I’ve always been a bit unsure about Five Guys
burgers. The thing is, Five Guys opened in London at the same time as Shake Shack
, and there will always be a special place in my heart for Shake Shack because that’s where the idea for this blog started, before seeing Springsteen in NYC
(sorry, have I said that before?) Naturally, this made me feel that by going to Five Guys I would be cheating on Shake Shack. And that’s not OK.
To add to this, I’ve got a friend who grew up in California called Charlotte. Being from the land of the legendary In’n’Out
, burger knowledge basically runs through her blood. When I asked Charlotte what her thoughts were on Five Guys in America, she screwed up her nose. The look on her face said it all.
I sighed. This was as I feared. I asked her to expand, and she went on to tell me that in the US, Five Guys is the equivalent of the UK’s Little Chef
Now this is where I got interested. Because if there’s one thing I love, it’s the roadside restaurant chain Little Chef. I admit, I haven’t actually been to Little Chef in over 20 years. My dad and I used to stop off in them on the never ending drive to the North East of England to see my grandparents. That little white podgy chef mascot, his face was so friendly and his fry ups so tasty. It can’t be the quality of the food that I fondly remember. I think it was more that Little Chef signified the start of the holiday and driving with my dad. For me it holds sentimental value. There can’t be many people who have said that about Little Chef before. At least, I hope not.
But if Five Guys really is like Little Chef then my happy childhood memories are shattered.
It all started with Five Guys’ bold claim “Five Guys: Where Burgers Are Boss”. How annoying. It then continued with the Subway style building process where you select all of your ingredients. Gherkins, lettuce, tomatoes, sauce, this is a bespoke burger experience, at it’s worst. Waiting for my bacon cheeseburger I made notes on my experience so far. “Head ache inducing” is all I wrote, namely the ultra loud crap music and shouty staff, combined with garish red and white interiors.
So my chosen toppings were stuffed between two sad looking buns, then wrapped in foil creating a warm, floppy heavy burger parcel. What the burger is lacking in love it makes up for in dryness. And un-melted cheese. And tasteless meat. Like Bruce said to me “there’s an art to burger making, and it’s mostly lost”. He wasn’t wrong. I eat a lot of burgers, I’m savvy to the lack of nutritional value, but this was the first time in a long while a burger has made me feel a little disgusted with myself. And then I felt sad. And fat. And my hair stank of fried food too. I’d only been in there about five minutes.
The chips were some of the most bland I’ve ever tried, and under-cooked. I didn’t eat them all, which rarely happens.
You might say this is a fast food burger joint, what do you expect? But I’ve had burgers served up faster, and better in London – GrillShack, MEATMarket and burger van Bleeker Street to name a few – and they’ve never made me feel glum like this. In fact, they’ve made me feel happy. For a moment I questioned the future of this blog, and then remembered all the brilliant burgers worldwide, just waiting for a Springsteen date to be announced and for fans around the world to try them. I hurried out and gulped in the fume filled air. Even the chaos of nearby Leicester Square felt like relief after the noise and atmosphere of Five Guys.
According to some stateside Bruce Buds, Five Guys in the US is much better than the one in London. Is it?? I really hope so. One Springsteen fan has told me that Five Guys do sometimes play Bruce in their ‘restaurants’, not Glory Days or one of the more obvious song choices, but Spirit In The Night, which I suppose redeems them slightly. But that’s not enough.
When it comes to the battle of US burger import in London, it’s got to be Shake Shack for me every time.