Don Bauder 7:15 p.m., Sept. 23
Burger Time: Five Guys
[One of the many laudatory messages pinned to the restaurant's bulletin board.]
Five Guys is a chain that started in Virginia, colonized D.C. and the surrounding area, and eventually went national. We visited the Liberty Station location. The place is heavy on the In-N-Out vibe, from the red-and-white tile to the stripped-down menu. (A Bacon Cheeseburger will run you $6.59; large fries, $4.99.)
But no shakes! Instead, the soda fountain offers exotic selections (read: Cherry Coke). And speaking of beverages:
These five guys are not shy about promoting the good things that others have said about them. Positive reviews and other accolades appear not only on the soda cups but all over the walls. It's a little odd: "You've made the decision to come here; now let us tell you how smart you were to make that decision!" But it does keep things positive!
Also like In-N-Out, they advertise never-frozen beef, so that's a good thing. And the place goes In-N-Out's open-kitchen design one step further, going so far as to let their basic (and branded) ingredients serve as decor:
Oh, and there are free peanuts -- not great peanuts, but a smart, salty way to keep folks happy while they wait.
While we're on the subject of seasoning, let us now praise Five Guys' Cajun fries, which use the teeniest touch of heat to keep you eating long after you've tired of the starchy, mushy interior beneath the slightly heartier exterior. And the portions? Massive.
On to the burger. Meat: pebbly and firm, rich and flavorful and lightly greasy. Cheese: gloppy-gluey American. Too much for me, and not as smoothy oozy as In-N-Out. Lettuce: bountiful, cold, and crisp. Tomato: what do you want from a fast-food joint? And yet, there were hints of genuine flavor. Bun: substantial in a chewy sort of way, and sweet.
Style placement: somewhere between In-N-Out and Fatburger. I dunno - given all the raves, somehow I was expecting more. And the cheese was a real drawback for me. Your mileage may vary.
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