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True Burgermeisters! But Pandemicly Way Overpriced  —  In our quest to find a real hamburger, we ran into disappointment at every corner.  The bigger the chain it seems the poorer the quality. All over cooked and over-seasoned to make it appear appetizing, the old joke “Where’s the beef” came to mind.  If you read the Burger wars introduction to this section you  know where the beef is and was, and it was processed from as many as 100 dead cows, labeled Angus ( which is a common breed not a category of quality and a lie) .

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Zagat has released the results of their 2010 Fast Food survey. They interviewed 6,518 diners who ate at chain outlets an average of 10.7 times per month, totaling 837,000 meals. 

That's a lot of time in fast food land eating so the results might be skewed toward the better food. it's a fair assessment and virtually identical to the results we got. We had Five Guys in First and McDonalds sat at the bottom.

The rankings for best fast-food burger, with Virginia-based Five Guys edging out west coast-favorite and previous years’ winner In-N-Out Burger. 

We could not test In-N-Out burger since we don’t have them in Florida, but while out west in Las Vegas we did run into one  and it’s almost the same as Five guys and we enjoyed both places.   I liked the In-N-Out burger by a tad, maybe because I tend to junk the FG burger up too much with extras and miss the meat  —  

No Competition From The Big Four

Five Guys has 644 locations across the US and Canada. Best Fast-Food Burger: Five Guys, we agree. We took numerous trips to the depths of burger barfing and the best burgers and fries were Five Guys. 

Simple, good quality, nice portions, good help and busy.  Fresh cooked to order right out in the open. I  like being able to see how my food is being prepared.   I have been in the restaurant business (or I wouldn’t be writing this stuff ) and if you had the opportunity to see what I have seen, you would starve yourself or not eat out.

Five out of five times the orders were perfect.  If the checkers in Florida weren't going out of business as fast as they opened I would put them ahead of McDonalds. McDonalds had pricing, but not the quality.  

The bottom line, 2010 Zagat Fast-Food Survey’s Best Burgers applied to Florida chains. We agreed at that time, Number one Five Guys, followed by Wendy’s, who went bust, reopened and is rebuilding literally with new stores, Burger King, Checkers and McDonalds in that order.  IN-N-OUT was not represented in Florida. 

  • That ended when Culvers came… Five guys went to two till they went berserk with pricing. 
  • Culvers has the best food , the best service, cleanest and well run period —  
  • I can get a great gourmet burger with all the trimmings at a Longhorn Steak House for less money…

Nutcases  —  And History of the Chain
Most of the time, and it really matters a little I always go through the complaints companies receive on the web. And I tend to categorize them based on common sense.     I have realized after decades we some really have a few people (customers) who must be on weekends away from the institution, a few managers who need to be replaced, some better training for the employees and treat them well.   
With 625 stores and selling millions of products the general consensus after I read some of the most stupid emails I have ever seen, FIVE GUYS comes out on top. People like the product but when prices double, volume falls off —   

1986: The first Five Guys location opens in Arlington, VA.

1986 - 2001: Five Guys opens five locations around the DC metro-area and perfected their business of making burgers… and starts to build a cult-like following.

2002: Five Guys decides DC metro-area residents shouldn't be the only ones to experience their burgers and start to franchise in Virginia and Maryland.

2003: Five Guys sells out of franchise territory within 18 months and starts to open the rest of the country for franchise rights.

2003 - Present: Five Guys expands to over 625 locations in over 40 states and 4 Canadian provinces.

The Bottom Line — 

There are over 250,000 possible ways to order a burger at Five Guys and all contain fresh ground beef.  

There are no freezers in Five Guys locations, just coolers. Nothing is ever frozen. 

They use only Peanut Oil in their fries and menu is trans-fat free. No question, they do good job with the food when they are busy and the place is full, but COVID and the fact they are in a mall outside parameter ring with twenty restaurants around them and cheaper… For five dollars more I can get a steak, or two Chick fIlets and fries and Lemonade for 11.65…  two hundred yards away…

My Bottom Line —  A Few Tears Ago  —   They were slightly more expensive than McDonalds (about a dollar) and other places and that was OK. I am not a cheapie, I just write about cheapies, the food was OK you got real meat, double meat portions are huge and standard, and fries are killer because of the peanut oil, more expensive to cook in but better than transmission fluid others use, blends of exotic sand synthetics.  But now things have changed

This tastes like a real burger and real fries. There are other reasons we made them numero uno: Short menu, no muss, no fuss, the concentration is on the food, not the toys, not the rides and not some clown.  

