Cheap Eats

A well-done American staple

(Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe)
By Louise Kennedy
Globe Correspondent / October 6, 2010

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The guy waiting next to me leans back against a stack of sacked Idaho potatoes and emits an amused sigh. “It’s a new concept,’’ he says to his friend. “Slow fast food.’’

He’s right, but that doesn’t keep the Natick outlet of Five Guys Burgers and Fries from jumping on a Saturday night. The Virginia-based chain, which only recently expanded here, already seems to be working its cultlike hypnotic powers on the burger-buying public. So what’s the attraction?

Partly it’s the novelty — a burger joint without golden arches — and partly it’s the friendly, retro-chic feel of the place, with its red-and-white tiles and open “kitchen.’’ It’s just a long steel griddle, a couple of deep fryers, and a counter where the resulting burgers are assembled, wrapped in foil, and shoveled into an iconic, grease-spotted brown paper bag with a heap of fries.

Oh, and the food? Five Guys’ signature product will never replace a real hamburger, but as a quick, flat, superheated slab of chopped meat it’s not bad. Signs proclaim that all burgers are served “well done and juicy,’’ which sounds oxymoronic until you sample the damp, almost steamed-tasting beef in its equally soft bun.

The good news is the toppings: 15 of them, all free, and ranging from the commonplace ketchup through onions (both raw and grilled, a nice touch), jalapenos, and A-1 Sauce. The Midwesterner in our group thrilled to the homey pleasure of a “little hamburger’’ (that’s a single patty, as opposed to the double of the “hamburger,’’ which is all more confusing than it needs to be) with mustard and grilled onions ($3.59); the New Englander, smelling a bargain, went straight for a bacon cheeseburger “all the way’’ ($6.29), meaning all the toppings in a sloppy yet weirdly satisfying mess.

Both were tasty, greasy, and dense, and honestly took only a few minutes longer than fast-fast food. (And you can pop a few free peanuts while you wait.) There’s also a decent hot dog, but skip the “veggie sandwich’’; it’s just all the toppings slapped on a bun.

In any case, the real reason to go back — either to Natick or to the new Walpole outlet, smaller and quieter but otherwise identical — is the fries. Not the Cajun, which we found fatally salty and weirdly redolent of instant-ramen flavorings, but the “Five Guys style’’: hand-cut, fried in peanut oil to crisp yet tender golden goodness, and generously portioned. Now that’s worth waiting five minutes for. Louise Kennedy can be reached at


Walpole Mall, 104 Providence Highway (Route 1), East Walpole, 508-660-9850; Natick Shopping Center, 821 Worcester Road (Routes 9 and 27), 508-650-5100, (Other locations in Canton, Dedham, Foxborough, Franklin, Gloucester, Marlborough, and Randolph.) All major cards. Wheelchair accessible.

Prices Entrees $2.99-$6.29. Sides $2.99-$4.29.

Hours Daily 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Liquor None.

May we suggest Little hamburger with grilled onions and mustard, bacon burger all the way, fries Five Guys style, free peanuts in the shell.