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Five Guys
A new Five Guys Burger and Fries place opened in Ithaca today. Five Guys is a relatively understated national chain specializing in, well, burgers and fries. Their menu consists of burgers, "little burgers", hot dogs, fries, and grilled cheese. The burgers come in hamburger, cheeseburger, bacon hamburger, and bacon cheeseburger, with two patties in the regular burgers and one patty in the little burgers.

Their pitch is good ingredients -- all beef burgers hand-made from fresh ground beef (80% lean), fries cut on site from sacks of Idaho potatoes, kosher hot dogs, etc -- and few frills. There are a large number of toppings, all of which are free, and they provide roasted peanuts (in shell) as an appetizer while you wait (self-serve).

When I got there at 11:30ish it was packed, with the line stretching a good thirty-feet from the counter to the door (as it had opened in Ithaca only 30min earlier). It didn't take long to make it to the counter, but I probably spent more time waiting for my grilled cheese (with mushrooms and tomato) and fries than waiting to order. It gave me plenty of time to observe how they worked, as the kitchen is completely exposed to the dining area.

It was very assembly-line oriented. There were five stations, which I'll call "veggie grill", "meat grill", "cold", "assembly", and "bag&fries". It was easiest to watch the assembly person (all the stations had multiple people working it, except assembly, and she was not a bottleneck), as she was a single person and most exposed. When an order came in, it goes to both cold and the grill; the cold takes buns and puts tomatoes, lettuce, etc on them, puts them on foil sheets, and passes them down, one whole order at a time, to the assembly person. She arranged them to her liking, and waited for the meat. When the grill was done with patties, a grillman would come over with patties (with and without cheese) to put on the waiting prepped buns. Then she would close up the sandwich, wrap it in foil, label it with either the order slip or a numbered sticker (indicating that this is sandwich 1, 2, 3, etc in the order), and once an order is ready passes it to the bag&fry station. The order slip is pulled off the sandwich and slapped onto the top bag on a stack, which is opened, the sandwiches loaded, and the cup of fries filled and added. Then they take a measured amount of fries and dump it in the bag on top of everything. Once that's done, they take the bag to the counter and call out the order number.

My opinion? The grilled cheese was moderately better than I expected. It was grilled on a bun (not sliced bread), using standard yellow American cheese. The cheese wasn't fully melted. I suspect the fresh tomato and (canned or grilled, not fresh) mushrooms did a good job of making what would have been horrid acceptable. The fries were pretty good. I'll try the cajun fries next time. I also suspect things might be faster at another time.

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Five Guys has just recently started opening stores in New Jersey, too. i love them! most importantly, i can get a meal there that doesn't contain anything i'm allergic to. the meat is not pre-seasoned - i can't eat burgers in Denny's, for example, because the frozen patties they serve have had garlic (and a number of other additives) blended in at the factory. the plain fries are not fried in the same grease as seasoned fries (the garlic and onions in seasoning mixtures permeates the grease and makes even "plain" fries unsafe for me to eat) nor onion rings (ditto, and Five Guys doesn't even serve onion rings). leaving aside my food allergies, i'm impressed by the freshly ground meat, the freshly cut fries, the smoky thick-cut bacon, even the truly unsweetened "unsweetened" iced tea (many brands contain dextrose as a stabilizer/preservative, which makes it objectionably sweet for my taste). my only quibble is that they're a bit on the expensive side.

dammit, now i want a burger, but i don't have the car during the day :-(

Grilled Cheese: $2.39
Regular Fry: $2.59
Soft Drink: $1.69

The "regular" burgers (two patties) were under $5, but I didn't pay that close attention, except to note that they seemed reasonable.

I have no idea what a comparable meal would have cost at McD, BK, Wendy's, etc, as I don't eat at those places.

I forgot I grabbed a menu with prices on it.

Hamburger: 4.49
Cheeseburger: 5.09
Bacon burger: 5.19
Bacon Cheeseburger: 5.79
Little Hamburger: 3.29
Little Cheeseburger: 3.59
Little Bacon Burger: 3.99
Little Bacon Cheesburger: 4.29

Kosher style hot dog: 3.19
Cheese or Bacon dog: 3.89
Bacon Cheese Dog: 4.19
Veggie or Grilled Cheese: 2.39

Regular fries: 2.59
Large Fries: 4.19

Five Guys is NOT a national chain. Regional, yes. I never saw one until one opened in Binghamton sometime last year. We had Fuddruckers out West and they, frankly, sucked only marginally better then the standard burger joints.

Conway's, now. Conway's was Colorado Springs only and they were awesome.

Darn it, Bu, now you've triggered craving!

They are in 25 states, so it's a big region. I've et at Fuddruckers in both Buffalo and Maryland, so they are out east as well.

I don't consider half the country to be "national", so I'll agree with "big region". ^_^

The only thing to keep in mind is (according to Craig, who has been to one on the other side of the river) that they fry their french fries in peanut oil.

eh - not a big fan. been twice now and frankly can make a better burger at home. WE have a place near here called Juicyburger that does a way better burger, and that uses Fresh - not canned mushrooms (HATE canned mushrooms)

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