Sunday, November 29, 2009

Five Guys, Mount Prospect, Illinois

The day before Thanksgiving we discovered that we still needed to buy a few things to make the occasion more-or-less complete. Such as a turkey. Just after dark the girls and I found ourselves near a large retail store in Mount Prospect, Illinois, a town we don’t visit all that often. They were lobbying for McDonald's before entering the large retailer. I was resisting the suggestion but didn’t have an alternative until I saw some bright red letters: FIVE GUYS.

I didn’t realize that Five Guys had any locations in the Chicago area, vaguely believing it to be an East Coast chain, just as Fatburger belongs on the West Coast and Chick-fil-A belongs to the South (though neither of those really do). Shows you what I know. Turns out that there are seven Five Guys within a 25-mile radius of my zip code, one in fact closer than the Mount Prospect location.

It's good to be open to serendipity, and soon McDonald's was forgotten amid the sizzle of meat on the Five Guys grill and the fine smell of potatoes frying in peanut oil. The menu is simple: hamburgers or cheeseburgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, fries and sodas. The decor is simple too, but striking in its use of two colors, red and white. Red and white lamps hung from the ceiling, which was painted white but also which had a bright red vent running the length of it. A strip with a red-and-white checkerboard pattern ran all the way across the wall, and the signs on the wall quoting favorable reviews of Five Guys used to the checkerboard color scheme as well.

There were even signs like that in the bathroom, over the urinal. "Best burgers and fries in the known universe! -- The Freedonia Times" was a typical sort of message. They reminded me of the brief critic quotes that ads for movies use, except that they lauded Five Guys.

Ann had a grilled cheese. She doesn't always finish her food, but she ate the whole thing in this case, which speaks well for its flavor (she called it "tastiful"). Lilly and I had the tastiful hamburgers, whose distinction are hand-formed patties.

But the fries were the star attraction as far as I was concerned. Stacked strategically to separate the ordering- and order picking up-areas from the dining area are 50-lb. bags of raw potatoes done up in Five Guys red-and-white, with Five Guys labeling on them. They're practically the first things you notice upon entering; otherwise, you'd run into them.

Written on a white board near the cash registers was, "Today's potatoes are from Shelley, Idaho." Located on the Snake River in east-central Idaho, Shelley is apparently a place that takes its spuds seriously. According to Wiki at least, "The mascot for the city's high school is 'King Russet,' a russet-burbank potato that wears a crown, robe and scepter." It's also the location of the Idaho Annual Spud Day. By eating Shelley spuds, I was glad to do my little part to support that bit of Idahoiana.

Five Guys does well by its genuine Idaho potatoes, making them into the best fast-food fries I've had in a long time. Not quite as good as the fresh fries Gold Coast Dogs on State Street in Chicago used to make, or the cones of fries you can get from carts on the streets of Brussels, but almost as good, and those are pretty high fry standards.



At 7:35 AM, Blogger Nylonthread said...

Funny, Akio is very critical of Five Guys fries over here, mostly because he can't stand to eat in the frightfully noisy-with-bad-80s-music tables area and we do carry out. By the time we get home (5-10 minutes), the fries have wilted into mushy, flaccid, lukewarm tubes.

A rebake in the oven at home perks them up, but he gets angry at them nonetheless. I do like the burgers and Dash adores the hotdogs!


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