Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Death by Cheeseburger VI - Five Guys is the Best Burger Chain in America

Yes, I love Five Guys. You might even suggest I'm obsessed with the chain, and as such I have strong opinions about them. But it's more than just good feelings; there are very good reasons why Five Guys is unique and the "best" burger chain in America...

Limited Menu

Five Guys doesn't sell chicken. Or veggie burgers. Or turkey burgers. Or salads.

The only non-burger items on the menu are hot dogs and grilled cheese, and of course french fries. (Five Guys does have a "veggie sandwich, " but that's just all of the burger toppings on a bun.) They just recently introduced shakes. But it's my understanding that the Patriarch, Jerry Murrell, resisted the idea for a very long time before finally acquiescing and allowing the chain to introduce the ice cream based treat.

Five Guys is laser focused on burgers. They 'get' that their success is due to their fabulous burgers, and not a plethora of mediocre choices. Very few chains have the guts to limit their menu to just burgers, dogs, and grilled cheese. And I'm of the mind that the hot dogs and grilled cheese are there only for the kids. Adults are expected to order a burger. You're at a burger joint; you're here to eat a burger.

Corny Marketing

Five Guys is the only chain the doesn't sink to corny marketing shtick. There are no secret menus, no goofily named menu items, no mascots. No 'Five Guys magic sauce.' No 'double-double animal style' (ugh, it hurts just to type that).

When you go to Five Guys, you order a Cheeseburger. Their menus only contain a list of what's available and aren't full of marketing jargon, and gorgeous (but essentially fake) photos of the food. And in our marketing laden culture, that is incredibly refreshing.

Signature Topping Combos

Five Guys is the only burger chain that doesn't have signature or featured burgers, with preselected topping combos. You are left entirely to your own devices to decide what to put on your burger. You get zero help in that department.

It's smart, and it's a subtle way of suggesting to you toppings are superfluous and not needed. "Our burgers are so great you can eat them plain, but if you must have toppings, here's a list of what's available," I can imagine them saying.

What do I put on my Five Guys Cheeseburger? Lettuce and mayo. That's it. The burgers are so good that toppings get in the way. Take my advice, and limit the toppings to one or two, and let those delicious beef patties shine. Only a fool would hide them under a mountain of toppings.

The Burger

The Five Guys burger is the best chain burger money can buy. I've eaten a lot of burgers, at a lot of different chains, and you cannot get a better burger. Period. Now, to be clear, that doesn't mean there aren't chains that are making great burgers, of course, there are. I'm a big fan of Shake Shack, and Burger Fi makes a great burger as well, to name just two. But Five Guys due to all the reasons I've laid out here is better than all of them.

Five Guys beef patties are incredibly flavorful, and I see three components to that. The seasoning, the crust, and the beef blend they use.

Five Guys doesn't tell us what blend of cuts they use in their beef, for obvious reasons, but it's the foundation of the company in my opinion because their beef is just so flavorful, (and fatty, which is good). The beef is then enhanced with a generous amount of seasoning. It seems every time I eat a burger at another chain, I always want more salt on the beef, they always taste under-seasoned to me. Flavorful beef screams out for salt, and Five Guys doesn't shy away from the salt.

Then there's the crust. Five Guys patties have a dark brown, deeply flavorful crust on them. No other chain manages to get the same level of caramelization on their patties that Five Guys does. It's amazing, and it's a critical part of the whole, that makes a Five Guys burger so delicious. I've eaten Five Guys burgers in which the patties were crunchy, and oh what a joy those crunchy umami-laden beef patties are to eat.

Five Guys also rightfully uses American cheese, which is unparalleled in the way it melts. It mixes with the fat from the beef to make a sort of cheesy, fatty, salty, sauce. I always implore people to get the cheeseburger at Five Guys, not to get the hamburger. The cheese adds so much to the party.

Lastly, the bun. Five Guys uses squishy, slightly sweet, small buns, very similar to Martin's potato rolls. Five Guys understands that the bun is there only to give you something to hold onto, and it should in no way, upstage or overwhelm the beef.

So there you have it. I think I've laid out an excellent case for why Five Guys is the best burger chain in America. The laser focus on burgers and their ability to resist what has to be a strong urge to expand the menu is laudable. Also, for a large company like Five Guys to avoid resorting to marketing gimmicks to sell their wares is refreshing. All of these things along with the best tasting burgers come together to make Five Guys not only the best burger chain, but they are also unique, and they are special.

2 comments:

  1. Steve, have you actually eaten an Animal style at In-N-Out? If not, that may revise your opinion.

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    1. I've been to In-N-Out once, and I had a double-double animal style after doing a little research on what one should order.

      There are two kinds of burgers in my mind (and two kinds of burger lovers). Topping forward burgers, and topping light, beef forward burgers. Obviously I'm in the latter camp. I found the In-N-Out burger to have too many toppings and too much sauce for my taste and was disappointed the beef wasn't more prominent in the sandwich.

      This is a big part of my love for Five Guys, it's a burger for beef lovers.

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