Night and Day: Five Guys

Looking back, one of my most vivid food memories from our visit to Washington two years ago was a late night dinner at Five Guys. On the plane ride to DC, we had overhead pilots discussing what they would be eating after they landed – Five Guys was their food of choice.

That first night, we wandered over to Georgetown, a bit disoriented, but eager to explore the neighbourhood, and finally came upon Five Guys. It was dimly lit, and truth be told, a bit of a dive, with peanut shells littering the floor in a restaurant showing signs of wear and tear – but the welcome we received was second to none. If the staff didn’t enjoy their jobs, they did an excellent job of hiding it, with orders being taken and hollered out, reminiscent of Fatburger, doling out efficient yet friendly service. Signs proudly labelled the origin of the day’s potatoes (Idaho), while open boxes of peanuts were strewn throughout the dining area, a thumb against the movement of nut-free zones. While the burgers were good (not great), our meal was forever coloured by the reception we received – and the environment it was consumed in. So when we visited the first Five Guys location in the Edmonton area at the end of May, it’s no surprise that Mack and I would be drawing comparisons to our DC experience.

Unlike the Georgetown location, tucked in a thoroughly walkable neighbourhood resplendent with historic walk-ups and charming boutiques, the Sherwood Park Five Guys was almost the opposite, situated in a sea of box stores and strip malls along Fir Street.

Five GUys

Interior

The contrast didn’t end there. Where the DC Five Guys was comfortably worn around the edges, this Five Guys was understandably new and squeaky clean (I did appreciate the open kitchen though – there’s nothing more reassuring than having the option of seeing your food prepared in front of you). Sacks of potato bags and boxes of peanut oil were used as a divider of sorts at the order counter, adding a bit of fun to the otherwise standard quick-serve décor. I also liked the bulletin boards where customers were invited to draw a message about their love of Five Guys.

Five GUys

Open kitchen

Five GUys

Bulletin love

Five GUys

Mack doesn’t appreciate peanut oil

The boxes of peanuts that Five Guys is so known for was relegated to the tops of the trash bins. We made sure to have a nutty appetizer.

Five GUys

Bulk peanuts served in open containers

Five GUys

Mack + peanuts?

My parents appreciated the extensive toppings menu offered by Five Guys, all at no extra cost. It’s a value add that aligns Five Guys with places like Rodeo Burger and Fulton Market).

I don’t know what happened though, as neither Mack, my parents, or myself read the fine print on the menu, and all ended up ordering regular burgers. A regular at Five Guys includes not one, but two beef patties (note to self: order the “little” next time). Needless to say, there was no need for the two large fries we also ordered.

Five GUys

My burger

The burgers were pretty good – thin patties, soft bread, and packed with our chosen fixings, they were satisfying, if not overkill because of our blind ordering. As a whole, compared with Rodeo Burger and Fulton Market, I have to say I enjoyed the Five Guys burger more.

Five GUys

Mack’s burger

The fries, however, were far from crispy. Fried in peanut oil, Mack wasn’t certain he should be indulging in the fries, but the rest of us were a) too overwhelmed by our double burgers and b) not enjoying the limp fries. The Cajun seasoning may have helped with the flavour, but not with the texture (we couldn’t recall whether or not the fries in DC had been made using peanut oil).

Five GUys

Fries

This location of Five Guys is too far out of the way for us to visit on a regular basis, but if we were looking for a quick bite to eat, we’d consider coming back.

Five Guys
993 Fir Road, Sherwood Park
(780) 416-7710

DC Dive: Five Guys

I took it as a positive sign when I overheard our pilot and a airport worker discussing their craving for a burger from Five Guys. A Fodor’s recommendation, I singled out the DC area chain primarily because they were open until 11pm – and without guarantee that our flight would be punctual, I figured it was best to seek out late night options within walking distance of our hotel.

I had to laugh at the sign posted on the door, which although deals with a serious subject, seemed a little over the top.

Perhaps they should have had a radioactive icon below the text?

Five Guys would best be described as a dive, but the best kind of dive. Inside, we found a mixed crowd of young, old, and well-suited, and felt right at home with their well-worn wooden floors, dimly lit booths, and walk-up order counter, where kudos to the cashier – she had the “single/double, regular/cajun” questions down to a mechanized pat. I also loved the white board on the wall that let customers know where the day’s potatoes came from (Rexburg, Idaho, in our case).

Order counter

Free peanuts!

Like Harveys, burgers could be customized with any number of free toppings, including lettuce, pickles, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, green peppers, and a variety of condiments. Our order, a bacon cheeseburger ($4.59), cheeseburger ($3.89) and cajun fries ($2.59) was nothing fancy, but hit the spot. I loved the pillowy bun, and the fries were crisp with just the right amount of kick.

Cheeseburger

Mack with a well-balanced meal

It was a great first meal in DC, but it would only get better from there.

Five Guys
1335 Wisconsin Avenue NW
Washington, DC
(202) 337-0400
Sunday-Thursday 11am-11pm, Friday-Saturday 11am-4pm