Like any fast-food hamburger joint, Five Guys Burgers and Fries serves up greasy roadside fare at cheap prices. But what separates Five Guys from the rest is that their burgers maintain a semblance of homemade taste, thankfully devoid of the highly processed, standardized flavor of the Big Mac or the Whopper. In fact, the whole Five Guys experience is surprisingly lacking the mind-numbing uniformity of McBurger joints, which is probably how it has managed to find a niche in an already well-developed fast-food market.
The effect begins with the servers, who are personable rather than perfunctory. When it is your turn to order, they enjoin you — albeit with a certain degree of cheekiness — to pick five toppings, no fewer, for your burger. Toppings are pretty standard, though caramelized onions and grilled mushrooms are a welcome and unexpected addition. The orders are called out in back and cooked in front of you on a real grill. You won’t find microwaves here.
The burgers are served hot and fresh. They appear to be cruder than McBurgers, but the taste is far truer to the beef, probably because Five Guys only uses fresh, never frozen, patties. Fries are made on site from real potatoes (huge sacks of Idaho Russets line the front wall of the store). They are thick and taste natural, though perhaps lacking that ethereal crispiness only found in McDonald’s fries. Five Guys also serves good all-beef kosher hot dogs.
The décor is heavy on reds and whites. Seating is no-frills. But the ambience is homey and fun. Peanuts in large cardboard boxes are there for waiting customers to nibble on. Five Guys also does not batter you with their logo, which is not on food wrappers or cups. All of this serves to create an atmosphere that feels more like your local grill than just another branch of a burgers and fries conglomerate.
Five Guys is not as cheap as its competitors (a Big Mac at the Whalley McDonald’s only costs $3.70; a single-patty Five Guys burger costs $3.99), but it is by no means expensive. Either way, even if the burgers cost a little more, they are far better. Isn’t that what you’d expect from the real thing?
Five Guys Burgers and Fries, open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., is located at 71 Amity Rd., which is a little far from campus. But if you find yourself at the Yale Bowl or the golf course, it’s easy to stop over for a quick bite.