Believe the hype - Five Guys Burgers and Fries will gloriously satisfy your grease tooth to the nth degree. And then some.
If you've never been to one of these D.C.-grown franchises, now you can see what the nation's capital has long been raving about by making a damn-the-calories pilgrimage to the first local Five Guys out Polaris way.
When there, you'll likely be dining among a throng of other like-minded cholesterol worshippers. Because since its initial hand-formed patty hit the griddle with an alluring sizzle two Mondays ago, the place has been swamped.
Five Guys began in the mid-'80s in Northern Virginia when a married couple (with five sons) started crafting old-fashioned hamburgers and french fries. With success came lavish praise, franchises and awards - it seems like wherever a Five Guys has opened (there are over 300 nationwide), it's won "best burger in the city" acclaim from the local press.
Thus, visiting the Polaris branch, you'll see walls plastered with "best of" accolades. You'll also see a teeming mass of people scheming for tables and greedily grabbing plain brown paper bags rapidly dotting with oil.
Make that peanut oil. I know this because Five Guys has boxes of it sitting atop its stacks and stacks of potato sacks threading the way toward the counter. These legions of bagged spuds have a red-and-white checked design which perfectly rhymes with the company's chosen retro look.
When you make it to the cusp of the counter, you'll notice roasted peanuts in their shells free for the snacking while your order's being freshly prepared. The small menu here is limited to burgers ($5), fries ($2.69) and smoky, salty and butterflied kosher hot dogs ($3) - all of them good.
As a tempting bonus, Five Guys will dress your beef bombs with a generous array of free add-ons - like grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, grilled green peppers and an ocean of condiments.
OK, the food: Referencing an earlier, less-calculating era before all corporate packaging screamed out with self-advertising, the burgers are "quaintly" wrapped in generic aluminum foil and fries arrive in non-descript Styrofoam cups (and tossed throughout the bag, too). For once the gimmick fits, because there's nothing corporate-tasting about this stuff.
The thick burgers - which will automatically arrive two to a bun unless ordered otherwise (here a single is called "little," which is plenty big enough) - are irregularly shaped, have a seared crust, are leaking lusty juices, are like Steak N Shake's on steroids, and are as good as chainy fast food gets. They taste like nothing but fresh ground beef cooked correctly. Really good.
Ditto for the fries - they're blocky, meaty, skin-on spuds cooked to crispy and worth the splurge. Like everything at Five Guys, they're a nostalgic indulgence you probably shouldn't like so much - or eat too often.