance of potato to salt ratio.

                                Cheeburger Cheeburger has pretty good fires, they cut theirs daily so they are fresh.

                                Michel Richard takes his fries seriously though. I think it is because he loves them so much I have seen him there twice sitting at the small two top by the kitchen talking to someone eating fries. We have made guests order them as an appetizer just to prove they were superior. Even Fiance is obsessed with them, and he is not quite the devout foodie I am.

                                I don't mind fries with more potato (I don't like crinkle fires they are normally processed), waffle fries though don't have the crispness I like, and are just more unwieldy to eat for some reason. Not as enjoyable as an experience.

                                Five Guys you can catch a good bag now and then if they hold them perhaps a little longer than normal and you eat them fast, they just tend to get soggy, especially if left in the bag for any amount of time. I used to make runs to Five Guys for the Legislative Staff in Annapolis and I would tear my bag open and toss them around a little to try to prevent soggy fries.

                                I think perhaps fries and burgers are the two things I am most picky about in the food world because it is probably my favorite food. I wouldn't eat it everyday, but I can't go too long without that meal.

                                1. re: Joe H

                                  "5 Guys french fries, going back 25 or so years, really were an attempt to copy the original Thrasher's on the lower end of the Boardwalk." I don't think 5 Guys has been around 25 years, has it? I lived near the original Arlington location, and I remember that opening in 1993 or so...

                                  1. re: theoneontheleft

                                    That's not the original location of Five Guys, that is the original Annapolis location.

                                    1. re: ktmoomau

                                      According to the not-always authoratative Wikipedia, "The first location, which no longer exists, was in the Westmont Shopping Center at the corner of South Glebe Road and Columbia Pike." That was the one I was referring to. Wikipedia also says that 5G was founded in 1986. I really don't remember it being there that early....Could it be the first store in Annapolis had a different name?

                                      1. re: theoneontheleft

                                        I am confused... you realize South Glebe Road and Columbia Pike are in Arlington, Va and that is where the first one was correct? Don't confuse the Westfield Shopping Center in Annpolis with the Westmont Shopping Center. The Arlington store was in existence a long time before they spread like they are now. The first one in Annapolis was named Five Guys and was built a long time after the chain first started. I believe the first one in Annapolis is in the CVS shopping center off of Forest Drive.

                                        1. re: theoneontheleft

                                          I moved to Arlington in 1986, ate frequently at the Columbia Pike/Glebe Road location, and then moved to Baltimore in 1990 -- I can say for a fact that they were there in full strength. Also in Old Town around that time.

                                          1. re: lawhound

                                            Yeah, I don't think the first one opened in Annapolis, maybe until the I want to say 2003. I could be wrong, but the only location in Annapolis I knew of then is the one above and that shopping center was built recently. I know they were popular, but certainly not spread out like they are now with stores in NJ, CA, etc. It was more local until recently. But yes the original stores have been around for a long long time you can tell when you eat in the old ones in Arlington and Alexandria as many are in the same locations they have always been in.

                                            1. re: ktmoomau

                                              I guess I'm confused. I said I lived near the original Arlington location, which I know was Glebe & Col. Pike, since, again, I lived right around there. I didn't mention Annapolis, but you brought it up in your reply, which is when I then offered the Wikipedia tidbit....Well, anyway, I guess it doesn't matter. Bottom line Joe was right -- they have been around 25 years! And I was right, the first one was in Arlington. And then something about Annapolis....

                                              1. re: theoneontheleft

                                                No my fault I read too fast. I thought you said Annapolis not Arlington... then I got confused too. It's the multi-tasking, my apologies. But yeah they have been around a long long time. If you catch the Neighborhood eats on WETA they have Five Guys in it, their original location and all they have some neat footage of it all.

                                                1. re: theoneontheleft

                                                  My wife will never believe that I was right...about anything!!!

                                                  1. re: Joe H

                                                    Hahahaha..... well you know at least you know that in advance so you don't have to battle it out each time :) Fiance isn't right often about food things because he doesn't like mushrooms, artichokes, olives, fennel and his favorite cake is bundt cake and with all that I mean I just don't know if you can really judge good taste.

                                                    But he and I both agree on fries, so that has to be bad if even his flawed taste buds recognize that, it has to be right ; )

                                                    1. re: ktmoomau

                                                      With patience you may be able to mold him in your own image...for food.

                                            2. re: theoneontheleft

                                              I remember that Five Guys at Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Rd, and 1986 would have been about right, though I might have guessed a few years earlier. That's pretty close to 25 years ago.

                                              1. re: MikeR

                                                Absolutely incredible how much faster time passes by as I get older...OK, much older!

                                                1. re: Joe H

                                                  Life is like a tank of gas--the second half goes much faster than the first half.

                                    2. Thanks for letting us know!!!!!!! I am on the perpetual quest for the perfect fry. Hopefully, they can do it again.

                                      1. As an ex-fry cook, I can tell you that there is no secret to great boardwalk-type fries. Peanut oil is good, but any decent vegetable oil with a high smoke point will do. You need to change the oil, ideally after about 20 batches. (Almost no one does this.) You need to use a medium-starch potato. Once you cut the potatoes, you must NEVER wash them. Then, you need the right oil heat (which is largely dependent upon the type of fryer and it's operating condition). Finally, you need to cook them to the right brown-ness, drain quickly, salt them immediately, and shovel them out quick.

                                        So...what is my point? Don't expect consistency from one restaurant to another...even with the same chain. Unless they are very good, they will never get it all right.

                                        1. I saw a picture on a food thread of what were described as 5G fries, but instead of the big steak-fries I've associated them with, they were the typical long-square-rectangle fry. Anyone know if there's a location that does them this way?

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: MsDiPesto

                                            They are square fries with some skin, not wedge fries. Like the ones where you take the potato put it on the metal sheet and then run it through the squares, kind of like they do with boardwalk style. All the locations do their fries like this.

                                            1. re: MsDiPesto

                                              I don't remember the Five Guys fries being anything but square in cross section, never rectangular like what's usually called "steak fries" or triangular wedges. But I suppose there might be an outlier somewhere.

                                              1. re: MsDiPesto

                                                I've eaten at about 5 different Five Guys locations and I've never had anything but the typical, square-profile, skin-at-the-ends, really browned Boardwalk fries. (This includes the Five Guys I went to in Orlando, FL.

                                                1. re: Sean D

                                                  OK, I need to go back and get a bag now. Thanks.

                                              2. 5G's fries are nice...but the best fries I have had in NOVA are at the Donor Bistro in Leesburg. They are made in really hot oil...small batched and great fresh tator's. If you are feeling like spicing it up...you can have the fries served with meat and European sauce...it is Fab....

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: christinefarrell

                                                  Le Chat Noir on Wisconsin Ave. has great fries!