FIVE GUYS: does it live up to its hype?
Around five years ago, I found myself in the middle of New York’s Grand Central Terminal with no internet, a dysfunctional gps and a heavy suitcase. The first thing I wanted was a burger, and the first place I found was the iconic red and white tiles of FIVE GUYS. By then, I’ve only just heard of FIVE GUYS as a cult-favourite mostly in the reddit crowd, its clientele not being as flashy or young as its rivals Shake Shack and In’n’out, and so, I went in with no real expectations.
My conclusion then: FIVE GUYS is ducking incredible. The cheeseburgers were spot on, but it was the fries that really stole the show. They were hands down the best fries I’ve had in my entire life.
Fast forward to now, you can imagine my hype when I heard that FIVE GUYS was to open its first Hong Kong branch smack in the middle of Wanchai’s Johnston Rd. If you’ve been following our instagram @womguide you’ll know that we got to try the burgers last week during the FIVE GUYS sneak preview.
The menu is pretty much the same as the US, simple and chaotic in the same time. It’s simple in that you get a choice of burger, cheeseburger or hot dog, but it starts becoming a little bit crazy once you start choosing the toppings-- will you have it with bacon or no bacon, little or not little, mayo or no mayo? With over 20 different toppings, and apparently 250,000 different combinations to choose from, it’s a new experience for Hongkongers who are more used to choosing from a list of ready-designed burgers.
We ordered a cheeseburger with grilled onions, tomato, lettuce, pickles and bbq sauce. The burger was no frills, no fancy sauces, no fancy buns, just an all-American cheeseburger from a diner straight out of a Riverdale filmset. We have to tell you, it’s not a clean experience: it’s messy. But it’s authentic Americana and exactly what we wanted from FIVE GUYS.
The beef patties were massive and well seasoned, with cheese laced in the middle of two patties per cheeseburger. We presume they’ve been ‘smashed’ into shape, since the patty was quite rustic in shape and not a smooth circular patty. And that’s a good thing, 'cos it means they’ve got some cracked bits that keep the texture interesting, with parts that are crispier and more umami than others. The cheese, while I'm not entirely sure about this, was a little different to the one I had in NY, a little lighter in colour, and less salty.
The cajun fries though, oh my goodness, the FRIES though. They were even fluffier than I remembered, and perhaps it comes down to the type of potato used. They used a kind of Dutch potato, the starchy type that stays a lovely mashed-potatoey texture even when fried to a crisp. They’re also fried in 100% peanut oil (so if you’re allergic to nuts please take note!) and dusted in a magical cajun seasoning. They’re served in a paper cup filled with fries, and then put in a paper bag, that’s again topped with even more fries. (It’s a FIVE GUYS tradition to overload the paper bag with extra fries. An extra bit ‘o love kind of ordeal)
The best part of the whole experience was watching the kitchen staff work on your burger in the first place. The open kitchen meant that you could see each staff member shouting across the kitchen the orders and the next steps, everyone worked in unison and in light-speed. We’re talking Overcooked at level 100: Just a dozen FIVE GUYS staff making over eighty burgers within a few minutes. There was just one letdown: we’ve heard some amazing things about their milkshakes but they didn’t have milkshakes ready yet. We were told that it would be coming in very soon, so when they’re ready, we’ll be there again to try them.
TLDR: So does Hong Kong’s branch live up to its hype in the US? Yes it does, the fries especially. They kept it all the same: the same quality, the same fast efficient service, the same all-customisable menu, the same messy all-American experience, and all the wonderful FIVE GUYS traditions (they’ve got a few secret menus “the obama burger” is a thing, and the tradition of “overloading” extra fries) And man, those fries are bomb, really, they’re so good.