Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Retro Burgercraft: It’s no fiction, Five Guys satisfies

During the post-holiday season, my neighbor Jenn and I took a work lunch break and headed to Lakewood’s new foodie destination: Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

While other Cleveland locations exist (there’s at least six in the area), the Detroit Avenue Culinary Mile, home to numerous and quite diverse dining options, only recently welcomed this Arlington, Virginia sensation.

Jenn and I found metered parking right in front of the restaurant, a good thing considering the block’s parking lot is behind the building and there’s no backdoor access. Not a big deal in the summer, or for anyone from a high-traffic city, but in the winter, proximity from car door to front door is key.
We walked in and immediately noticed the retro red and white and the long path towards the back of the restaurant, guided by multiple color-coordinated bags and boxes of peanuts and potatoes. Customers can nosh on the peanuts, for free, while waiting for the food to be cooked. We also heard Led Zepplin on the loud speaker, as, we later learned, classic music is the soundtrack of this eatery. Media-bragging signs cover the walls, including proclaiming Five Guys the “Willy Wonkas of Burgercraft.”

Taking everything in, as we approached the counter, the very nice young man in designer glasses taking our order first asked if we’ve been to a Five Guys before, and, as neither of us had, explained the super short menu: Burgers (regular), Burgers (small), Kosher-style hot dogs, fries and drinks (pop and water). To my disappointment, no milkshakes. What would Vincent Vega do? The cashier continued, “The regular burger has two patties, while the small burger has one. I’d recommend each of you order the small. Also, pick any toppings you’d like, they are all free.” Decisions, decisions. Following his recommendation, Jenn and I each ordered a regular cheeseburger, a soft drink and one cup of fries to share.
With Santana serenading us, Jenn and I sat down and, while waiting for the food to arrive, began to observe the place and its customers: Five Guys doesn’t really feel like a diner, nor like that other burger chain with red as its primary color. Five Guys resonates the atmosphere of a place one could stop and eat at on a long cross-country road trip. (That is, before the highway service stops all began to look alike and offer the same contractual chain food “options.”)

Casual bleached wood dining furniture fills up the new space and plenty of seating exists for the rotating crowd: white and blue collar, older, kids with parents and everyone in between. Like characters in a movie, literally anyone could walk into this place, looking for something old or something new, or, just passing through.

One of the servers brought out our order and, though we’d be eating “in,” the food came out in bags and not on trays. Personally, I prefer a little more substance between my food and the table it’s on. Jenn and I eagerly opened our bags and took out our meals. But, before we dug in, I noticed a piece of bacon sticking out of my burger. To quote Jules Winnfield, the Pulp Fiction religiously righteous assassin, played perfectly by Samuel Jackson, “I don’t dig on swine.”

Thus, I quietly took out the pork strips before taking my first bite. The burgers were very juicy and the buns: fresh and soft. But the winner in our lunch ensemble was the French fries. While so many other chains have messed around with the oil on their fries so much that one never knows what to expect when heading into a familiar location, I now vote that all potato, moving forward, be cooked in peanut oil. These are, quite possibly, the best French fries I’ve ever had.

After emptying our soft drinks, and realizing we still had half a serving of these incredible morsels left in the bag, I refilled our beverages at the self-serve fountain and returned to our table, when Jenn and I noticed some of the staff seated in front of black mini-laptops with light reflecting in the readers’ eyes, all focused on company training. What are the laptops saying? What’s inside? We may never know.

On the company website, one of the reviews, from The Virginian-Pilot, headlines “Get a tasty burger at Five Guys Burgers and Fries.” Tasty burger. The only time I’ve ever heard that combination of words was in Pulp Fiction, when Jules, along with partner in crime Vincent Vega (John Travolta), breaks into a college student’s apartment, only to take his lunch, amongst other things, away from him. Between the classic rock music, the road-trip like atmosphere and the very tasty burgers, even righteous Jules would be satisfied at Five Guys. For hours and a location near you, visit

Reprinted with permission from

No comments:

Post a Comment