Wednesday, July 22, 2009

“Notable Burgers”, Part One: Five Guys

Five Guys
296 Bleecker St (at Barrow St)

There are two different kinds of burgers: thin, well-done patties and thick, medium-rare burgers. In New York, Five Guys is the champion of the well-done patty, and 5 Napkin Burger is my favorite of the “fancy” burgers. New York Magazine recently published a list of “New York’s 82 Most Notable Burgers”, and, fortunately, Adam Platt shares my good taste - he included both restaurants! Scott and I were inspired by the article’s photographs, and since he’d never been to either place, we decided to be ambitious and make a day of it - Five Guys for lunch, 5 Napkin Burger for dinner, and a six month snooze!

The first thing to know about ordering in Five Guys is that a “Cheeseburger” is actually a double. For people with smaller mouths and appetites to match, there’s the single-patty “Little Cheeseburger”. All toppings are free, but you have to ask if you want any toppings - the only thing that comes on a Five Guys patty is a whole wheat, sesame seed bun.

After months of experimenting, I’ve perfected my Five Guys order - a Little Cheeseburger with mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, and jalapeños. Scott was a little overwhelmed by the menu (and its prominently displayed high calorie counts - thanks for that, Bloomberg…), but he ordered a Cheeseburger with all of my toppings, plus pickles and hot sauce.

Glamorous photo of a double Cheeseburger (photo courtesy of New York Magazine)

This beautiful mess is the un-glamorous version of the double Cheeseburger.

Little Cheeseburger

The burgers are messy, but the grilled onions and burger grease taste so good that you're happy to lick your hands clean while eating. The hot sauce tastes a little like Frank’s, and makes a killer addition to the meat and the bun and the other toppings - it’s going on my burger next time! All of the burger’s toppings are crisp and fresh, and the patty is surprisingly juicy and tender for a well-done piece of meat. The tomatoes have good flavor, and the pickles are briny with a nice crunch to them. The real winner in the condiment category, though, is the jalapeño - hands down. It’s a brilliant shade of green that you don't often see outside of the farmer's market. It’s spicy and snappy, and makes the whole burger pop!

Between our jalapeños and hot sauce, these were some spicy burgers - but a hot french fry dunked in cool ketchup was the perfect antidote. At Five Guys, they leave the potato skins on their fries, which really delivers a true, “dirty” potato flavor. Across from the self-serve soda fountain, there are at least a dozen 50-lb bags of potatoes beneath a dry-erase board saying where that day's potatoes came from - ours were from Rigby, Idaho! These fries are cooked in peanut oil, and they're the right amount of salty and crispy, leaving intimidating grease stains on their brown paper bag.

If you’re looking for atmosphere, Madison Square Park’s Shake Shack is probably what you’re after. But this summer, I’ll take the superior burger of Five Guys and eat it inside - in the air conditioning, thank you!

**update** - Little Scarlet just received word from Five Guys itself that the hot sauce they use is Frank’s after all! Way to go Little Scarlet - thanks for reading, Five Guys!!


  1. Great pictures!

  2. I have a great place for you to check out for burgers. You have to go to Paul's which is located at 121 2nd avenue in the east village.

    Check out our review over at Simply Scrumptious!

  3. If you like Five Guys, try In-N-Out-Burgers in California -- less topping choices, but excellent burgers! As a lover of the thin patty you'll really like it.

  4. @whineaux: I've heard such amazing things about In-N-Out burgers, I'm dying to go! I can't think of when I'll be out in California though :( If I ever get out there, that'll be one of the first places I stop, haha!

  5. Five Guys arrived in Utah about a year ago. I really enjoy their burger, but they don't quite edge out In-n-Out.

  6. I usually hit the one of 55th Street. I love the fries, and you have to love the free peanuts