In Westwood, a neighborhood where In-N-Out reigns, bringing in a competing burger chain is a gutsy move. Five Guys seems to have begun a turf war between devotees of the California burger icon and fans of the other Guys. Utter the words “Five Guys” in the vicinity of an In-N-Out lover, and one would think they had seen a Trojan.
I like In-N-Out, but am by no means as obsessed as some of the jingoistic patrons one may encounter. Don’t tell, but I don’t even like their fries very much. I decided, as an unbiased, non-partisan cheeseburger fan, that I ought to experience Five Guys so that I can take a stance in this burger feud.
Walking into their restaurant, one gets a similar feeling of retro diner nostalgia that In-N-Out exudes. The staff is exceptionally friendly and out-going, to the point where it even caught me off-guard to be surrounded by so many happy people.
The menu is simple, which I really appreciate—burgers, fries, hot dogs, a few sandwiches, and that’s it. They offer a nice selection of burger toppings, all of which are free, so that even with such a simple menu you can still order exactly what you want, and I did get exactly what I wanted.
I had to go big. I went for the regular burger which has two patties, as opposed to the their “little” burgers (which aren’t very little at all) that have one patty. I made it a bacon cheeseburger, and ordered it “all the way,” which sounds a bit provocative to me, but just means all of the standard burger toppings and them some, including mayo, mustard, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, grilled mushrooms, grilled onions and pickles. They also offer relish, raw onion, jalapeño peppers, green peppers, A1 sauce, BBQ sauce and hot sauce. Ordering “all the way” wasn’t quite enough for me so I swapped out mayo for BBQ.
What is a delicious burger without a French fry sidekick? Lonely, that’s what. Clearly, I had to order a side of fries. I went ahead and made them Cajun. Why not?
I was titillating with excitement as I waited for them to call my number. Before long, I heard the voice of an angel ring out of the microphone, beckoning me with, “Number 22!” I sat down with my heavy paper bag, peeked in, and saw a glorious mound of thick cut seasoned fries, and underneath I caught the glint of a foil package. I reached in and excavated my burger, which was the heaviest, largest fast food burger I hade ever laid eyes on. When I unwrapped it, I’m sure my pupils dilated to take in this beautiful monster. Two patties, gooey cheese, a heap of fresh toppings and crispy bacon, all tucked in between two soft buns –and it was all mine.
Eating this was an undertaking, but I considered it to be a personal challenge. One could either choose to approach it precariously, trying to maintain some dignity, or tackle it without shame. I chose the latter, but I almost didn’t make it out alive. Eating this massive burger and only about half of the perfectly crisp, deliciously seasoned fries put me into a food coma.
I finished my meal exhausted and stuffed but supremely satisfied. When I recount my eating experience, people never fail to ask the question, “Five Guys or In-N-Out?” Honestly, I don’t even know why this is such a heated debate. They are very different burger establishments, each with their own pros and cons, and I think there is room for both of them in Westwood. At the very least, there is room for both of them in my heart (just not at the same time, because I would die from cheeseburger overdose and possibly heart disease).