Five Guys

There's enough calories and fat for five guys in this picture, I tell you what.

Oregon and the West Coast in general are, in my opinion, severely lacking in terms of food that can flat out kill you if you eat it more than twice in your life. Portland, Seattle, and Los Angeles combine to form this sort of new age hippie trifecta which suggests to the rest of the country that we all only listen to bands who play instruments made out of wood from trees that died of natural causes and only eat things that are as healthy as they are bland and flavorless.

Oh, sure, there are the minor exceptions. California has In-N-Out and its bacon food carts and the Pacific Northwest has Burgerville (which still barely counts because they serve a salad with hazelnuts in it, which sounds a damn lot like healthfood if you ask me) and Mike’s Drive In, but to really appreciate how far behind we are in terms of junk food, you have to just take a look at some of the options available in the rest of the country. Before long, one gets the idea that congestive heart failure is, in the Southeast and Midwest, less a medical condition and more a lofty goal not unlike knighthood.

Steak ‘n Shake, for example, combines the least healthy meat item with the least healthy dairy item. From my (limited) research I’ve seen no evidence of them offering a steak milkshake, but given that there are around 500 locations, each one featuring a cramped kitchen fully stocked with both steaks and milkshake ingredients, the law of averages states that sooner or later there’s going to be a Resident Evil style accident which combines the two and brings about the downfall of civilization.

Or there’s Texas’s own Whataburger, which serves biscuits and gravy, pancakes, and a burger with triple meat and triple cheese. At, say, In-N-Out, a burger with triple meat and triple cheese is a secret menu item, the sort of backdoor deal that you have to know about in advance and ask for with a special codename. In Texas, the only thing you have to do to get this skyscraper of meat is ‘please.’

And who can forget the East Coast mainstay White Castle? While many fast food restaurants have shunned their inherent grossness in recent years, White Castle fully embraces it, presumably with a creepy, sweaty hug. In spite of this, I’ve never heard people rave so much about something that so consistently gives them diarrhea, save for perhaps Battledip Galactica.

And before anybody gets their feathers ruffled, I’m not hating here – I’m saying I want to have these options available to me in Oregon. I eat fast food rarely, which, according to Science, is about the healthiest way to eat fast food short of not eating it at all, and in my eyes if I’m going to treat myself in a way that’s basically giving my body the finger, I want to do it right.

One chain I’d heard about a lot in recent years was Virginia-based Five Guys Burgers and Fries, which has been getting all kinds of great reviews from magazines and newspapers throughout the greater Washington D.C. area. Wikipedia told of its commitment to fresh vegetables, organic meat, and great service, tenets which were causing the chain to expand roughly as fast as its patrons’ waistlines.

I had heard Five Guys food was incredible, standing in stark contrast to its name, which is horrible. Who, when asked “Where did you get that burger?”, wants to tell their friends, “From Five Guys”? It sounds like there’s some sort of anonymous assembly line process in a parking lot, where five mysterious gentlemen who hopefully have food handler’s licenses are cobbling together burgers and fries out of whatever they can scavenge from the surrounding landscape. I mean, come on, folks – this is food service. The idea is to make your business sound reputable. What’s next? “Crackhead Under a Bridge with Oral Herpes Burgers and Fries?”

Recently I was overjoyed to find that Five Guys had made its way to Portland, evidently having missed the rumor that all we do out here is worship the sun and eat bean sprouts. Accordingly, not long after I got home for break my friend Lizzie (who you may remember from a horrible TV show) and I set out to West Linn in hopes of sampling the Five Guys there and seeing if it would harden my arteries with cholesterol in a new and delicious way.

No chain better defies the logic that fresh food is somehow better for you – Five Guys is as fresh as it gets, and the bags they handed Lizzie and I with our food in them were so greasy that you could practically rub them on your elbows to moisturize.

Five Guys is notable for having all kinds of toppings available for their burgers: Grilled mushrooms, grilled onions, Jalepenos, green peppers, and A-1, to name a few, all of which are free. Is this a great idea? Yes. But it’s also basically socialism, and as I discovered, the fact that most burger chains charge me 50 cents to add Jalepenos is the reason that I generally don’t get Jalapenos on my burgers, and, consequently, don’t get severe heartburn shortly after leaving the restaurant.

Five Guys’ décor is comprised of sacks full of potatoes, fresh off the truck from Idaho or whatever other Godforsaken place potatoes come from. Maybe they put them there because there isn’t space in the storeroom, or maybe they put them there so that the proprietor can point to the sacks of potatoes and say, “See? I told you we were hardcore.”

Also, perhaps most interestingly, Five Guys has open boxes of complimentary in the shell peanuts for customers to eat while waiting for their food. As an appreciator of both peanuts and free things, I love this, but the placement is somewhat inconvenient for me – being as Five Guys is a fast food restaurant, you’ve got at best five minutes to enjoy your peanuts, and furthermore, I don’t want to fill up on free peanuts when I’ve just put down $10 for a burger and fries that even on their own sit heavy enough to make Michael Moore break a sweat.

All I’m saying is, I think the world would be a better place if it were more like Five Guys. The University of Oregon should let me pick as many classes as I want for no additional charge and everywhere, from the library to churches to the entire State of Oregon, should provide complimentary peanuts.

Truman Capps’ arteries were horrified to learn that there is a Five Guys maybe three miles away from his house.