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Five Guys: Okay but not your way

At Five Guys it's well done or nothing.
At Five Guys it's well done or nothing.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries opened several months ago on Boston’s North Shore, where Swampscott, Salem and Marblehead meet in Vinnin Square. It’s a franchise that started 23 years ago in the Washington, DC area and has since spread up and down the east cost. There are now eight locations in the Boston-metro area.

I’ve heard about Five Guys and read stories that equate it’s quality and fanatical following with that of the West Coast’s In-N-Out Burger. Both regional chains pride themselves on fresh ingredients. Five Guys’ website claims, “There are no freezers in Five Guys locations, just coolers. Nothing is ever frozen. We use only fresh, never frozen, ground beef.”

Another entry into the burger spectrum is good news. It is a broad spectrum to be sure. There is a burger out there somewhere to satisfy everyone. I have heard rumors that there’s even something called a “vague-a-terrian” burger offered by some restaurants. I may have the spelling wrong, but I’m told it is for people who do not eat meat. If you do not eat meat then why would you want something that looks like it? Perhaps these people should just graze in their own backyards.

But I digress…

Five guys claims to add to burger diversity in a big way. Again their website claims, “There are over 250,000 possible ways to order a burger at Five Guys.” Impressive, no? Not quite, their topping options are not what I would call unique. You decide: cheese, bacon, mayo, relish, onions, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup, mustard, jalapeno peppers, green peppers, A-1 sauce, bar-b-q sauce, hot sauce.

Wow huh? Not. And when they say cheese they mean only one kind...ersatz.  The Guys describe their cheese as, "suitable for lacto-vegetarians."  I wish I could tell you what kind of cheese it is but it would have to be cheese first.

Why hold back guys? Add just one more 'cheese' and you could say there are 500,000 ways to order the burger. Oh, and one ingredient I was particularly glad to see on the menu and equally disappointed with – jalapenos. I would bet that 99% of people serving jalapenos use the pickled variety. You know, like pickles on a hamburger. Not here, they are fresh and not very satisfying.

There is one more variant Five Guys could add to the menu and they would quadruple the ways to order. But they refuse, and I’ve asked…repeatedly. At Five Guys you only get burgers well done. This is totally unacceptable to me and is the main reason I will not return. I like my burgers medium to medium rare. Not allowing me an option smacks of arrogance.

Five Guys answers the question of why only well done like this, “By cooking all of our burgers juicy and well done we are able to achieve two goals - (1) insure a consistent product, and (2) meet or exceed health code standards for ground beef. We understand that there are varying opinions on what level a burger should be cooked for optimal flavor and our opinion is that our burgers taste best cooked juicy and well done.”

See what I mean? It is not your opinion that matters. Five Guys has spoken.

Are they bad burgers? No, they are decent. But they would be better if they were not cooked to death.
So I am left a bit baffled by the Five Guys fanatics out there. Perhaps I will give them another try on their hotdogs. And I will reserve commentary on the fries for next time. Until then, you should try Five Guys for yourself but realize that you are only going to get it their way.

For more information:

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

980 Paradise Road, Suite 2
Swampscott, MA 01907

Tel: 781-595-1300
Fax: 781-595-2300



  • sam 5 years ago

    i totally disagree. the well-done issue? not even an issue. think about all the other fast food joints, you can't have your burger cooked to order there, why should five guys go through the hassle of having to listen to customers complain about how their burger was cooked wrong? why should they have to deal with the potential for health risks when all they need to do is leave it on the grill a little longer and rid themselves of all the worries that come along with cooking to order? it's a simple burger joint... that's all. nothing fancy, just great burgers. you're looking for something that this restaurant is not and criticizing them for it. go to a smokey bones or a ninety nine man.