Yesterday was my birthday, and as birthdays go I got to make the family choice on where we went for dinner. You have to work pretty hard to find a bad meal around Austin, and the town is known for its wide variety of places to get your chomp on. Everything good and worth experiencing, from great Greek to serious Japanese to just about anything is within a 30 minute from wherever you are around town. Among all of the Austin area’s fantastic eateries, with its great Mexican food stops like El Arroyo and Mesa Rosa, and the steakhouses from one end of town to the other, there was only one place I wanted to go on my birthday: Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
Five Guys started out in Arlington, VA in 1986 and for years was a few-shop cult favorite in the DC area. They spread north to Baltimore when my family and I lived there, and from our first taste of the restaurant’s massive, juicy burgers and peanut-oil cooked fries, we were hooked. Now Five Guys is coast to coast, and America is a better place for it. Five Guys is more than a burger: It’s a big, gloppy, sloppy work of burger art.
There are other great burger joints, of course. Every town has a local shop that everyone there swears is the best. Towson, MD has a great one called Burger Bros. that comes close to the Five Guys experience. The Austin area has Mighty Fine, a local burger beast that isn’t to be missed when you’re in town. I’ve never had an In-N-Out so I can’t compare them head to head with the others, athough friends rave about them. That West Coast chain is making its way into Texas now so I’ll have one soon enough. I’ve had White Castle’s legendary minis, but as good as they are, they just don’t match the Five Guys meal. Whataburger and Sonic are great, but let’s be honest: Their burgers are not the hand-made masterpieces that Five Guys delivers.
Five Guys burgers bring something that no other burger I’ve ever had has duplicated, replicated or otherwise brought to bear. Maybe it’s the double meat. Maybe it’s the sloppy juiciness that makes them impossible to eat without making a bit of a mess. Maybe it’s the bag full of fresh-cut fries that come to you so hot you can barely touch them. Maybe it’s all of that and how it combines to make the Five Guys burger experience the best around.
I don’t know exactly what it is. I just know that a Five Guys burger fills your hands with the best burger on the planet. It commands your full attention. It satisfies every burger need. I usually take mine with mayo, bacon, cheese, the usual fixins plus grilled onions and jalapenos. The fries and the free peanuts serve as the perfect cohorts to the massive mountain of meat that a Five Guys burger is. Last night’s Five Guys foray was long over due and as great as the very first one I had all those years ago. So, you know, happy birthday to me!