Five Guys Burgers and Fries: The American Invasion

Five Guys Burgers and Fries, an American burger chain established in 1986 by a husband and wife from Virginia, has invaded Canada. Sherwood Park is their latest conquest, and St. Albert and Airdrie are next. British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have already fallen, and I–in the name of research and gluttony–succumbed last week. Three times. All I have to say to other patty pushers out there is, “Be afraid. Be very afraid. These Guys are a force to be reckoned with.”

I wasn’t the only curious Canuck standing in line, senses inundated with the smell of beef patties sizzling on the grill and fresh-cut potatoes crackling in the deep fryer, making us salivate like Pavlov’s puppy, our legs thumping to loud rock’n’roll. (Good rock’n’roll. Paradise-by-a-’72-Chevy-Nova’s-dashboard-lights kind of rock’n’roll.) The place was hopping.

What surprised me was the KISS menu and by that, of course, I mean the Keep It Simple, Stupid menu. Nothing fancy here folks, just good ol’ burgers and fries. That being said, to keep toddlers happy, Five Guys offer a gooey, goopy, uber-cheesy, grilled cheese sandwich ($3) along with a meatless sandwich for those wayward vegetarians forced to accompany their carnivorous friends.
And then there are the peanuts. These Guys will not bow to pressure from any nut allergy movement, no matter how strong the voice. No, these Guys have been handing out peanuts and frying their spuds in peanut oil since Madonna pranced onto the stage à la “Like a Virgin”. Ooooh! And like Madonna, these Guys make no excuses. Peanuts are part of the establishment’s identity. Madonna isn’t going away, and neither are the peanuts.
But how about those burgers and fries? Judging by the wallpaper (testimonials, awards, magazine write-ups, along with an apparent endorsement of President Barack Obama who frequented a FGBF location in Washington, DC), customers in over 750 locations across North America think these burgers and fries are the bomb. (Please note: Section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter allows me to say “bomb” and “Obama” in the same sentence without being flagged and/or investigated by Homeland Security.)
The burgers are good. Dang good. The Guys know what they’re doing: 100% beef patties, no filler, no preservatives, never frozen, always made fresh. They offer “little burgers” that come in single patty servings, or standard burgers which are a two-patty deal. The little burgers aren’t all that little unless you’re a teenage boy (like my step-son) who ate two.
You can get your burger loaded up a thousand different ways (250,000 ways according to FGBF website) with everything from tomatoes and pickles to jalapenos and hot sauce, and from as low as $5 to a high end of $8.50.
The fries are fresh, hot and come “regular” or “Cajun spiced” if you want a bit of heat. A regular serving is enough to feed two or three people (unless you are, of course, a teenage boy) and you get as many fries at the bottom of the takeout bag (everything is packaged in a takeout bag — no trays) as you do in the container.
Even the drink menu is no frills: Water or pop–that’s right, you’re in the land of the Maple Leaf, Guys…no soda here.  (To their credit, they list beverages as “drinks”, but I felt I needed to go a little Canadian on them. Maybe I should apologize.)

Bottom line: fast and fresh. Five Guys offer a great burger with noticeable flavour, above-average fries and a fun place to stuff your face while listening to classic rock.  The only thing that would make food from Five Guys better would be to have the company use Alberta beef and locally grown potatoes, something that Terry Jennings, vice-president of operations of Five Guys Canada alluded to in a National Post article dated November 24, 2009.  “We’re looking to source some of our food locally as we grow…We’re looking into getting our potatoes from Taber, Alta. And there’s nothing like Alberta beef.”



If that happens, this very good thing could become even better.

My CBC Edmonton AM restaurant review with host Rod Kurtz can be heard here
Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon

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