The Buzz: Five Guys
It’s the fastest growing restaurant chain in American history, which has gone from Mom and Pop operation, founded by couple Janie and Jerry Murrell in 1986, to a global franchise with over 1200 locations following its immense popularity. It’s an inspirational story of father-of-five Jerry who learned how to cook when he was a broke student studying at college and ran a fraternity house kitchen to get by. After later getting married and faced with the fact that his eldest two boys didn’t want to go to college, it set the wheels in motion for the kind of burger restaurant that he frequented as a young boy, investing the money saved for his kids’ tuition with a simple burger and fries concept. The original ‘Five Guys’ were Jerry and his then-four sons. However, following the birth of his youngest son two years after the restaurant was established, the restaurant’s name is now a nod to his five boys; Matt, Jim, Chad, Ben and Tyler who all work in the company. Matt and Jim travel the country visiting stores, Chad oversees training, Ben selects the franchisees, and Tyler runs the bakery.
The company’s unique selling point is the fact that everything is made fresh on the premises. You won’t find a single freezer on site, with burgers shaped by hand from premium beef that is delivered daily. The same goes for the fries, which are hand-cut from huge sacks of potatoes (you even know which farm they’re from as it’s advertised on a small blackboard in-store), fried twice in peanut oil by the dedicated team. They have clearly gotten their formula down to a T, as the chain now boasts a celeb cult fan following which includes the likes of President Barack Obama (who likes his with lettuce tomato and jalapenos), Kim Kardashian and One Direction’s Niall Horan, so when we heard that Five Guys was making its way to Dubai, we were indeed intrigued to find out what all the fuss is about. Surely one burger is as good as them all?
Decked out in a simple red and white décor, there is no doubt that Five Guys is a Stateside institution, possessing a simple vintage diner vibe. It’s busy and the soft but trendy soundtrack gives this burger joint an upbeat ambience. The menu itself is limited – guests can choose from a regular burger, and by regular we mean the US equivalent of what regular means (i.e. huge), that comes with two patties, or the small burger, a much more manageable one patty affair. Both come with cheese and as many toppings as you like, including lettuce, pickles, mushrooms, green peppers, onions and jalapenos and a vast range of sauces at no extra charge, which allows you to customise to preference, with up to 250 different combinations on offer. Besides the burgers and fries, you can order hot dogs and milkshakes and that is pretty much it. There is zero chicken on the menu, vegetarians are relegated to dining on a meatless cheese and salad buns and there is not a single salad or dessert to be had. This is because the firm believes that they should focus on what they do best and they feel that burgers are their speciality. Fair play.
While you wait for your order, you can nibble on complimentary in-the-shell peanuts, not that it’s long before your food arrives in non-descript brown paper bags. The burger does have a different taste to your average fast food version and is juicy without being greasy. Likewise, the skin-on fries are crisp and moreish without the sensation of your arteries becoming clogged with every mouthful, although we feel that the regular fries are better than the Cajun variety on offer, which rather than being lightly seasoned are doused in red pepper powder which overshadows their sublime natural flavour. All in all, a tasty burger experience but nothing that will change your life and truth be told, we think it’s because we have been a bit short-changed when it comes to our local version.
Firstly, there is no bacon listed on the menu of toppings. Perhaps it’s because our halal turkey, beef and veal varieties don’t come up to scratch? Secondly, the burger buns appear to be the run-of-the mill variety found in just about every other fast food store and not freshly baked, so essentially, we’re missing out on the complete experience that has made Five Guys so popular, and thirdly, where is the Coca Cola Freestyle machine that offers 125 soft drink options in which to water down your meal that we’ve read so much about in the US and the UK? In Dubai where we usually appear to do it bigger and better than anywhere else in the world, these points leave us a tad disappointed with the lack of consistency. Don’t get us wrong – it’s a great ‘cheat meal’ in any case which deserves to be tried at least once; we’re just sad that it didn’t fulfill the mind-blowing expectation following all the hype and that the Dubai version appears to have fallen short of the mark.
INFO: 10am-12midnight daily, lower ground floor, The Dubai Mall, 04 380 4117, www.thedubaimall.com