CHICAGO -- California and Texas have been sparring over who has the best fast food burger - In-N-Out or Whataburger - but the fact is they're both wrong. The best fast food burger is Five Guys and here are six reasons why.
1. The Burgers
Five Guys' standard burger is a two patty burger made of fresh beef. (There are no freezers in Five Guys, only coolers.) They come in four standard variations: Hamburger, cheeseburger, bacon burger, bacon cheeseburger. Bacon is not an extra topping. It's a standard variation.
If two patties are two much you can get a "little" any one of those four options which is one patty instead of two. No "Double double" whatever whatever, just "cheeseburger" or "little cheeseburger."
Not in the mood for a burger? They've got hot dogs (in every variation) and BLTs. For vegetarians they've got grilled cheese and a veggie sandwich that is stuffed with grilled vegetables, not fake meat patties. And they all come with whatever toppings you want.
There are no secret menus here. No silly-sounding "secret" language that the internet has told everyone about for a decade. It's all on the menu board.
2. The Toppings
There are 15 toppings you can add in any combination you want, for free: Mayo, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup, mustard, relish, onions, jalapenos, green peppers, bar-b-que sauce, hot sauce and A1 sauce.
There are more possible combinations for a Five Guys burger than any other fast food chain in this country. By their own count there are over 250,000 possible ways to order a burger at Five Guys. And every single one of those toppings are free, no matter how much you pile them on.
3. The French Fries
The fries at Five Guys are beyond compare. Twice fried in peanut oil, they're crispy outside and mashed potato soft inside, always fresh, always delicious. They're either salted to perfection or doused in a creole seasoning. They are made to order every time.
Now, imagine a small order of fries. At In-N-Out, they're a small paper bowl. At Whataburger it's a paper sleeve similar to McDonalds.
At Five Guys, they take a paper cup that is about 12 oz. and fill that full of fries with a nice hefty scoop. They drop that paper cup into a lunchbag-sized paper bag. Then they add another scoop of fries on top of that. That's a small order. Your foil-wrapped burger gets dropped in with the fries, so the heat of both keep everything nice and hot until you get to your table, or home, or your desk at work, and devour it all. And while there's so many fries, there's somehow never enough.
4. The Fans
You know who likes Five Guys? Barack and Michelle Obama. Michelle took her staff to the one in DuPont Circle often, while Barack liked the Southeast, D.C., location near the Washington Nationals' ballpark. He once ordered Five Guys for his staff and the entire White House press corps. He liked it so much that he's been quoted saying after touring the Sphynx in Egypt, "Five guys is good, this is better."
But aside from the Obamas, who else is a fan? Well, everyone. That's right: Five Guys took the No. 1 spot over In-N-Out in the Harris Poll's annual EquiTrend Study for 2017. So basically, everyone and their mom loves Five Guys.
5. The Locations
Five Guys started in the D.C. metro area, with the first location opening in 1986 in Arlington, Va. But the reason it's topping polls of favorite fast food burgers is because there are 1,500 locations in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Europe and the Middle East and 1,500 more coming according to the company.
So while you may have to go to Texas to taste Whataburger, or desperately seek out the occasional non-Californian In-N-Out, you can just find your local Five Guys and get the burger of your dreams. It's probably only a few blocks away.
And that is extra impressive because...
6. The Family
Five Guys is, in fact, named for five guys: Jerry Murrell and his sons Jim, Matt, Chad and Ben. Along with wife/mother Janie Murrell, they opened the very first Five Guys location. (A sixth guy, youngest brother Tyler, was born two years after the restaurant opened.) While they opened more locations, they kept them confined to the D.C. area until 2003 when they decided to offer franchise opportunities.
They expanded rapidly after that, but Jerry, Janie, Jim, Matt, Chad, Ben and Tyler are still in charge of the company. They're still in charge of the food, the cooking standards, the culture. It's why every Five Guys you walk into, no matter how far-flung, feels like a family burger joint. At its heart, every place is.