By Victoria Pesce Elliott
Every once in a while, a girl gets a craving for a big, fat, juicy hamburger. It’s the kind of thing I indulged in when I lived in L.A. two decades ago. Midtown Miami’s Five Guys Famous Burger and Fries is the closest thing to L.A.’s famous In-N-Out Burger that I’ve found here.
The beauty of Five Guys is its simplicity. Choices are limited to burgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese or a veggie special (basically all the toppings with melted cheese on a bun) plus amazing French fries. A regular burger comes with two slabs of fresh, hand-formed meat that are nicely irregular and super juicy. Five Guys claims to cook them all well-done, but it’s really more medium-well, with perfect, crunchy, caramelized meaty bits. The Little Burger, for a dollar less, has a single patty, just right for kids.
As for toppings, I say get ’em all, including the super-crisp bacon, as long as no one I care to impress is sitting nearby. It’s a deliciously, drip-pingly, diet-crushingly good indulgence. Three’s also mayo, mustard, ketchup, relish, onions, tomato, lettuce and pickles plus fantastic grilled mushrooms, green bell peppers, a Velveeta-style American cheese, sauces (A-1, hot and barbecue) and even fresh-cut jalapeños. Except for the pallid-as-plastic tomato slices, I was in burger heaven.
The buns are a matter of taste. I found them too squishy and sweet, almost like supermarket Hawaiian bread, but when I tried to remove one half I discovered you need both to keep in all the gooey goodness. Hot dogs, served split-grilled, are fine but not worth a special trip, but the French fries are hand cut with the skins on and fried in peanut oil, yielding golden, not-too-crispy, miraculously ungreasy delights. (Skip the dusty-tasting Cajun version.)
Huges boxes of in-the-shell nuts and brown paper bags are set atop garbage cans so patrons can munch while waiting for their orders: The waits can look long, especially when the lines stream out the door at lunchtime, but mine has never gone more than five minutes. Drinks include retro Mr. Pibb. A nice, thick, chocolate shake would complete the experience, but headquarters say they are not rushing into anything. "We’ve looked into it," said Five Guys spokeswoman Molly Catalano, but "we’ve found there are other places that make really great shakes and we don’t want to do it unless we do it the best."
Five Guys Burgers and Fries, The Shops at Midtown Miami, 3401 N. Miami Ave., Suite 124, Miami; 305-571-8345; www.fiveguys.com. Check website for other locations.11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. Burgers $3.89-$5.59, hot dogs $2.99-$3.99, fries $2.69-$3.99, drinks $1.69-$1.89
FYI: Soft drinks only. Garage and metered street parking. AX, MC, VS.
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