Bottomfeeder: Suburgin'

Five Guys' burger got the Presidential seal, but does it live up to the hype?

Walk into Five Guys Burgers and Fries across the street from Northgate Mall and one thing will become instantly and abundantly clear: Five Guys makes the best burgers on earth. You don't even need to taste them to know this is so; every spare inch of wall space is covered with some glowing review from a publication back east. No backwoods rag is too small for Five Guys' walls—if it says Five Guys is peerless in its execution of the beef between the buns, then on the wall it goes. Baskets of free peanuts are also spread throughout the store, a subliminal reminder that Five Guys cooks exclusively with peanut oil.In short, Five Guys, whose first Seattle-area store opened in Renton nearly two years ago, is proud of itself. It's entitled to be—it's grown to more than 500 franchises, and made headlines last year when President Obama made an impromptu burger run to the eatery, which got its start in suburban D.C.But does Five Guys really make the best burgers on earth? In a word, no. While the bacon cheeseburger was decent, both the cheese and the beef were slightly undercooked. But in terms of satisfying one's inner glutton, it succeeded mightily, as all but the "little" burgers (which are far from little) on the menu contain two patties.For our money, if we're going to eat cheap burgers in the 'burbs, we'd just as soon head to Smokey's Char-Broiled in Burien or Bothell's Ranch Drive-In. (Northgate technically lies within the Seattle city limits, but it's far and away the city's most suburban neighborhood.) These are the anti–Five Guys, humble to their core and totally reliant upon word of mouth to become the stalwarts that they are.Smokey's has all the ambience of a prison cell, but its burgers are good enough to be last-meal-worthy. Meanwhile, the Ranch serves its burgers on big fluffy buns and its root beer in Styrofoam cups. There are corn dogs and ice-cream cones on the menu, and the girls working the walk-up window are mostly in their teens.The restaurant rests but a block from downtown Bothell, which reminds you that some of the most sprawling, soulless suburbs were once small towns. Bothell has character, and the Ranch is, was, and will always be a large reason why.mseely@seattleweekly.com

 
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