Restaurant of the Week: Five Guys

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Five Guys Burgers and Fries, 7945 Haven Ave. (at Town Center Drive), Rancho Cucamonga

The Inland Empire’s first Five Guys outpost of the East Coast chain opened in March in the Terra Vista center north of Foothill Boulevard. Lines are usually out the door, showing either strong curiosity or repeat customers, probably both.

I visited with three pals on a recent Saturday at high noon, in retrospect perhaps the worst time to have picked. The place was jam-packed and noisy and tables were scarce.

It’s a simple menu of burgers, fries, hot dogs and a couple of veggie sandwiches, and no milkshakes. They have free peanuts while you wait. Bags of potatoes are stacked around the otherwise utilitarian red and white interior. (A familiar color scheme…) A chalkboard sign notes where the day’s potatoes are from. OK, so they’re a little fanatical about their potatoes.

Burgers ($3.59 to $5.79) come with your choice of toppings, all the standard stuff plus rarer ones such as jalapenos, grilled onions or mushrooms and hot sauce, all free. A burger, fries and soda will run you about $10.

Your order comes in a paper bag. Even the regular fries ($2.59; $3.89 for a large) filled a cup with twice as much more in the bottom of the bag. They’re good, very potato-like. In the hubbub we overlooked the option of Cajun fries, darnit; others rave about them.

The standard burger turns out to be two patties; the menu’s “little hamburger” is one. It was fresh and filling. But the presentation looked sloppy and the burger is messy if you get a lot of toppings, which I did. I will go back, but my initial take is that I prefer the tidier offerings (and less hectic atmosphere) of Fatburger and the Habit, not to mention In N Out.

My friends were less ambivalent. (We’ll ignore the one who got the veggie sandwich, which was a bun with a bunch of vegetables on it.) One praised the peanuts as a welcome touch and the fries as excellent. The other said: “I would give this a thumbs-up over In N Out. I thought this burger was tastier. But In N Out sure has a shorter wait.”

* Update: I returned later in April for a single burger with ketchup, mustard, pickles and onions and found this simpler burger neatly presented and quite good. The Cajun fries were a nice change. However, the music remained far too loud and I couldn’t concentrate on the book I’d brought. Five Guys has its uses, but it’s just too pumped up for me.

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