's Sites We Love Saveur Magazine has listed The Skinny Gourmet among its "Sites We Love"

I've been having a great time checking out Nashville's high end dining on the cheap thanks to Groupon. Have you tried it yet? Its awesome. I don't know why I ever hesitated.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Look out Chicago: There's a new burger in town

Discussing burgers is always a delicate affair, because when it comes to burgers there are no undecided voters. Everyone seems already to have an allegiance. I believe this is because a burger is defined by our experience of it growing up. In time we may come to appreciate the finer qualities of a kobe burger rare with white truffle oil, but deep in our hearts we always long for a burgers as defined our childhood.

Lately though, when that carnal, essential craving for a burger hits, I find myself coming up with excuses to reroute my errands to bring me a little bit closer to the spanking new Chicago Five Guy's Burgers. When I'm walking down the sidewalk I can smell it before I see the awning. That heavenly scent of frying onions, sizzling potatoes, and beef beef beef makes my stomach rumble in anticipation. With the baby bouncing merrily along in his sling, I begin to outpace my husband. I turn heel into the bright red and white decor that marks Five Guys. I obediently line up next to giant sacks of Idaho potatoes while the accumulated accolades of the Five Guys chain surround me in newspaper clippings and printed boards. The braggadocio approaches hubris. Repeatedly named the best burger and best value lists for the Washington DC area. Rapidly climbing in esteem in the new markets they have expanded into (including North Carolina where my in-laws live).

Harping about a favorite burger is often a losing debate, because everyone seems to already have a favorite. And here's a second (and related) fundamental truth of trying to talk about burgers: no matter how good it is, any burger struggles to live up to its hype.

I first heard about Five Guys burgers from my darling husband, who grew up in the DC/Virginia area. He spoke about them reverently, fanatically. And I viewed his enthusiasm with a healthy dose of skepticism. Because the problem with burgers is that they are almost all so good that devotees have a hard time finding new converts. And if you build up your expectations too much they rarely deliver. So I'll admit that the first time I had a Five Guys burger (in the DC area) I told my husband it was good, but I wasnt sure it was worth all that raving he had been doing.

And then a funny thing happened. When Five Guys opened up in Wilmington, NC where my in-laws live, I found myself looking for excuses to argue that we should go there. Wasn't it near the movie theater? Wasn't it close to our shopping? I was loathe to admit that maybe, just maybe Terry was right. Maybe this was a better burger. And honestly, although it nearly kills me to admit it, nowadays when I idly fantasize about wanting a hamburger, it isn't just a miscellaneous iconic burger I mentally whenever I crave a burger, I really am craving a Five Guys burger. And see, now I've done you a huge disservice. I don't want to hype these burgers, but I can't help myself.

Instead of dealing in platitudes, let me lay it out for you and let you decide for yourself if it is worth a little trip to Five Guys new Lincoln Park location, near the intersection of Clybourn and Southport.

Enter the door, absorb the quasi-50s diner decor, and hang a hard right to get in line by the potato sacks. If you have a short wait, take a moment to check out the menu choices.

For those of you watching your waistline, be forewarned: their "regular" burger has two patties. If you are looking for a single patty burger, opt for the "little."

After deciding that, you get to chose from a long line up of condiments and extras (all included in the price). There's mayo, A1, mustard and ketchup. You can get your onions raw or (my favorite) grilled. There's also grilled mushrooms, which warms my little heart. The list goes on. Be sure to tell the cashier what you want explicitly.

Then there's the fries. Again, unless you routinely engage in eating contests, I recommend getting the small size. I am a fry fanatic, and I always split a small sized fry with my husband, and we can never finish it. Indeed, I have seen four adults split the small fries and all walk away happy. That's because they not only fill up the styrofoam cup with fries, but they routinely dump a ton of french fries into the bottom of the bag (easily doubling the volume of the cup). For fries you can get them Cajun or regular. Both are delicious, but as a fan of spicy fries, the Cajun won my heart. If you like your fries very crisp, you may want to specify "extra crispy" when you order. They are generally willing to comply, although another customer told me that sometimes they act haggard about this request when they are quite busy during a lunch rush. I have had perfect fries tons of times there, and the one and only time they were a little underdone for my taste, I asked the fry guy to redo them and he did so gladly, and brought a new batch of golden goodies out to me.

The Verdict? You will be hard-pressed to find a better burger in this genre and this price range. It is the taste of iconic Americana. Not prissy or frilly, just good old home hearty American beef and Idaho potatoes. And in that "not prissy" category of burger, you would be hard pressed to find a burger and fries for about six bucks that will better satisfy that carnal craving. This burger exists somewhere between fast food and the pub burger, and man, that is just how I like it.


Sweetie Pie said...

Great post! I live in northern Virginia... a block away from a Five Guys. I smell it on my way to kickboxing, and it taunts me like nobody's business. I do try to watch what I eat, and, I have to give them credit for posting their nutritional information on-line (although, you might just NOT want to know...). I don't go there often, but at least I can figure out the "damage" when I do.

I never miss an opportunity to take out of town guests to Five Guys, and I've only heard positive responses. It really is SO good!!

Hannah said...

I have only recently discovered your blog and I just had to tell you I love it!

Thanks for the inspiration.

H :)

Darius T. Williams said...

I heard about this...I need to try it out though.

Philip said...

Erin, One day when my wandering path brings me to the windy city I'll be sure to check out Five Guys. Meanwhile my local favorite here in Bend, Oregon is the Bend Burger Company. I met the owner the day after Ash Wednesday... The day after I promised to give up any type of meat for Lent. Except for the anticipation of sinking my teeth into one of the amazing creations at Bend Burger Co., it was an easy sacrifice. Since Easter I've tried almost every burger on their menu.

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