A&E

Back to basics burgers

Mountain View's new Five Guys keeps menu tightly focused on hamburgers, fries

No milkshakes. No drive-thru. No breakfast, chicken, fish or coffee. Five Guys is tightly focused on burgers and fries.

Now open in Mountain View, the Virginia-based chain stakes its particular claim to the growing "fast casual" sector of the restaurant business -- slightly slower than fast food, with friendly cashiers.

Expect to wait 10 minutes. Complimentary ballpark-style peanuts are available to stave off hunger.

The burger itself is built on the McDonald's model, a quarter-pound of all-beef burger. It does look and taste homemade, though, and is infinitely customizable with 16 toppings.

Burgers are hot and come wrapped in foil; fries are wrapped in paper bags. Especially with the fries, avoid moisture by removing contents from the wrap as soon as possible. The lightly grilled bun is a nice touch. It's a very soft, white-bread bun.

The hot-dog bun is even softer, fairly melting into the nicely splayed and griddled Kosher-style hot dog ($3.99).

Do not have a BLT until tomato season. These were like paper on the tongue.

A little bag of fries ($2.69) will be enough for most people. A sign tells you where the potatoes come from today. On my visits, they came from St. Anthony CBC Farms, a corporation in Idaho. The fries are delicious, crispy and browned on the outside, still fluffy inside. (Order them extra-crispy to be sure.)

As at In-N-Out, there is a secret menu. Different stores have different policies, but the possibilities include cheese fries and five-patty burgers.

Vegetarians also should ask for options, but the regular menu includes grilled veggie ($3.29), grilled veggie with cheese ($3.99) and grilled cheese ($3.99) sandwiches.

Calorie counts are, scarily, prominently displayed.

And for the gluten-free, all burgers and dogs are available bun-less, wrapped in iceberg lettuce.

Drinks are all Coca-Cola products, from a bottle of Dasani water ($2.09) to Gold Peak iced teas. In swooping red Coke machines, they are clearly identified as low-cal, no-cal and caffeine-free. Refills are free.

For comparison's sake, I asked the burger fan in our family. He remains devoted to his first love, saying of Five Guys, "It doesn't taste as fresh, both the fries and the burgers, but also they don't have that special In-N-Out sauce that is the best part of the burger."

As at In-N-Out, red and gleaming white tiles cover the walls at Five Guys. Loud oldies music, which causes people to yell into their cellphones, encourages fast eating. It may take 10 minutes to get your food, but you can be out of there in 15.

Five Guys

2098 W. El Camino Real, Mountain View

650-962-1882

fiveguys.com

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily

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