I'm not as much of a regular here as I used to be, but have recalled many recommendations for 5 Guys, but have never been there. Several days ago, I was at Weston & 7 to get a Panini Veal sandwich and noticed the 5 Guys, so yesterday I decided to give them a try.
To start with I will preface this with a comment on my tastes when it comes to burgers. If it is a good burger, I don't want a lot of toppings. About half the time, I'll order a burger without cheese, and put only onions, tomatoes and salt and pepper; the other half of the time, it will be bacon and cheese without any garnishes. When mushrooms are available, I'll often have those, but they're usually overpriced for the quality. There are times I tolerate processed cheese slices, but not on a anything that purports to be a quality burger. I think that burgers in most places have buns that are too big for the patty inside; there is an optimal range between bland wonder bread buns and excessive, dense thick mini-loaves; and the bun should be just enough to soak up the juices. I am indifferent between flat-top frying and open flame grilling - I have had excellent and terrible renditions of both. (The foregoing is simply to provide my frame of reference.)
First impressions, upon walking in: The place was clean and bright and "Wow!" look at all the free toppings. (Not that I use them, but it seemed like a good omen.) Looking at the flat-top grill there were rows of real, fresh ground meat burgers frying, so I'm getting excited. The buns also looked to be a reasonable size that would not overwhelm the burger.
I ordered the burger with bacon and cheese to stay, which came to nearly $10 with tax. Over the next 20 minutes - no exaggeration: I heard Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Tush and Old Time Rock and Roll in their entirety while waiting - I was able to observe the disorganization of the food preparation area and could easily see why it was taking so long to get my burger. (They could certainly use an operations review of their production setup. Every burger was taking at least a minute longer than it should and the amount of waste being generated was atrocious simply due to bad layout, poor information flow and inadequate systems training.) I soon realized that the normal burger was a double, which suited me fine. I hoped they wouldn't be wrapping and sealing my burger in foil like the others I saw being prepared, but no one was attentive or near enough to ask. Then I hear my number called and I'm handed a bag!
I rushed back to my table and unwrapped a soggy mess. As expected, sealed in foil, even if only for a few seconds, the bun was a wet mush. Oh well, at least the bun was small and, if the meats are tasty enough, it won't matter. Then I noticed the cheese: Processed slices! Cheese adds $1 to the price. Heck, at Harvey's, which should not be in the same ball-park, only charges $0.70 for real cheddar! My expectations were quickly lowering. I took a big bite and was disappointed to find that it was a bland, tasteless gooey mass. There was no browning on the meat - it might as well have been steamed. It reminded my of the old Wendy's burgers, and they are about 40% less expensive.
Honestly, I don't understand the attraction. For only about 25 cents more, I could have gone to Panini, and had a great veal and a small bowl of pretty decent chili - what I had a couple of days earlier which delivers far more value and flavour.