But Five Guys isn’t just another burger place. It’s a chain, yes, but it’s a chain that’s got its product down to a science. And it’s willing to throw people at the project to make it work.
Been meaning for a while to drop into the location in North Little Rock, but I always found some other place that tugged more at my curiosity. As if my subconscious were tapped, a Five Guys gets built over in my neck of the woods. And by some strange alignment of the planets, I had free time and a couple of bucks in my pocket the other day. I literally drove by on a spur of the moment.
It was almost as if someone were expecting me.
“What’ll you have?” the cheery woman said behind the counter.
“Cheeseburger, all the way, no mustard,” I replied.
“Mustard comes on it…”
“No mustard, please.”
“Oh, I thought you were asking for only mustard. No problem, no mustard all the way. Fries?”
“I’m not seeing iced tea, just cokes.”
“We have iced tea.”
“That’s awesome. Yes.”
“Regular or large?”
“Okay then. TWO PATTIES!” she yelled back to the seven-person assembly line behind her. She quickly rang me up and took my money, giving me a receipt with a big number on it for when my order was called, left me with a smile and a cup to go claim my tea.
I found a table, dropped off my bag and receipt and went and fetched my tea — not from a big tall chrome dispenser but from one of those instantly-made Gold Peak tea machines. I actually like those. The tea doesn’t taste strange like when it comes through a fountain Coke machine. It’s passable. And I can get it without lemon or sugar that way. But I digress.
Five Guys has no problem spreading the word about itself. All over the restaurant are clips from magazines and newspapers claiming its superiority. “Best burger to be had for $5!” announced one. There are ZAGAT remarks and quotes from Boston Globe and GQ Magazine. Lots of lauding for the chain, that’s for sure.
I noticed right off that the fries were everywhere. I’m not sure what the suggested amount of fries is supposed to be for a regular sized order (all the menu says is “cooked in pure, no cholesterol tasty peanut oil!” but they filled the cup they were supposed to come in and came halfway up the bag as well. I had to excavate my burger, which just meant I had to dig it out from there. Yes, fries were consumed in the extracation. They were good fries, a little soft but that lovely brown color good fresh fries tend to turn. The light and salty seasoning was not overpowering, and they held their own.
Yes, it is a grand combination. The guys behind Five Guys did their homework, which is probably why Serious Eats readers put them on top in its “Chain Burger Tournament” between the chains a few months ago.
Gotta face it — they have a good product, they’re not that expensive and they have the power of a chain behind them. The only downside I could see is that they don’t have a drive-thru; otherwise I would cinch them to be a stick-around contender in this market for a while.
I noticed when I was looking at the menu when I got home that they also offer “little” burgers, hot dogs and a couple of sandwiches (grilled cheese, veggie or cheese veggie)… I guess I wasn’t really paying attention in the store. There are no desserts, just peanuts available to whoever wants to scoop up some in a tray. I bet they’d look down on you if you dropped them on the floor, though.
The burger, by the way, was $5.29. Regular fries ran me $2.59 and a drink was $1.89 more.
If I were to compare them to anyone, it’d have to be CJ’s Butcher Boy Burgers in Russellville. Though the patties aren’t as large, the idea of a burger from 100% ball of beef to cooked patty is the same idea, the menu is very similar and the fries bear a resemblance to each other. But CJ’s has great shakes, too.
You can find the new Five Guys on Chenal west of Markham, just past the strip that has that Cold Stone Creamery in it (there’s your dessert, buster). There’s also one in North Little Rock in the Lakewood Village Shopping Center near Georgia’s Gyros. Give it a shot. The WLR number is (501) 225-1100, NLR is (501) 246-4595.
*Disclosure: Yes, I often frequent Sonic for their beverage specials between two and four in the afternoon, especially when I am on the road. Iced tea is what it is, and I know I can get a honkin’ big cupful for not a lot at those times.