OK, I know Five Guys Burgers and Fries is a chain, and a pretty big one at that, but they’re relatively new to the area and the west coast in general so I thought I’d show what they’re all about to those that have not been to one yet.
Lots of people like to compare them to In’N'Out Burger. This is a valid comparison in that they are burger chains, use fresher and higher quality ingredients than your average fast food joints, cook food to order and have generally very good customer service. Beyond that however, I find them to be quite different. In’N'Out clearly strives for consistency and simplicity even down to their buildings. There is little variation in design from one to the next. I haven’t been to nearly as many Five Guys, but they seem to work around whatever locations they find. For instance, here in Roseville, they have a very simple rectangular space in the old Applebees building. The Natomas location is much larger and L-shaped with the ordering line flowing in the opposite direction.
Though their menu isn’t quite as basic as In’N'Out it’s still a lot more basic than your typical fast food chain. In addition to burgers, they also offer hot dogs, veggie sandwiches and grilled cheeses. They offer more topping options than In’N'Out, including grilled mushrooms, relish, jalapenos, green peppers, A.1. steak sauce, BBQ sauce and hot sauce.
When you walk in, you will be guided towards the counter down a path bordered by sacks of potatoes and boxes of peanut oil. Once at the register they ask if you’ve been to Five Guys before and given a little crash course on the menu if not. I’ve been eating here on the weekends more than usual so the cashier seemed to recognize me this time. I ordered my usual bacon cheeseburger with mayo, lettuce, grilled onions and grilled mushrooms. I ordered fries as well, though I only did so for the completeness of this post. I’ll tell you why in a moment. Once my order was complete and paid I headed out to the front of the mostly empty dining room to claim a table.
This is where my biggest complaint about this particular location comes in. The dining room is very cramped. They have so many tables here that it’s difficult to move from one end of the dining room to the other. It’s not so bad when it’s this empty, but I was still moving chairs and bumping into tables on my way to the soda machines. When it’s busy, it gets awkward and annoying to get to a table in the middle. Looking at the layout, I’m not even sure a wheelchair would be able to navigate the outside very smoothly without someone having to take point and help by moving some tables and chairs to widen the path. There is so little space left over that the children’s highchairs are stored right in front of one of the two soda fountains (and of course the Mr Pibb is in that far corner). On top of all this, there is no obvious place to wait for your order if you are taking it to go. If you want to stand and wait you’ll almost certainly be in the way, so you’re left with taking up a table and chair.
Update: It’s been about 3 months since this visit and I just had lunch here again. They have dramatically improved in this area. Tables have been reoriented and they may have even removed some. It felt a lot better.
Five Guys is about as fast as In’N'Out, which means not all that fast. Take that time to grab your soda, napkins, ketchup and a scoop of complimentary peanuts to snack on. When your order is ready, it comes out in a bag. There is no “for here” or “to go” here, it’s served the same way no matter what. If you’ve ordered fries, a good amount of the bags weight will be coming from those. They give you a ton. This is what you’ll see when you peer inside the bag:
The last few times I’ve ordered fries they were not cooked particularly well and were basically greasy, soggy potatoes. Last week was the final straw and I decided I wasn’t going to order them anymore. Even when cooked properly I’m not a very big fan of them and end up using an awful lot of ketchup with them. I ordered them this one last time as I said above, for completeness of this post. The crew must have been reading my mind because they nailed it. They were actually cooked well, had a slight crunch to them and were overall pretty good. I may be tempted to try them again next time, but they’re still on notice in my book. I much prefer In’N'Out’s fries to these, even on Five Guys best day.
The burger itself is great. I’ve had very consistent experiences with my burgers at Five Guys. Today there was so little time between when it was wrapped and unwrapped that the cheese hadn’t had a chance to melt and stick to the foil like it normally does. The bacon is flavorful and crispy, the onions are tasty and the lettuce fresh and crisp. The mushrooms don’t offer a lot of flavor but I enjoy the texture. The beef is very similar to In’N'Out, thin patties of fresh beef that are never frozen. The cheese is one of the highlights here in my opinion. It isn’t particularly strong or unique but they seem to put just enough on the burger so you can taste it in each bite and it adds a creamy texture. My cheese loving friend (the one that ordered all the extra gruyere when we went to The Counter) even commented that he likes the cheese at Five Guys because he can actualy taste it, opposed to most other fast food cheeseburgers.
I’d give this location 3 of 5. Minus 1 for the cramped dining room and 1 for the inconsistent fries. The burger is the star here, though I’m kind of curious about their hot dogs.