Monday, April 21, 2014

Five Guys

2255 Michigan Ave
Arnold, Mo
www.fiveguys.com


It had been two years since we last took on the Five Guys Burgers and Fries. It was Adam's choice, no argument. I reread the previous post and saw a reminder to myself to order the 'Little' version of the burger. Good advice.
Five Guys was started by, get this, five guys, in Arlington Virginia in 1986. They now boast over a thousand locations in 47 states and 6 Canadian provinces.  A Canadian Province is like a state, just bigger, colder and more polite.
Unique among burger franchises, they serve nothing that has ever been frozen. They don't have freezers. They hand carve their own French fries from whole potatoes. They even post the farm that the day's potatoes are from. They only use peanut oil.
They had a firm plan, a strict set of requirements and standards, and they are incredibly successful.
The Place:
Arnold, in a shopping center that hosts an 'Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt' store and across the street from a Walmart and a Pay-less shoe store. There's lots and lots of shopping venues in Arnold.
They offer outside seating with umbrella capped tables, but we opted to go inside, because we're civilized.
Bright red, bright white, that describes almost everything about the place. Only the ceiling breaks from this theme, it's black. Bright, shiny tiles accentuate the sparkly cleanness of the place.
You walk in, step up to the counter, glance at the overhead menu, place your order, pay for it, then find a seat.
This process doesn't take very long, they only offer burgers, hot dogs and four other sandwiches. That's it, that's all they offer.
The Food:
This won't take long.
I ordered the Little Bacon Cheeseburger, so did Angel, Adam ordered the regular version of the same thing.
We decided to split on large order of fries. Five Guys, apparently aware of my reputation, doesn't serve ice tea. Soda pop, water... that's all.
I asked for a water, the happy lady at the counter pointed to a #6 wash basin on the counter filled with ice and Dasani bottles and said "Help yourself."
"I'd prefer to be served." I replied.
We all chuckled. Then she whispered, "We're not allowed to touch the tops of the bottles since that's where people drink from."
I was pleasantly surprised to hear this. So I grabbed one, twisted open the top and took a swig. "Tastes funny, like somebody's hand."
Angel and Adam made their way around the pile of potato sacks and back to the soda dispenser. Angel got Mr. Pibb, Adam a Barq's Root Beer. I scooped up some of the complimentary shelled peanuts and found a table.  There were no condiments on the table. If you want mustard and ketchup, you say as much when you order your burger, along with the many other toppings, mostly traditional, at no extra charge. I'd asked for lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, grilled onions, mustard and ketchup. Angel and Adam asked for mayo on theirs. I think they are closet Canadians.
We munched on a few peanuts, I took note that today's potatoes came form Hanks Farm in St. Anthony Idaho. Hanks Farm is owned by Peggy and Douglas Hanks and received $52, 642 in federal subsidies between 2005 and 2012. Mr. Hanks was elected VP of Environmental Affairs for the  National Potato Council in 2010. (Don't you love the internet?)
Idaho is an otherwise worthless and inhospitable state in this country's mountainous northwest. It abuts the Canadian Province of Alberta at its northernmost point. There are only 19 people per square mile in Idaho, only slightly more densely populated than the surface of the moon.
Idaho is famous for its potatoes because by the time it attained statehood in 1890, all the cool things to be famous for were already taken. The state bird, dance and flower of Idaho is also the potato.(Some of this may be incorrect, I got bored in a few short minutes just reading about that awful state.)
Our number was called, Adam jumped up and fetched the tray, or maybe it was Angel, I don't actually remember, but somebody other than me picked up the food.
The burgers were foil wrapped, the fries came stuffed in and protruding from a large disposable cup. We each tore into the foil and grabbed a handful of fries. The burgers were stuffed to the rafters with our chosen toppings, unlike the burgers at McD's and the like, which tend to treat lettuce, tomatoes and pickles like cash down the drain. On my burger they were generously applied. It wasn't even that big of a burger. I squeezed mine to make it all stay in place, juices shot out of all sides, luscious, ooey, gooey, delicious juices. Even the thick meat was juicy.
The fries were not juicy, they were fried to a perfect dark golden brown, firm and  fresh. Biting into these spud sticks confirmed that these were indeed, hand cut from fresh potatoes, there's no mistaking that taste and texture. Hat's off to Doug and Peggy Hanks, these were some delicious potatoes.
We all started stuffing ourselves with the burgers and fries. Overhead, a ubiquitous 'Journey' song blasted, followed by something quirky by Beck. My only complaint about the place was that the music was too loud.
Summary:
The burgers and fries were, to put it mildly, awesome. These burgers are several steps above any other franchise burgers. Perhaps not as good as The Concord Grill in Affton, or a handful of other non-franchise places, but for a 1000+ location chain, really, really good. The attention to freshness, simplicity and quality stand out. The staff was very friendly and accommodating, the lady behind the counter came around and chatted a couple of times, cleaning off tables between customers.The price was very reasonable, thirty five dollars for all the burgers, fries and peanuts we could hold. Five Guys smartly keeps prices down by limiting the menu. Like I said, if you want something other than a burger or a kosher hot dog, you're in the wrong place. I also wish there were more convenient locations, I hate having to go all the way to Arnold. That's the only reason why we haven't been back in two years.



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