September 28th, 2012 by Brian Schwartz – Comments (7)
I never expected Five Guys to be good. But it was. Very very good. I should have known. Brian McCullough went up to Kansas City three weeks ago to get a jump on everybody before the Tulsa Five Guys opened, and did a great review of the Five Guys there. “Amazing” was how he described the burger. Still, I had very low expectations when I decided to try the new Tulsa branch and see how it measured up. After all, Tulsa is one of the best burger towns around. From tiny mom and pop stands, some 50 years old or more (often with the same decor and even owners as on opening day) turning out fabulous burgers to upscale restaurants spending much time and effort designing killer gourmet burgers… our local independent places have it all. Who needs a chain? Besides, back when Five Guys wasn’t really a chain but five real guys (brothers) and had just set up a branch or two outside their starting point of Washington, D.C., I tried the new New York outlet. I didn’t like it. If they ever gave, I wrote, “an Academy Award for best hamburger, Five Guys has less chance of winning it than I do of winning ten lotteries in a row.” Well I should go and buy some lottery tickets because based on what I ate at Five Guys Tulsa, they are a strong contender for best nationwide chain burger and, far more important, they are worthy of Tulsa.
Walk through the doors of the nondescript tan building right at the southeast corner of 96 and Riverside, a building that once housed a nondecript (but rather good) pasta restaurant called More Than Noodles, and you’ll feel the energy. Bright lights, red and white walls, the joint is hopping. Step up to the counter where the hardworking staff do their thing (it’s an open kitchen); it’s the center of the energy.
Before you get there, you see a handwritten sign telling where the potatoes used to make today’s batch of fries came from. (When I went it was some town in Washington state.) You order at the counter, right under the menu. The menu has hot dogs and veggie sandwiches too, but it’s burgers and fries that are their thing. They have burgers, bacon burgers and cheese burgers. All have two patties and cost under $7. If you want just one patty, order the “little” burger. But it’s worth the splurge to have two. “Choose as many toppings as you want!” says a huge sign, and there are 15 toppings listed, but since most of the toppings are things like ketchup and A-1 Steak Sauce, it’s not as lavish a deal as it sounds.
I ordered a bacon cheeseburger with mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled onions and grilled mushrooms. And fries. My friends ordered similarly. We sat down to wait. When they called our order’s number, I got a big brown paper bag and inside was this.
Foil-wrapped burgers and fries. Really good fries. In fact, great fries. I usually leave fries over but not these. Somehow they were soggy (British style) and crispy-charred all at the same time. Still, they took second place in my mind to the burger.
I wanted to press the camera into the burger to capture the juicy goodness and that’s why it blurred. So let’s pull back for a wider, more in focus, shot.
And yes it was amazing. The patties were cooked well done (they will not do it any other way) but despite that huge handicap they were juicy, a bit charred, with very good flavor. There was gooey cheese, a good soft bun, and the lettuce, tomato and pickles added to the experience. (I could barely taste the mushrooms or onions.) A really good burger. No, I’m probably not venturing that far south again anytime soon, not with the superlative burger artistry of Claud’s and Fat Guy’s and Brownie’s and Weber’s and twenty tiny burger bars I haven’t tried, not to mention Smoke and Palace (where if you go at the right time, burgers are $5) closer to home. But still… it IS a good burger. Very very good.
9635 South Riverside
Brian Schwartz: Author
Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately. Still, I’m the only Tulsa member of the little-known Omega Society. www.theomegasociety.com
I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola.
“A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.