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Until they get it together, go 3 blocks west to The Counter

Went to five guys for lunch today. Mistake. Arrived at 11:30, they were so busy preparing takeout orders the first order they served to someone in the place was more than 1/2 hour after I ordered. When mine arrived it had the fixins I asked for, but also bacon, which I didn't ask for and can't eat. Choices: open burger and remove bacon pieces, or wait another half hour plus for a new one. Took the first alternative. Meat seems to be OK quality, but mine was way overcooked. For the price, I would go down the street to The Counter, really good burgers cooked the way you ask (at five guys they don't even ask how you want it), with really good service. I'll go back, however, because they have only been open 3 days and it's obvious the staff hasn't quite got the hang of the outfit's barmy way of putting a simple burger together, and they had too many cooks (8 when I arrived, and I counted 10 -- literally sometimes falling over each other -- when I left). I'm sure with practice they'll get better, but the burgers had better get better too or they are in trouble. They are just lucky there's no In-N-Out nearby.

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  1. I had the opposite experience, on their 2nd day, but then I was there at about 3:30 pm.

    For it being their 2nd day, I was hugely impressed how well everything seemed to be humming along...took my order efficiently, got it relatively quickly (quicker than In-n-Out), no mistakes, and really enjoyed the food, as did everyone around me seem to be.

    Obviously they're brand new, so not that surprised that you hit service issues, but averaging together with my experience, I'm still pretty impressed. Beats the hell out of the giant service mountain Short Order has been struggling to get over since they opened.

    Oh, and as for the burger's temperatures... Five Guys is definitely in the In-n-Out fast food league, where one temp is supposed to fit all, and I think the prices reflect that.

    19 Replies
    1. re: wutzizname

      I do think it is not fair to compare 5 guys and In-n-out for either of them. There price points are very different. IMO 5 guys is more of a direct competitor of Fat burger, Hamburger habit, Apple pan

      1. re: AAQjr

        I think Fat Burger is a fair comparison. Never heard of Hamburger Habit. Apple Pan costs a lot more than Five Guys and Fat Burger though, and they're not a chain so probably not the best reference. But is Five Guys really that much more expensive than In-n-Out? I haven't been to the latter in a long time, so I'd have to check, but Five Guys prices seemed pretty low to me...especially for the portion sizes and quality.

        1. re: wutzizname

          Five Guys is almost double what In-N-Out charges. A Double Double is $3.10 at the moment. A Five Guys Cheeseburger is $5.59.

          1. re: wienermobile

            Yes, but the In-N-Out patties are much thinner. Don't have exact weights, but I'd venture that the Double-Double is a quarter pound (pre-cooked) which is probably on par with the Five Guys "Little" Cheeseburger (single patty) which is only $4.49. So still a little pricier, but not that much.

      2. re: wutzizname

        The Counter has just about the best burger I have ever had. I have tried Five Guys and SmashBurger - both have good burgers and Smashburger has very good rosemary and olive oil fries. But the burger at The Counter was much better than either of the other two places. It's significantly more expensive though. But IMHO, well worth it.

        1. re: Cremon

          I'm shocked, because every time I've gone to the Counter my burger has been essentially unseasoned.

          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            Oh mine was fantastic. I ordered a burger with Brie and Gruyère cheeses, sauteed mushrooms, onions, thick bacon, mayonnaise and pesto sauce. I didn't have to put any seasoning on it. Now without the bacon and gourmet cheeses, I'd have probably put some salt and pepper on it myself. But it truly was not necessary with the burger build above.

            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              Concur... in fact, the only burgers there that I really, really like there are the mini cheeseburgers. The standard burgers always seem to lie flat on my palate.

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                I agree. Absolutely love The Counter burger. Also, they have the best veggie burger I have ever had and I am a tried and true meat girl. I actually CRAVE it and it has been the standing order every time I have gone in the past year - it is THAT good... they make it in-house. Delicious!

            2. re: wutzizname

              I ordered mine 'to go' and they did the thing I hate the most, no matter where I go and take out any hot food, they wrapped it in that horrible foil.
              So...got to my destination a few blocks away and that hot burger had steamed inside the foil.
              Ugh.

              1. re: latindancer

                Latindancer - just curious - if you don't like the foil, how do you prefer they pack your to go order?

                1. re: Cremon

                  Can't speak for ld, but I perfer the in and out wrapper, a little burger diaper and a wax paper burger pocket...

                  --Dommy!

