Manifest Destiny

August 30, 2008

For a few years in the mid 90’s I lived in D.C. doing non-profit fundraiser work for liberal causes (I was building up a smug allowance that my several years in for-profit marketing have completely eroded).  While there, I fell in love with a little burger joint called Five Guys Burger & Fries.  At the time, there were three locations, although when I moved back to L.A., the chain had grown to six.

On a whim, I looked ’em up on the web, and to my surprise found that they’ve spread like a vine, including moving as far as West as Southern California.  Hello lunch this Sunday.  Time to see if the little quirks about the place survived the Westward expansion.  Things that summed up the ambiance:

  • No seats, counter only
  • A sign informing you where today’s potatoes came from (they had amazingly good peanut oil fries)
  • Giant barrels of roasted-in-the-shell peanuts for you to snack on as you waited for your food to be cooked (everything cooked to order, of course)
  • Minimal decor, including a signboard, paper & pens for guests to scribble up nonsense, like how far they had traveled to eat at Five Guys that day, etc.

I suspect not everything will have survived the transition, but hopefully the burgers & fries still taste great.  In Arlington, there wasn’t really any competition other than fast food franchises, which is no competition at all.  Out here, we have the world’s best hamburger joints, in no short supply.  Still, you can never have enough great burger places.


  1. Soooo… how was it?

  2. Really very good – I’d still opt for Fatburger or In-N-Out, but that may just be a matter of familiarity. They have expanded their stores to be full sit-down joints, and while the signboard & peanuts are still around, they’re really just throwbacks to fans from the Arlington days. The whole interior is covered with mentions from “Best-Of” articles in mid-Atlantic periodicals like Washingtonian, etc. The burger was exactly as I remembered it, as were the toppings. The gimmick they use is to offer free toppings from a selection of like 10-14 different items (mayo, mustard, jalapenos, ketchup, grilled onions, raw onions, pepperocinis, etc). Pretty damn good, and if you’re already going to Ikea in Carson, which I was, it’s in the same ginormous shopping complex.

  3. My brother-in-law works in DC and raves about this place as being better than In-N-Out.

    Have you tried The Counter? There’s one in Santa Monica and another in Marina del Rey.

  4. Yeah, for some reason I can’t seem to enjoy The Counter – although today I ate lunch right next door to the MdR location & they were filming Dexter there, which is an awesome show. So, in closing: non-sequitur.

  5. If you ever find yourself in Pismo Beach, I highly recommend the burgers at a place called Hot Shot Billiards. I have NEVER eaten a burger like that. It would be worth the four-hour drive.


  7. We just got a Five Guys in Richmond. Unfortunately, not as good as the real thing (like you, we teethed on the NoVA version, though ours was in Old Town). But still worth the trip – if you’re really hungry.

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