5 Guys ranks as one of the great expansion success stories of the decade. They started out in Alexandria, VA in 1986 as a humble burger joint with an amazing concept: A limited menu and consistent quality. Sticking with that philosophy, they've managed to thrive in spite of whatever "economic downturn" that the TV news loves to trumpet 24/7. 5 Guys now has over 450 locations in 30 states. They must be doing something right.
One of the things they do right is to never serve a hamburger that's been frozen. Their facilities don't even have freezers! Any burger connoisseur can tell the difference. A fresh hamburger is firm and juicy with meaty texture (almost like a steak) and a savory smell. Frozen ground meat is mushy, because the freezing process damages the cells. 5 Guys also uses expensive, but more palatable, peanut oil for their fries. And the toppings! Mayo, relish, onions, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup, mustard, jalapenos, green peppers, A-1 Sauce, BBQ sauce and hot sauce. As a service to you, my valued reader, I stayed up all night doing the math: There are over 250,000 ways to order a 5 Guys burger! (OK, so I stole it off their web site.)
It's burgers, dogs and fries. That's it. I love the regular (2 patties, of course) bacon cheeseburger with extra mustard, extra pickles and jalapeno peppers (fresh, bright green and crispy, nothing limp and pickled out of a jar, thank you). It's hard to pass up the hot dog, too. It's Kosher style (all beef), firm, snappy and delicious with a hint of garlic. Of course, all the toppings are available for the dog as well.
Regular visitors to RehobothFoodie.com know that I harp on the quality of the bread served with sandwiches and subs. 5 Guys has yet to serve me a stale or hard bun. In fact, the way they serve the burger (wrapped in foil and placed under the steaming fries in a brown paper bag) helps to keep the bun moist and integrated into the toppings. It becomes a cohesive, single entity, ready to be devoured by those who are discerning enough to know the difference.
The fresh patties are plopped onto a very hot flat top griddle, instantly searing the outside to a dark, beefy cocoa color. This is the beginning of their signature taste. The burgers are then cooked to medium well -- all of them (more about that later). At the same time, the rolls are being prepped with the toppings. Off the griddle, hot and steaming, right onto the roll, and then wrapped in foil to await the avalanche of fries.
I became a 5 Guys follower when they opened their first Delaware store in Bethany Beach. That particular franchisee's second store in Lewes is now closed, but the one in downtown Rehoboth is open and busy. Said franchisee is no longer associated with those stores.
I always worry about places like this that have a winning concept, but totally depend on their in-store help to make it right. A cook with a bad attitude, or a distracted order-taker on her cellphone can ruin an entire experience. Look at places like Wendy's and Popeye's, for example, that actually have (the potential for) good fast food, but have become known for HUGE variations from location to location, depending on the caliber -- and the attitude du jour -- of the kitchen and counter help. Of course, it's all in the management! The proverbial fish rots from the head down, and that's particularly true for restaurants where the success is in the details. Guys, all five of you, listen to this militant Foodie: Keep good, caring and well-trained management in all your stores, all the time. Every employee you hire stands squarely between your cherished concept and the customer! (Thank you, reader, for indulging my homily.)
In a nutshell, no fast food here. Every burger is cooked to order, and the fries are cooked in small batches. Be ready to wait until they're ready. Note that THIS IS NOT A BAD THING. The foil wrapped sandwich is hot and juicy. Fries that are firm on the outside and creamy on the inside do not survive under an infrared heat lamp.
I have a couple of friends who sanctimoneously complain that 5 Guys will not serve them a rare hamburger. Apparently 5 Guys (and I assume most of you out there) don't share these people's fascination with potential food-borne illness. ANY ground meat, anywhere, has that potential, and I admire 5 Guys' insistence on reducing the possibility to the absolute minimum. Keep it up, Guys!
You can call for carryout, and even order online at fiveguys.com. After much unpleasantness between the former owners and the franchisor corporation, the Lewes store is history, but downtown Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach are up 'n' grillin'. I usually don't like to compare specific restaurants in a review, but apparently you can't mention 5 Guys without somebody asking how it compares to Jakes Wayback Burgers, or vice-versa. It's the new Rehoboth Beach pastime. So if you really care how the two chains compare, you can check out Jake's review (and a list of comparisons) by clicking here.
The corporation is insisting that the Rehoboth store will remain open 7 days, from 11am 'til 10pm all year. It will be interesting to see if this lasts. Frankly, I hope it does. Rehoboth is (302) 727-5470, and Bethany is (302) 539-3970. Click here for 5 Guys' menu. (L., D.) Price Range: Inexpensive -.