                  1. re: Cremon

                    I seriously would have been happier if they'd just stuck in the brown paper bag it comes in and thrown the fries on top...
                    Waxed paper like, for instance, Langer's uses for take out or La Brea uses cardboard for their panini.
                    Never use foil. I'd have thought that was burger take out 101.

                    1. re: Cremon

                      another thought on this...
                      their burgers and fries come slammin' hot... and the hotter the worse it is in foil.

                      1. re: latindancer

                        Paper or cardboard breathes, especially if there's a vent in the closure. Technically it may not stay hot as long, but quality will be preserved SOME in comparison with an air tight steam job.

                    2. re: latindancer

                      OMG! I have the same complaint... but here's the thing, they wrap it up in that awful foil even if you eat there! So the bun gets all gooey and smushed. A 5 guys opened near us and after 2 visits trying to like it and getting ONLY toppings that i like, I think it put me off burgers... because I haven't wanted one since...

                      --Dommy!

                      1. re: Dommy

                        Good point. Even if you eat in, you've got to pull those burgers out asap and unwrap.

                        It's also one more detail to support that Five Guys belongs firmly in the In-N-Out fast food category, and not in the sit down world of The Counter, et al. At Five Guys, EVERY order is packed in a brown paper bag, whether you're taking it to go or not. At least In-N-Out asks, and gives you your food on a tray for dining in.

                        I'm not sure if that's true at every Five Guys around the country, but on my 2 visits to the new one on Wilshire, that definitely seemed to be the case.

                        1. re: Dommy

                          'they wrap it up in that awful foil even if you eat there!'

                          Well...I'm a little surprised, actually. I think it's why I'm an In-n-out fan so much.
                          I really like how they deliver the food.
                          I know how hard it is to keep a food business going but I'd have thought they'd have figured that little detail out.

                    3. Even if they do get it together, I still prefer the Counter. I went to 5 Guys in Phoenix. Not impressed. Same concept as The Counter, but not as good. Fries are terrible

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: maudies5

                        Same concept? I don't think they could be much more different...within the burger world, at least.

                        One is fast food, in the league with Burger King and In-n-Out. The other is sit down fast casual with table service and a bar, more in line with TGI Friday's.

                        And The Counter has a comparatively huge menu with tons of options, and loads of "creative" toppings. Five Guys has a tiny menu with only the most basic of traditional burger toppings.

                        And for what it's worth, Five Guys has been around since the 1980s. The Counter opened their first store in 2003.

                        1. re: wutzizname

                          Also Five Guys burgers range from $3.89-$6.89 (max). The Counter burgers start at $8.95 and go up from there.

                        2. re: maudies5

                          'Fries are terrible".

                          Really? I wouldn't say they're the best fries I've ever had....but 'terrible'?
                          Why?

                        3. i think i remember the last time i was at five guys, i read somewhere they cook all of their burgers juicy and well done. kind of had to laugh at that. it cost more than in n out but i don't think their burgers are very good. their fries are excellent however.

                          1. As there is more than one branch of The Counter and more than one one branch of Five Guys in greater Los Angeles, which location are you talking about? "Go 3 blocks west" could apply to the westside, or it could apply to a westwardly direction anywhere...

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: silence9

                              They are talking about the just opened Mid-Wilshire Five Guys.

                              1. re: silence9

                                Thanks for asking that. This is one of my biggest pet peeves on Chowhound when people post about a restaurant expecting people to have ESP to guess where the restaurant is. It's especially annoying for a thread such as this one where there are multiple locations for 5 guys.

                                I went to the 5 guys in Northridge today and wasn't too impressed. They overcooked the patties so they tasted like hockey pucks. I should have gone with my gut and walked over to In N Out across the parking lot or gone into Costco for a pizza slice.

                              2. Isn't this experience kind of what you expect from a newly opened place?

                                1. Sorry, but I just don't get The Counter. I've heard that it used to be great before it started massively expanding, which may be true. Still, I've been to three Counters (including the one referenced on Wilshire near La Brea) and the burgers were way undercooked at all locations. Even when they've cooked them right, they're just not that special. Given the choice, I'd rather have one of the burgers at Marie's next door to The Counter. If you're looking for a great burger in this neck of the woods, I would suggest Umami Burger (on La Brea and Olympic, if you can stomach the attitude) or the Golden State on Fairfax. And when the lines die down, maybe I'll be able to recommend Five Guys, too.

