There should be a new contender for "best fries" in the local reader's choice awards: Five Guys, which opened about a year ago in Brookwood Village.
Anyone who's visited our website much knows that as a rule, we're generally not a big fan of chains, preferring to support locally owned restaurants. But to every rule there is an exception.
Five Guys started in the Washington, D.C., area and is now franchised with a couple hundred locations in more than half the states in the country. Their menu is very simple: burgers (regular or "little), hot dogs, grilled cheese, fries. You order at the counter, get your own drinks, and wait for them to call your number. There are little bags of free peanuts available to munch on while you wait, if you like, although we didn't notice this until after we were eating our burgers.
The burgers were good. Evan got a regular, which is two quarter-pound patties; I got a "little," which is a single patty. The burgers are all-American beef, never frozen, and are made to order with the toppings of your choice. Mine, I thought, was a little dry, but had a good flavor; Evan said his was not dry. Thes sesame-seed bun was lightly toasted and the toppings all tasted fresh, with crunchy chopped onions, crisp pickles. In addition to the usual toppings there are also a few more exotic ones like sauteed mushrooms or onions or jalapenos.
What really stood out, though, were the fries. When you walk in the door, there are bags of potatoes piled on pallets, and a dry-erase board advertises where today's potatoes came from -- a town in Idaho. The fries, which still have skins on, are fried in peanut oil and served in a styrofoam cup. There's regular and large; the regular is designed to serve two people, we found out after we ordered, but one of us managed to polish of the entire serving, they were so good. These are not your usual fast-food fries, but more like homemade, so they may not be as "crispy" or have the same type of flavor as you're used to from the fast-food joints, which add all sorts of things to the potatoes to make them that way. (According to the book "Fast Food Nation," when McDonald's switched to all-vegetable oil, they started adding flavoring to mimic the taste of the beef tallow the fries had previously been cooked in.)
According to a 2007 article in Birmingham Business Journal, the local Five Guys franchisee is committed to open 15 restaurants in the area; the next two likely will be in Trussville and Tuscaloosa.
Here's a review from Tom Gaskin from a few months ago: http://blog.al.com/scenesource/2008/07/these_burgers_better_than_fast.html