We were in Miami Friday starting a new course of treatment for my wife's RA which meant an opportunity to check out some stores. And there it was like a star in the east, shining over the shopping mall.
A furtive figure broke cover and rushed across the open space in front of the store. Big Foot? Santa Claus? The bag was the giveaway.
Inside the store whence Big Foot had dashed we saw piles of potatoes.
These weren't just any potatoes, they were purchased specifically for the humbugger chain. Just part of then schtick folks!
We newbies allowed a customer, dressed in scarlet as though an employee, to take first place while we studied the form.
Choose a two patty or one patty burger, cheeseburger or bacon burger or even a bacon-cheese burger and add what you want from an extensive list. I always get anxious when I have to 'make my own' but this was simple, with no charge for toppings and the employee was totally easy going and cheerful and patient. They had a whole lot of compliments stuck on a board.
"Are they free?" I asked watching the child help herself with practiced skill.
We took a seat and passed the ti e loading up on free protein and coke zero (Free Refills the sign shouted as though we weren't in America!).
The walls were lined with press cuttings- so quaint in the age of the electron- and they set you up to want to like what comes next. My number called I walked to the counter and collected a brown paper bag. The don't care if you eat in or follow Big Foot out the door, as the are no trays or other impedimenta. The burgers come wrapped in tin foil, the fries in a waxed drink cup.
The bill for two single patty burgers, one drink and large fries came to $17.50 which isn't cheap in my estimation but it was decent value as they do seem to use quality ingredients. We weren't hungry when we left, not at all!
I had grilled onions, jalapeños, and bacon, my wife added mushrooms to hers and we both avoided the American cheese.
To enjoy the real fried potatoes we took a bottle of vinegar to the table, a flavor my wife learned to enjoy in San Francisco and that I got used to when I was in England as a child.
Inevitably the comparison to California's In N Out Burger comes up and I would say Five Guys wins out even on the famous fries which were bigger and more flavorful.
I really enjoyed the wide range of toppings offered here too. A burger is a burger is a burger and as long as you use decent meat the product is a hamburger. But the toppings at no charge, make the sandwich. The clientèle was young and cheerful with lots of families and a few old foges like us mixed in.
In a place like Kendall, land of malls and boxes and chain stores in mile after endless mile something like Five Guys is bound to ring a homey note paradoxically. They go out of their way to offer value but something a step up from the cheap and cheerful chains that offer the best value of all.
Whether or not Key West needs another chain eatery is a debate that won't be resolved because those that oppose chains de facto won't want Five Guys. Faced with a ten buck choice between badboy burrito, Paseo or a sandwich from Kim's Kuban, to name but a few, I don't know where Five Guys fits. On those days when I want a burger perhaps this might be a choice, just as when I want a weird and wonderful breakfast in a sandwich where else but a McGriddle? Ah competition, the people shall speak and eat with their money. Everything else is talk.
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