I just went to Five Guys (www.fiveguys.com) Burgers and Fries for lunch. It’s at the Southbay Pavillion, Avalon x 405 in Carson. Five Guys has lots of locations back East, but this is the only location in California and it just opened. This is my review.
To me, Five Guys is a cross between In-n-Out Burger and Fatburger. It’s like In-n-Out Burger because it has a very limited menu, uses fresh meat and potatoes, company colors are red and white, and focuses on speed, quality and service. It’s like Fatburger because it is in a mall set up with indoor and outdoor seating, offers several burger toppings, the meat is very juicy, and it’s not cheap. For example, I ordered a hamburger, small coke and large fry and paid over $10.
I’ll start with the fries. At Five Guys, the large fries is enough for two but it’s not worth the $4. They use a natural cut with the skin left on and use standard seasoning salt. Their whiteboard said the potatoes were harvested from some city in Idaho on some recent date. This is similar to the way Starbucks posts the roasting date of their new Pike’s house blend. The fries were hot, perfectly fried and not too greasy. It seems to me that if you leave the skin on your fries and use seasoning salt, you can charge a preimum for your fries.
The burgers were delicious and reminded me of a backyard burger I make myself, except without the outdoor grill flavor. Five Guys uses a regular griddle and not an open grill. The Five Guys burger tastes like one I made myself. Maybe it’s because I chose the condiments. At Five Guys, you get to choose which of the many toppings and condiments you want on your burger, all at no additional charge. Toppings include sautéed mushrooms, grilled onions, jalapenos, pickles, green peppers, and others. I chose my standard mayo, mustard, ketchup, plus grilled onions and lettuce.
If you order a burger you get two patties automatically. Good thing because a burger is $4.39 at Five Guys; A cheeseburger or bacon burger costs more. You see how you get over $10 pretty fast? The patties are not quarter-pounders. They are probably eighth-pounders so you aren’t really getting more meat than other quarter pound single patty burgers. However, the quality of the meat is clearly superior. It is juicy without being greasy, has an odd hand-formed shape and has a great beef flavor. This might be due to never frozen beef.
The atmosphere is like any fast food place but with new, excited employees out to impress the boss who was wandering around the whole time asking people how they liked the burgers. There are signs all over every wall saying “Zagat rated” and “#1 Burger in Pennsylvania Two Years in a Row”. They really are proud of these ratings and voting results. The problem with these signs is they are only necessary for my first visit – to raise my expectations a bit. After that, they are just annoying and self-aggrandizing. Who cares if you were voted the "best all-American burger" by Washingtonian Magazine in 2000? Makes me wonder what happened in the years since?
There were some minor problems that come with a new store opening. The soda machine was out of Coke syrup until I told someone who quickly fixed the problem and dutifully informed me that it was fixed. There were about 50% too many employees. Several were standing around doing nothing. The ketchup comes from these dispensers and one of them was broken or empty. Most of the tables were people sitting waiting for their to-go orders. I don’t think I would open a fast food burger place without a drive through. They need benches or an area for all the to-go lunch customers.
I forgot to mention the one feature that no fast food restaurant has. They give away peanuts in bulk the way Northwoods or Johnny Rebs does. You can grab some peanuts after you order and go sit down to wait for your number to be called.
To summarize, the food was delicious but overpriced. The atmosphere was average and the service was excellent.
I will be interested to read what others think of this place.
Five Guys Burgers
20700 Avalon Blvd, Carson, CA 90746