Walking into the Five Guys at Clark and Fullerton can be overwhelming. The brightly lit room is covered in pupil-shrinking red and white, and hard floors combine with tiled walls to create a cafeteria-like din. You'll also inevitably be greeted by a filled dining area, although the quick turnover makes it the sort of place where there's always a crowd but never a wait.
But you don't come to Five Guys Burgers and Fries for the ambiance. You come for the burgers and fries. There are other options, such as hot dogs, grilled cheese and a veggie sandwich, but stick with the meat and potatoes, literally.
The menu is simple but could use some translation: A "little burger" is a burger, and a "burger" is actually a double burger. Fries are just fries, and while you can get them with zippy Cajun seasoning, a better choice is the basic Five Guys style fries splashed with the malt vinegar available at the condiment station. The only complicated decisions are picking how many of the 15 free toppings to order and which of the bounty of Coca-Cola products at the fountain soda dispenser you'll put in your cup.
The price is higher than you'd expect, with burger, fries and drink creeping over the $10 mark. But you're paying for quality. The meat is never frozen – in fact, Five Guys prides itself on not having any freezers on the premises – and the fries are cooked in peanut oil with minimal preservatives. The difference from pedestrian fast food is noticeable, particularly in the fries, which are just a few degrees of crispiness away from perfection.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Alexander Hough