24201 W. Valencia Blvd., 3672
Valencia, CA 91355
20700 Avalon Blvd
Carson, CA 90746
I’d been hearing just a little too much about this new hamburger chain that migrated from the east coast (Chicago?). With a seemingly never-ending stream of praise and being touted as the In-N-Out contender, I decided it would behoove me to inspect more closely. I’m skeptical these days; this newer generation of patrons (that can’t exist without wires and circuit boards connected to their heads) often has no idea what they’re talking about.
To boot, it seems they somehow have the power to convert folks in my age group. Regardless, I took this stint seriously as I don’t like to revisit my reviews and pick out obvious bias. So, is this east coast Double-Double the real deal? I cleared my mind and palate, ate, and here’s the resulting synopsis of my Five Guys experience:
Despite the cookie-cutter exterior and insanely braggadocios and cliché interior (nearly every wall placard illustrates their own greatness in some way), there was some comfort found inside. Why? I have no clue. It could have been the familiar red and white scheme that’s so coincidentally similar to In-N-Out. Maybe it was the actual zit-faced teenagers behind the counter instead of the standard Los Angeles tired-of-life 48 year old mother of 3 fry cook. Or, quite possibly, it could have been the two barrels of peanuts inviting you for a snack before you get your food. Who knows? Either way, it was clean, open and relatively pleasant to be there.
I ordered a few different things at Five Guys to get a true feel for the food. You can’t make a decision about a restaurant based on one dish from one cook on one day. The beauty of fast food is that it’s usually pretty consistent, so ordering up a grease gauntlet should lead me to a pretty accurate assessment. Starting off, I ordered their double bacon cheese burger with everything on it. Ordering everything on your burger is a wonderful window into the burger maker’s soul. From this, you can determine where they draw the line with toppings. When is enough, enough? What makes a good burger? In some test kitchen somewhere, this burger with all its adornments, stands as their finished product and their own interpretation of what a good burger is. In this case, everything means: Mayo, Pickles, Lettuce, Tomato, Mushrooms, Onions and BBQ sauce. They have a host of other toppings such as A-1 and jalapenos that are optional, but I wasn’t interested. I know what all that tastes like. I wanted to see what their burger was made of, literally.
The good: The ingredients were fresh.
The ‘Eh’: As a whole, the burger was bland. The meat didn’t have much of an identity and the texture was lumpy and soft. The toppings, while each good in their own right, came together as a tasteless amalgam that didn’t benefit the overall burger. While I enjoy the umami-laden, earthy notes a delicious bunch of mushrooms typically deliver, these seemed leached by some form of marination. I wouldn’t be surprised to find they’re canned. The bacon was good in flavor however certain parts seemed determined to break a molar with its travertine-like texture. The bun was decent to good, but lacked the ability to keep the burger together; it was quickly overcome by juices and began disintegration early on. The bottom bun broke through on my 4th bite.
Fries – thick but not Fatburger thick. Great natural potato taste and good amount of salt however they were overcooked. Yet, at the same time they were limp, soggy, and had an overpowering burnt oil taste to them. I later ordered their Cajun-style fries hoping for something different but received the same fries with seasoned salt on them. Eh…
The Bad: As I write this, the BBQ sauce is becoming more and more intolerable, just as it did while I was eating. I typically love a good sweet BBQ sauce, however this sauce had a particular sweetness that some part of my brain associates with rancid dumpster. The meat was (burger fail [dammit this pod generation has me saying fail] in my eyes) drastically too small for the bun.
I was happy enough with the pretty burger façade to finish it but was left with unsatiated wont. The decision was quickly made to order a burger without any toppings at all, just meat and cheese. I needed to taste this burger for what it was without all the white space between the buns. Without all hoopla, this burger had much more of a solid burger flavor. Even still, I wasn’t ready to call this the In-N-Out beater. It’s not bad, but not great either. The bad proportions and odd flavor profiles make these burgers too odd to give a solid thumbs up to. Again, the meat was just too small for the bun.
After a moderately disappointing burger meal, I ordered a hot dog. The dog was actually surprisingly good. I didn’t have the stomach space to order a full-blown dog, so I’ll have to admit my review on the hotdog isn’t fully formed. I ordered only cheese on the dog so I could appreciate the flavor and cooking style. Also, out of fairness I need to add that I’m not a huge hotdog fan but I’ve had my fair share and admittedly, I was pleasantly surprised. The dog was frenched and grilled perfectly. It was crispy, juicy, meaty, tasty … everything a good dog should be. Maybe a TAD bit greasy. The only other criticism I really had was that the bun was so-so. It almost seemed microwaved as by my 3-4th bite, it was already becoming hard and flaky. I’ll revisit this next time for toppings.
Establishment: 4.0 of 5. Clean, friendly, good ambiance. Tacky self-promotion and standard design.
Burger: 3.0 of 5. Pretty looking and fresh. Good quality however lacking in flavor and design.
Fries: 2.5 of 5. Cut potatos thrown in burnt oil, covered with salt.
Hot Dog: 3.5 of 5. Could be 4 with addition of toppings and fresh bun.
Result: Not an In-N-Out beater. Not a first-rate burger. Skepticism confirmed: this is a magnificent burger for teens, early twenties, indiscriminate eaters, and know-it-alls.