Five Guys (Downtown Lincoln)
It’s a well-known fact that if I don’t have a coupon, I ain’t eating there. There’s plenty of coupons out there via e-mail, plus the POGO card means I never pay full price and eat at a wide variety of places.
However, Mike Schmidt, host and Grand Poobah of the very funny 40 Year Old Boy podcast (subscribe now you MF’ers!), posted some pictures of his recent trip to Five Guys Burgers–a regional chain going national–on his Twitter. He took the picture below.
So, I thought good enough for Mike, good enough for me to try it full price. Five Guys is new to Lincoln. (Hey Five Guys website, put out some coupons, a birthday club, anything)
Five Guys is a fast food place shooting for a hometown, simple burger joint vibe. Their menu is ridiculously basic–burgers, hot dogs, fries, drink. The key is the add-ons. You can add the usual Subway toppings like lettuce, tomato, jalepenos and so on, plus high-end burger toppings like grilled onion, grilled mushrooms, A1 and BBQ sauce. I don’t know why every burger place doesn’t do this with their burgers. You really can have it your way. A big selling point. I had a regular bacon burger with many toppings. Regular means two patties, little means one. The bun is always the same size. The fries are steak fries, roughhewn and hand-cut. The big, thick, mostly potato fries are not the just the crisp shell sliver fries of most fast food places. They’re thick and longer than most fries. And you get a ginormous amount of fries in just the regular (the picture above is one regular order split in two) order for two bucks. The burgers run between five and six bucks. Pretty reasonably priced. The fries are the big draw.
The burgers themselves were a bit smaller than I expected. They came in generic aluminum foil (no advertising on the wrapper or bag) and the meat was a bit dry. I expected greasy in aluminum foil. But there was no processing in either the toppings, meat or bun. It’s just straight up off the shelf ground beef. Mickey D’s and Burger King’s burgers taste processed. These burgers taste like the ones we’ve made at home. That’s not necessarily a compliment as we’re often making dry burgers and covering them up with toppings.
(The mythical Bob’s in Martinsburg Ne made the best home-made burgers in a diner setting I’ve ever had, dinner plate sized and gay-rees-ee.)
The overall feel of Five Guys is streamlined. If it isn’t needed, it isn’t there. No plastic dining trays or burger baskets with wax paper. You have the same experience eating in as carrying out. The plain, brown thin paper bag I was handed with my eat-in order already had grease spots from the fries seeping through. Awesome. The fries came in simple cup (only the fry cup and drink cup had the Five Guys logo on it), but could see it from the top of the bag as I had to play ‘Fry Pirate’ as I dug through the fries to find the burger at the bottom. And because of no tray, I ended up dumping the fries directly on the table so I could use the ketchup. Oh, the ketchup and all of the condiments were high-end and fresh, a noticeable plus compared to the watered-down packets of other places. I generally don’t put ketchup on fast food fries, but these steak fries benefitted greatly from fresh ketchup. They even had malt vinegar for the fries, but no mayonnaise.
The look of Five Guys is either extremely lazy or there to put your focus on the food. My guess, a bit of both. Not one of the Five Guys must have been in marketing. Their logo is just red checkerboard with ‘Five Guys’ in a generic font. That’s it. No mascot, retro drawing or crap on the wall. No kitsch you see in these ‘modern/retro’ burger places. The only thing on the walls were reviews for Five Guys. Lots and lots of reviews, laminated, so you know they’re fancy. Of course, they were mostly positive, but the funny thing was in the 20 or so ‘Best 5 Burgers in X City’ articles, five guys was never number one. It was almost always number three. Two local burger joints almost always held number one and two. Hippees with their tiny grills, eight dollar burgers and bohemian recipes.
But number three seems about right. Five Guys isn’t the best burger I’ve ever had or even had from a chain, but it’s not bad and feels like fresh food, not processed. I’ll certainly eat there again, more if I had a coupon.
Two last notes, Five Guys is Coke establishment which is nice because Lincoln is 80% (made-up statistic) Pepsi in the restaurants and I hate Pepsi.
And, also, probably their only gimmick, you can eat as many in the shell peanuts you want. The peanuts were in a giant box near the pick-up area. I didn’t notice the box until I was leaving. I had a few. Next time, I’ll have more because my burger took about fifteen minutes to make and the place only had three customers in mid-afternoon. Slow for fast food, quick for gourmet. They don’t make the burger until you order it. You can watch them because the whole area behind the counter is open and wallless. I always like this because I’m an instant participant in any weird power struggle or emotional break downs going on behind the counter.
Okay, one more note, I saw a customer, a big guy, huffing and puffing. I thought he might be having a heart attack. That’d be a ringing endorsement if there ever was one. He was just eating too fast which is also a positive review in some circles.
And that’s the short review:
Five Guys won’t give you a hamburger heart attack delivering you to some sort of hamburger nirvana, but you may huff and puff inhaling their burgers and fries.
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