Burgers, Cheeseburgers and stuff… Yes a website about Burgers.

Five Guys: Nuts About the Bag

By • Aug 15th, 2009 • Category: Burger Blog

The first time I saw Five Guys Burger and Fries was about 3 years ago, more or less.  I don’t remember exactly, because it didn’t make an impression on me.  I didn’t try it; this was a looking-around-at-a-stop-light moment when I noticed the storefront sign at some generic strip mall.  I thought at the time that it was just some local independent mom-and-pop joint that likely wouldn’t last long.


But then I kept seeing them.  Always in a generic strip mall, it seemed, always sandwiched between a nail salon and the dry cleaner’s and the drug store keeping the whole complex barely afloat.  So it was apparently a chain.  But it still didn’t make me want to wander in.

And then the president showed up.

We’ve all seen the video package by now.  The Cheeseburger-Fan-in-Chief darting in and out of rooms at the White House, taking orders from staffers, ducking into an unmarked limo with an NBC camera crew in tow, and pulling up at Five Guys Burgers and Fries in Washington, DC.


In an instant, this place went from underground, grass-roots, fanatics-only burger chain to The Official Cheeseburger of the Free World.  I was awestruck.  What was it about this place, this nondescript strip-mall burger joint I had passed dozens of times with my nose in the air, that made it where POTUS, who can get any food item he wants any time of day or night, goes to get his cheeseburger fix?

I found a Five Guys this week and went in with an open mind and an empty stomach.


Five Guys is the very definition of no-frills. There is not an ounce of pretentiousness anywhere within a 1,000-yard radius of a Five Guys.  The menu couldn’t be more basic.  Five Guys Burgers and Fries sells… burgers.  And fries.  And that’s about it.  Sure, you could get crazy and order a hot dog or a grilled cheese sandwich.  But now you’ve exhausted their menu offerings.  No chicken anything.  No salads.  No cutesy sides.  No desserts.

They don’t do much at Five Guys, but what they do, they take exceptional care to do well.  Every burger is made to order when you order it.  No heat lamps, no freezers.  The burger is topped with your choice of 15 free fixings, making it possible to get a burger more than 250,000 different ways.


The fries have developed a cult-like following, I’ve learned.  They’re fried in peanut oil.  Peanuts play a pretty big role at Five Guys, as we’ll get to later.  And they don’t skimp on the fries.  I got a small… and couldn’t finish them. They’re scooped into a Styrofoam cup, and then whatever stragglers the scoop didn’t grab are picked up by hand and tossed on top of the entire order.


While you wait for your order to be prepared, there is a mountain of peanuts just inside the front door to munch on.  Free peanuts have become the trademark “thing” that Five Guys is known for.  I saw over fifty bags, 50 pounds apiece, waiting to be opened and devoured.  They have signs at the door to serve as fair warning for folks with peanut allergies, and they’re pretty strict about not letting you take any peanuts to go as a safety precaution.  But it’s a pretty cool thing: order your cheeseburger, scarf down a handful of salty, ballpark-style, still-in-the-shell peanuts.

The order comes in a generic (of course) brown paper bag.  No logos, no artwork, no advertisements.  Oddly enough, the plain brown bag has become the other identifying signature of Five Guys.  I remembered this from the NBC story, the surreal sight of President Obama loaded down with grease-stained bags of cheeseburgers, passing them out through the West Wing like he was the Easter Bunny.  (This, by the way, would make Easter way cooler.  I love me some hard-boiled eggs and Peeps, but c’mon.  Throw a cheeseburger main course in there, you wascally wabbit, and Easter leapfrogs Fourth of July as coolest holiday.  Maybe even Halloween, depending on how good the burgers are.)  By the time I got back home, my bag was now polka-dotted with ever-growing spots of oozing goodness, the anticipation building in direct proportion.


My double bacon cheeseburger with onions was outstanding.  The onions were fresh and plentiful (and maybe a little overpowering, actually).  The cheese had melted perfectly, to the point that I used a few of the sturdier fries to scoop the remnants off of the inside of the foil wrapper.  The burger was cooked well-done, as is true with every burger they serve, but still juicy and tasty.  And I totally got why Five Guys had developed such a fanatical following of burger buffs.


But in all honesty, I think I got it even before I bit into my cheeseburger.  I loved the free peanuts.  I loved the simple, no-frills menu.  I loved the stark kitchen, where the cooks made my burger where I could see it the whole time.  I loved the plain brown bags devoid of any corporate branding, save for those beautiful grease spots, which announce your cheeseburger of choice to other aficionados better than any golden arches or pigtailed girl in freckles ever could.  Hell, I like that the leader of the free world gets his burger there.  No matter what your politics, there’s something undeniably cool about the possibility of the guy in line behind you being the most powerful man on the planet.

Makes you wonder if those international summit meetings and heated Congressional debates should have a big ol’ barrel of peanuts standing by just to help things along.

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3 Responses to “Five Guys: Nuts About the Bag”

  1. 1
    Daniel Says:

    Is that picture for real? That burger looks absolutely feral! Like, food poisoning feral.

    If someone sold that crap to me I’d throw it back over the counter and tell them to try harder. EVEN if the leader of the free world was behind me in line and needed to get back to his important meeting in a rush lol

  2. 2
    Raiders757 Says:

    Well, Daniel, I guess you wouldn’t know a good burger if it smacked you right in the face. It’s all about flavor, not how it looks. I guess your too hoidy-toidy to deal with such a concept, or you wouldn’t have made the statement you did. Five Guys isn’t a gourmet burger joint for North Eastern snobs. It’s a no-frills joint that serves great food for great people.

  3. 3
    leilani Says:

    did they seriously just throw the fries in there? daniel, ur right!

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