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Friday, April 10, 2009
The main thing that sets Five Guys Burgers and Fries apart from its competitors is simple: they encourage their customers to choose what goes on top of their patty. As someone who has picked pickles off fast food burgers since preschool, I consider this a stroke of genius. Sure, you can request to have it "your way" at Burger King but it's always a hassle and you're guaranteed no less than two eye rolls from the cashier.
The Five Guys in Beaverton, the first of two locations of the popular Virginia-based franchise to set up shop in the metro area, has a menu over the front counter with several toppings to pick from. Supposedly, there's no less than 250,000 different ways to order a Five Guys burger. When I stopped in for lunch a while back there was a line nearly out the door. A small army of teenagers frantically cranked out orders as quickly as possible to keep up with the throngs of suburbanites piling into the place.
East Coast colleagues have told me that Five Guys' burgers are the best that can be found in a stateside fast food joint. The line led past a row of rave reviews from publications around the country, trumpeting Five Guys' insistence on only using Idaho potatoes in their fries and never freezing their beef patties. A reader board informed me that this particular day's potatoes had come from a town I forgot to commit to memory. There was also a barrel filled with complimentary peanuts and, yeah, Five Guys is one of those places where you can toss the shells on the floor. Or at least that's what everyone was doing while I was there.
After a long wait, one of the teens behind the counter handed me a paper bag filled with greasy goodness. How did my burger and fries stack up against those found at In-N-Out, Burgerville and Dick's Drive-In? The fries were fresh and topped all the others I've gobbled down in other fast food restaurants. The burger was juicy and cooked just right but, ultimately, I don't think it can compete against the ones at In-N-Out in terms of "value." One of the drawbacks of Five Guys is the prices, which are definitely higher than what you'll find at the popular California burger chain.
While what I had was tasty, I think I'll remain a Burgerville devotee, especially now that the chain is considering the addition of beer and wine to its menu. Or at least until In-N-Out starts opening franchises in Portland.