Burgers and fries. I mean, just looking at those words makes us salivate. No doubt about it: we’ve been bitten by the burger bug—and bad.
And the food industry is salivating too — giving us so many places to satisfy our burger fix. Not just in pubs, diners, and fast-food joints, but proper restaurants and wine bars (Black Cat Bistro offers a burger-of-the-week special every Tuesday) and even bakeries (Art-Is-In‘s smoked burgers, served only on Saturdays, are spectacular).
And now, there’s a whole new category — positioned between fast food and casual dining — called fast casual restaurants. Perhaps one of the most wildly successful examples to ignite the trend is the Five Guys burger chain, which achieved a cult following over its 20-plus years in the US before arriving in Canada. The first of four locations to hit home turf by the end of the year popped up in a plaza on Hazeldean Road in Kanata a couple of months ago. I called up some friends and arranged a lunch date.
As far as I’m concerned, Five Guys is the burger for those of us who stopped eating McDonald’s burgers beyond high school because our tastebuds grew up alongside our intolerance for dining among cartoon characters and worse…clowns. That nauseating greasy smell inside and outside helps to relegate such places to the realm of “desperation destinations” (think: driving on the 401). Meanwhile, our cravings for fresh hot juicy burgers have remained strong (save for that year where we flirted with vegetarianism during undergrad), and led us to seek out new outlets to satisfy our more sophisticated sensibilities.
Now that we have kids of our own, grabbing a quick-ish bite with friends loaded down with car seats and sippy cups can be a conundrum. Five Guys answers the call.
The menu keeps things blessedly simple (apologies to fans of peanut butter or KD on your burger): it consists of single burgers (a so-called “small hamburger”) and double burgers (you’ve been warned: this is just called a “hamburger”) with or without cheese and/or bacon. There are hot dogs and grilled cheese and the fried-in-peanut-oil french fries that come in plain or Cajun-spice. Toppings are all free. Don’t make the rookie mistake I made — make sure to order grilled onions (otherwise onions are raw) with mushrooms; everything melts together under a blanket of processed cheese that contributes to ultimate squish-ability (the true art of the Five Guys burger). The patties are fresh (not frozen), relatively thin yet juicy (not greasy), and have honest depth of flavour that stands on its own before the avalanche of toppings conspires to take over. The buns are almost egg-y and dutifully serve as the keeper of the stuff….until everything oozes out the sides. Messy and delicious.
I was less impressed with the fries. They are the thicker skin-on variety that stays almost unnaturally crisp; flavour was lacking. And don’t expect milkshakes or apple pies, you can have those the next time you’re on Hwy 401.
Hamburger (double patty) $6.49; fries (large) $4.59
Hours: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily
Five Guys Burgers & Fries, 5517 Hazeldean Rd., 613-836-1800, www.fiveguys.ca