Food Review: Five Guys, Lower Level, Meadowhall Shopping Centre, Sheffield, S9 1EP

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Put your shirt on Five Guys’ burger brand fun. - But mind those beer and seating rules when things get busy at Meadowhall’s Oasis

A good burger always looks great.

Stacked high with multiple beef patties and layers of melted cheese, bacon, pickles, lettuce and tomato it becomes a glorious icon of American largesse.

But they’re a nightmare to eat. Meat, cheese and salad, gherkins and whatever slopping and sliding all over the place when you take a bite, mayonnaise and barbecue sauce up your nose and all over your shirt.

I’ve largely avoided them for years - so time to review Five Guys at Meadowhall.

Another good reason is their milkshakes with bacon.

Yes you read that right, more later.

A phenomenon since 1986 when Jerry and Janie Murrell and their four sons (now five, hence the Five Guys name) opened a carry-out burger joint in Arlington, Virginia, serving hand-formed burgers and fresh-cut fries cooked in peanut oil.

They developed a cult-like following.

Forward 20 years and there are 1,000 Five Guys in the US with 1,500 more on the way and 40 in the UK.

The Meadowhall one opened September 28, the 40th opened in Leicester on Monday and the 41st opens at Sheffield’s Valley Centertainment next Monday.

That’s what you call growing the brand.

With no domestic competitor or predator, the Five Guys brand is spreading unchecked across the land like LinkedIn or Buddleia.

Their ordering system is quite an event.

Apparently there are 250,000 possible combinations of Five Guys burger and toppings - every one is cooked the same way – ‘juicy and well done’ according to their sign.

All 15 toppings come with the price and you can go ‘all the way’ which gets you eight toppings – more second base I would have said - from pickles to jalapeno peppers.

Ordering is a bit traumatic, standing at the counter having to shout above the music – a Springsteen, ELO, Travelling Wilbury’s vibe – but the girl who served us was very patient.

Having ordered you pick up milkshakes first then food comes in takeout-style brown bags further along.

I order a Brooklyn Lager, with two milkshakes, a water cup to carry and no trays – and I had come straight from work with a briefcase.

The scene had a hint of the Harry Worths (ask your parents).

There is also a beer issue. Over Springsteen’s Glory Days the assistant explained that Oasis licensing rules mean beer can only be drunk in designated Five Guys seating. No beer allowed in the communal seats.

There were no Five Guys seats left so I boldly ignored her. Then found myself hiding the beer behind the brown bag when she sat next to us to take her break.

Luckily she didn’t dob me in.

We chose a cheeseburger with bacon, pickles and barbecue sauce and a hot dog with cheese, grilled onions and ketchup.

We also tried a vegetarian sandwich which offered grilled mushrooms and onions on a roll with salad.

The onions and mushrooms were as though they had been boiled, dull, boring and flavourless.

By contrast the skin-on fries were excellent.

We had the regular and the Cajun which are spiced with paprika and a little cayenne pepper.

They’re ‘hand cut’ which means cut by someone operating a manual cutting machine, according to duty manager Sam Kupesia, a 26-year-old former RAF infantryman from the south coast who joined Five Guys eight months ago and has managed other fast food outlets but won’t say which.

“We get our beef, which is corn-fed for 120 days up to slaughter, from Northern Ireland,” adds Sam.

“The corn makes the meat juicier. The patties are made up fresh by hand every morning in-store – nothing is frozen.”

The meat - two patties - tastes good. Earthy, with a char-grilled smokiness and pretty juicy.

But why do so many fast food outlets persist in their use of ‘American’ cheese?

It’s so processed that in some places they aren’t even allowed to call it cheese.

Think how much better a cheeseburger would be with a slice of decent Cheddar or Monterey Jack instead?

I get the burger- slide effect but the overall flavour is a punchy blend of meat, sauce, salad and ‘cheese’ with a crunch of bacon and a tang of pickled gherkin.

The hot dog is, well, a hot dog. Same light and insubstantial bread as the burger but different shape and without sesame seeds.

It has more American cheese, grilled onions and ketchup. It’s a bit uninspired to be frank(furter).

Now those milkshakes.

The same principle as the burgers – you can have as many flavourings as you like for the same price.

I had a peanut butter – which needed more peanut oomph - and a salted caramel and bacon.

It’s crazy but it works.

The bacon is crisp, salty and, crunched into crumbs, complements the sweetness and creaminess of the ice cream and already salted caramel.

It’s not haute cuisine, it’s not that cheap, but it is fun - and the space-age soft drinks machine is a joy to behold.

I’m told the barbecue sauce stains on my shirt will fade, eventually.

We paid £37.

Star rating out of five:

Food: 4

Atmosphere: 2

Service: 4

Value: 3

Category: Fast food

Five Guys, Lower Level, Meadowhall Shopping Centre, Sheffield, S9 1EP, Tel: 0114 2569215

Open Mon – Sat: 11am - 10pm, Sun: 11am - 9pm

Order online: Five Guys