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Rain favors Indian food the way battle favors the swift, but an end of the year fast-food pledge approached with a chance for giving out a good grade.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries, the establishment, has been flowering like backyard morning glories, taking Southern California root, coming to the doorstep of my alma mater, planting itself minutes from my apartment. The red-checkered burger purveyor was hard to ignore and would be my stop for a to-go order on a wet Saturday evening.

I found parking closest to Broxton Avenue (it remains a constant challenge in the Village), and noticed a dynamic culinary landscape—hardly recognizable from three years ago. A surplus of great choices now existed for students, staff and denizens to dine after school or work, from The Lime Truck and 800 Degrees to Umami. Westwood was mid-food-Renaissance. Trying to stay dry as I advanced upon it, Five Guys appeared like a beacon gleaming brightly through drops on my watery lenses.

Inside my eyes followed a disciplined checkered motif that ran to the counter. Buns next to a chalkboard, scrawled with potato origins (Washington State) and ample peanuts on the countertop, to be shelled by those who wait for all good things. To my custom order, I added a regular side of Cajun fries with some sliced jalapeño ($9).

AmancayaFood in hand I ran to the car—the rain had intensified over the ten-minute wait. With my warm goods and a rally car pace I uncorked an Argentine red and plated the burger and fries as I walked briskly in the door. The tinfoil sphere yielded my customized burger with lettuce, tomato, raw diced white onion, pickles and a little mayo—standard setting—holding the bacon and American cheese for another occasion. The patties (about a quarter inch per) were bigger than expected and lightly seasoned upon first bite. The burger came together well and was exactly as I wanted, the accompaniment (bread ‘n butter pickles and raw onion) adding texture and depth. The extra bites of the pepper weren’t forgotten, jolting the palate intermittently, as I devoured the sandwich. The bun took the worst of the drive home, where the rest of the ingredients were still crisp, the sesame seed bread was quite squishy.

With the burger I was drinking Amancaya Gran Reserva—a blend of Malbec (65%), emitting those luscious black cherry, new leather and sweet spice aromas, and Cabernet Sauvignon (35%), lending structure and medium fine tannins that coated the palate softly. Every minute the Amancaya opened it better served the food.

Skipping curry and bharta could not have been a better idea. The pairing of food and wine was textbook, and my brief journey to Westwood was pleasantly surprising. A good showing for fast-food too, though I’m not sure where the purists will weigh in since Five Guys doesn’t make use of a drive-thru. Regardless, the burger was solid and one of the highlights in my fast-food hunt.

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