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: Wafer_thin

                                    I agree with Wafer_thin. The Counter is certainly interesting, with the myriad of choices, and the burgers are decent. But they're not remarkable. And I seem to consistently have trouble with their buns falling apart. My last visit I had it on an English muffin for that reason.

                                    I still think Red Robin is about the best chain burger around these parts, with a much more comfortable atmosphere to boot than the other frequently-mentioned places.

                                    And I'll never understand why people can stand In-N-Out. To be fair, the only times I've had their burgers are when my employer hired their truck a couple times. I thought they were little better than Carl's Jr., and that's about as low as one can go.

                                    Art.

                                    1. re: ArtShapiro

                                      Carl's Jr. Burger is JUNK! It's like its precooked and warmed... sawdust in the middle with a fakey char taste....

                                      I have to say, I have eaten from the In-N-Out truck in the past, and while it's good to scratch an itch... it's not nearly the same sort of care they do at the store (In fairness to the truck crew, they are trying to push out as many burgers as they can due to the size constraints) , where if you get them on a good day, they will even cook it medium and it's quite a delicious experience...

                                      The one thing I like about the truck however, is you can get a bag of lays with your burger instead of those gawd awful fries...

                                      --Dommy!

                                      1. re: Dommy

                                        Yeah, In-N-Out's fries are definitely for the birds. That's why I've started ordering them "animal style," i.e., topped with grilled onions, special sauce and melted cheese.

                                        1. re: Wafer_thin

                                          Is the "special sauce" the same Thousand Islands they use on the burgers? Or something different?

                                          1. re: wutzizname

                                            As far as I can tell, it's the same as the one used on the burgers, which I always order with extra sauce, too!

                                            1. re: wutzizname

                                              It has been my understanding that the 'animal-style sauce' is grilled onions cooked in mustard, and has nothing to do with Thousand Island or any other kind of dressing' The animal-style sauce does not come by default on the burger or fries.

                                              1. re: silence9

                                                Really? I've never tastes any mustard, and the sauce looks like the burger sauce, even where it hasn't mixed with the melted cheese. Might "animal style" have variations depending on location? Regardless, I think I need to have those fries again and confirm!

                                                1. re: Wafer_thin

                                                  There is a difference between the Animal Style burger (the burger is cooked in mustard and grilled onions, extra spread and pickles are added) and Animal Style fries (they are topped with melted cheese, grilled onions and their spread. There is no mustard at all added to the fries or the spread).

                                                  1. re: wienermobile

                                                    Right. It can all be seen here: http://www.badmouth.net/in-n-outs-sec... although the animal style burger does get extra pickles, cheese, spread and grilled onions chopped up and grilled more before being added to the burger.

                                            2. re: Wafer_thin

                                              Yeah, I just go there for the burger, and if I feel like extra splurgy, I'll get a small Neapolitan shake...

                                              --Dommy!

                                      2. I don't know about The Counter being really good burgers. I have tried both Counter and 5 Guys and both are just okay.

                                        1. I went to the new Five Guys on Wilshire on Friday afternoon. Great burger and the best french fries I've had in years. There was a minor glitch in my order causing me to have to wait a bit longer than I should have but the staff was so apologetic, I couldn't complain.

                                          I don't get the price comparisons here to smaller burgers. I also like that Five Guys gives you so many choices of toppings (including sauteed mushrooms) at no extra charge.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Hackenbush

                                            So I got tied up around lunchtime and couldn't get a bite to eat until past 2:00, by which time there was no one at the Five Guys on Wilshire near La Brea. I ordered the cheeseburger (two patties) with mayo, lettuce, jalapeños, tomatoes, grilled onions, and BBQ sauce. My friend and I also tried both styles of their fries (regular and Cajun seasoning).

                                            First, the burger. I really enjoyed it. It was really good and substantial. It wasn't over/under-cooked and it was tasty. I agree that wrapping it in aluminum foil has the unintended negative consequence of steaming the bun so next time I will try to open it ASAP. My sense is that the burger is a notch above what you get at a fast food place (the best of which for me is In-N-Out), but not quite what you would get at a good gastropub or burger specialty place (with the exception of The Counter, of which I'm not a fan, as noted in my post above), and the prices appear to reflect that niche.

                                            The fries were fine, but they're not anything I would consider phenomenal. Personally, I prefer the seasoned fries at Barney's in Brentwood to these. In fact, I prefer the burgers there as well come to think of it, but since I suspect they're a little pricier at Barney's, it may not be a fair comparison.

                                            All in all, I'd go back from time to time, but I'm not in the camp that will rave about this place.