I tried the fare at Five Guys Burgers in the Quarry Market again yesterday. I had been there once before and found it good, but not great, and wanted to give the place another chance to live up to the high expectations generated by a number of favorable reviews in both the local daily rag and the weekly throwaway. Plus, having recently been in the Washington DC suburbs, the sheer numbers of Five Guys locations had burned the name into my subconscious, where it whispered to me confused notions about the link between success and quality.
I can't fault the quality of the burger. Everything that was supposed to be soft was soft; everything that was supposed to be crisp was crisp. Everything that was supposed to be tasty, was tasty.
The place is arranged in a traditional storefront way. Wooden tables for four, all just a wee bit too close together, occupy the front of the space, with an aisle between that leads to the counter. A menu board hangs above two cash registers; the kitchen bustles behind that. I was dismayed at the line waiting to order when I arrived, but it moved quickly.
I was less impressed with the prices. A regular burger ("regular" is the new "small"), regular order of fries, and regular drink was just over ten dollars -- not an awful lot in absolute dollars, but it seemed about fifteen percent more than it should have been. (I notice that, on Urbanspoon, two locations are rated at $, while this location in the upscale Quarry Market is rated $$; maybe Five Guys is like HEB, & charges different prices at different locations.) The price includes free refills on drinks ... if you can get to the dispensers.
Two drinks dispensers stand against the wall near the counter. They seemed to be The spot for teenagers and young children to loll about, chatting on cellphones and testing first one, then another flavor of soda. Gradually they were reminded of the world about them, and moved off to tables, giving the grown-ups the chance to pour drinks. Some minor inconvenience attended the fact that some flavors of drink were available in one dispenser, but not the other. This occasioned that dance you do when one dispenser is available, but it's not the one the person in front of you wants. But the trade-off is that there are more flavors available, and all in all I'd say it's a worthwhile trade.
While you wait for your order, you can treat yourself to roasted peanuts from large boxes placed around the dining room. (The boxes are labelled with the advice that "because of the danger of allergic reactions," peanuts are not to be removed from the shop. What hogwash. It's because they don't want you carting off all their peanuts. Understandable, but it makes me wonder that we accept such bald-faced lies in our lives without comment; especially at airport "security.") The tradition in places that give away knosh peanuts is that you toss the shells on the floor. That gives the place a down-home kind of feel, but (a) we modern Americans are just a tad too well-brought-up to make an intentional mess like that in somebody else's place, and (b) the smooth floor is too slick to have peanut shells lying around on it. If they're going to do the peanut thing, they should have a floor that won't turn into an ice rink when somebody walks on the shells.
Despite the number of people ahead of me in line, the orders were cranked out at good speed, and I didn't have to wait long to get my food. The burger, as I implied above, was very good; maybe not Fatty's-good, but close. The fries, however, were another story.
The regular (small) order proved to be about twice as many fries as I would have wanted, and about three times as many as I would have expected, but for the price. Five Guys makes a point of the fact that they use only peanut oil in-house; I think they might want to rethink that. The fries were greasy and limp, and the peanut oil imparts a taste that, while not unpleasant, is unappealing. It made me less regretful about throwing half my order away.
The one other thing worth mentioning is the noise. Every surface in the place is designed to reflect sound, so this small glass-fronted burger shop is as loud as Rosario's at lunch on Friday in Lent.