Five Guys Burgers. Not in line with my usual reviews, but I just finished lunch there with a colleague and thought I could probably squeeze out a few words about it.
Five Guys arrived in Dubai with a lot of hype and pomp – they scored a sweet location in Dubai Mall, a new, unproven operator behind the franchise in Rise LLC, and perhaps the holy grail of the better burger concepts, except maybe In N Out Burgers.
However, where Elevation Burger casually talk to us about their quality ingredients and organic meat and Shake Shacks proudly discuss their growth from humble beginnings of a shack in Madison Square Park, Five Guys scream narcissistic self-proclamation about their superior quality and hype.
The danger for an establishment that has to prominently display their awards and credibility on the walls is that they could be seen as insecure about their assets – Signs everywhere, reminding us of their superiority in the burger and fries world. If you are going to display your entire trophy and first place certificate collection for the world to see, you better have the goods to back it up.
However, I think Five Guys just about gets away with it – just. They don’t take themselves too seriously; they know their meat is closer to MacDonald’s quality than Wagyu quality. They know their beverage selection is still the mainstream carbonated sugar water. The focus on their accolades comes from a cheeky competitive nature that lets people know they are currently America’s favourite fast food joint. And why shouldn’t they? Make hay when the sun shines. Or burgers, whatever.
Ordering is done at the counter, and although there was no queue this time, the several kilometres of snaked rope barriers is a testament that this place rocks during peak times.
There is no such thing as combo meals in the better burger world. You want fries, you gonna pay for them fries. You’re going to pay 21 dhs, to be precise. Soft Drink? Sure, another 13 pieces of silver. Or Dhs. All these prices quickly add up on the final check.
Five Guys operate an open kitchen with stacks of burger buns and lots of stainless steel shelves. Drinks are free refills from a self-serve soda machine. Bags of potatos are used for décor in the front of house area. And so are open boxes of shelled peanuts. Not sure either, so don’t ask.
The burgers come as standard with a greyish double patty. The meat is not seared like you would find in Shake Shack and it is not seasoned, leaving the beef and toppings having to do the talking in the taste department. The patties are not thick enough to allow a cooking temperature, so you don’t get that juicy center either, but you don’t get the same level of grease as you would in Elevation Burger.
The buns are sesame seed topped buns, slightly sweetened, with a good bun to burger ratio. Fresh, crunchy tomatoes and lettuce, with an appropriate amount of mayo complete the foil wrapped package. Compared to other traditional fast food burger joints, I can see what the hype is about, and I can appreciate the improvement in building the burger. Yes, they cook to order, and they claim nothing is frozen, but for 40 dhs a cheese burger, I would expect a bit more. Especially as I learn that a cheeseburger and fries will set you back 1,793 calories! You would have to run the equivalent of a Tour de France to burn that off. Or something like that.
Apparently, the fries are what the devotee’s tweet all their OMG’s about. These fries are supposed to be the industry leaders on what fries are all about. They are meant to be the Ferrari of Fries. Life changing fries. However, after emptying my order from the brown bag, there was probably half a kilo of soggy potato bits left in the bag. Not even full sized soggy fries, but stunted, miniature bits of potato, like you would get if you cleaned out the fryer at the end of a shift. According to my expert dining partner, the 5 Guys fries are hit and miss and sometimes they are a Ferrari and sometimes they are a Sharjah auto-market second hand Nissan Sunny.
Luckily for this review, I was comparing my experience to MacDonald’s and Burger King and therefore I left Five Guys overall satisfied and satiated, 147 dhs poorer and 1,783 calories fatter. And the fries, I am sad to say, go below Macdonald’s and Burger King in my French fry list that I keep on my fridge.
I think the Five Guys brand has benefited from decades of standard, mediocre offerings that have lowered the consumers’ expectations of a fast food burger. They have definitely elevated the game, no doubt about it, but is this level high enough to keep people satisfied and coming back? In an industry akin to the burger equivalent gang wars of East Coast Vs West Coast, it could be a bloody battle, best watched from afar.
For now, looking at the nightly queues and positive social media feedback, they should be good for a while yet. I however, am going for a quick jog to Abu Dhabi and back.