No Big, Bad Burger
You’d think it was the Last Hurrah in Portland. No I’m not referring to our malapropism-minded governor but rather the extraordinary hoopla over the arrival of a burger joint in the Old Port.
It even garnered more front-page press than the much ballyhooed retailer Reny’s debut on Congress Street, with its mops, brooms, hoses, and bird seed stuffed into window displays like so much the urban doctor’s antidote for the downtrodden.
But Five Guys Burgers and Fries is another animal entirely. I went there last week for lunch for two reasons: curiosity and I love a good hamburger.
I had visions of smoking grills churning out well charred mounds of beef into the ineluctable allure of a great burger.
The day I went last week there was a line out the door—ordinary folk, office workers, attorneys, and doctors ( I recognized a few) navigating the serpentine crawl to reach this paradigm of hamburger odyssey.
The line moved quickly enough. You place your order, get a pick-up number and, much to Five Guys credit, you’re ready to eat in about 5 minutes. There’s not much to do, however, in the interval. You can go sit at a table, which you might share or have to yourself.
Oddly, all around the room are these big sacks marked Idaho Potatoes. Isn’t it like bringing coals to Newcastle? It’s not unusual for national chains to adapt to their locality. And sacks of Maine potatoes for the fries would have been a nice touch.
OK, let’s get down to the real issue here. How’s the hamburger? To be brutally honest, had I closed my eyes I woudl have thought I was biting into a Big Mac—but at twice the price. It didn’t even come close to Wild Willy’s reputable burger near the Mall. The bun was no better than any other vehicle loaded with too much junk.
Two of us had one cheeseburger, one bacon cheeseburger, a shared fries and 2 sodas for about $20. This was no bargain event.
The fries were terrific, though. They’re not seasoned with anything so you salt your own. The pickles, ketchup and other toppings were standard fare. No special secret sauces conjured here.
The basic burger consists of two thin patties cooked to a colorless deep well done with any choice of topping, which runs that gamut of the condiment shelf at the supermarket.
The room is all white tile with red accents and as noisy as an indoor hockey rink. With the staff yelling out numbers and barking orders to each other and patrons mucking and yakking about, the noise level is incredible.
I see it as a convenient pit stop for Old Port shoppers, tourists or the venue for pre-movie noshing. But I couldn’t wait to get out of there, wash my hands, and hope that the sea air would cleanse my clothes.
John Golden makes no bones about sharing his opinion. If you'd like to share yours, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.