But COVID changed their pricing.  A double burger (STD) Fries and a coke were fourteen dollars and sixty-five cents.  I can get a full meal for that at six different locations.  The food is cooked right in front of your eyes and the employees touching food had gloves on, they have a winner in those aspects in addition to a good burger.

But the costs will drive people away…. Here is the COVID pricing above and a few stores have now closed  — 

Five Guys Menu  —  Five Guys Menu is famous for its high calories cheese burgers and fries. If you are building up your muscles and you need some high calories to gain some wait, that’s the place I would suggest to go. 

Other than that you can even go for low calories meal also.  Five Guys has Burgers, Fries, Dogs, Sandwiches and Milkshakes in their menu. 

Above in the box is the complete Five Guys Burger, Fries and drink Menu we copied off the web and I think in spite of the additional costs the food was good but I’m a chef, and I love to cook even if it is for me alone, this to me is not what I enjoy as much as what I cook… so eating at burger places, most I won’t touch, fast food from corporations is the bottom of the barrel and a last choice.  These are fresh and done right, two hints don’t overload the sandwich with extras, so you get the meat taste and read the price list, but when the pricing skyrocketed I look at my options…because I write for the common man…me… Oh thats the President of Russia and the President of the United States chatting over a burger —  

                                     MY LAS VEGAS VISIT


And Burnt On a Pepper


In-N-Out Burger has resisted franchising its operations or going public; one reason is the prospect of quality or customer consistency being compromised by excessively rapid business growth.   The company’s business practices have been noted for employee-centered personnel policies. 

Pardon my french, but this is so fricking right and as much a statement of their success.   And as a critic of food, I can tell you the bean counters and corporate slugs have cheapened their burgers so bad I will not frequent some of the locations.  

If IN-N-OUT came to Tampa bay they would destroy the garbage you are getting from other brands.  In a perfect Burger world, I see In-N-OUT, Five guys, Culvers and Red Robin. Oh-Oh Red Robin financially in trouble, might be too many mall locations.

For example, In-N-Out is one of the few fast food chains in the United States to pay its employees more than state and federally mandated minimum wage guidelines – starting at $9.25 per hour in California, as of August 2001. Higher now.  The In-N-Out restaurant chain has developed a highly loyal customer base, and has been rated as one of the top fast food restaurants in several customer satisfaction surveys.  

We do not have an In-N-Out Burger joint in Tampa Bay, FL.  Even though some talk existed, including a fake sign, and a few people had fun by announcing one is coming, so far most they were just rumors.  For the rest of this piece, I’ll use “INO” which is easier to type and wish they would come here

Their mantra - Our commitment to quality starts with our hamburgers. And our burgers begin with our patties. We make them from fresh, 100% pure beef. They are free of additives, fillers and preservatives of any kind. 

But the focus on quality starts well before we deliver our hamburger patties to our stores. We own and operate our own patty-making facilities in Baldwin Park, California; Lathrop, California and Dallas, Texas. Since we only serve burgers, fries and drinks, making a high-quality hamburger patty is everything to us.

We have always made every one of our hamburger patties ourselves using only whole chucks from premium cattle selected especially for In-N-Out Burger. We pay a premium to purchase fresh, high-quality beef chucks. 

We individually inspect every single chuck we receive to make sure that it meets our standards. Then our highly skilled, in-house butchers remove the bones. We grind the meat ourselves and make it into patties ourselves. 

These steps enable us to completely control the patty-making process and be absolutely certain of the quality and freshness of every patty we make. We’ve always made our hamburger patties this way.

Variety In The Bay  —  Tampa Bay, FL, fats (fast) food is a mainstay of survival and we have an abundance of places to find a cow that visited the grinder.  To be fair, I divided them into three categories. Fast, really fast, like McDonalds who is reinventing their packaging rather than making better food, followed by Burger King, Carls , DQ, etc. Then some have stepped up a notch like Wendy’s who is redoing their menu, but not there five years later and their new stores suck, then Five Guys and their main competitor INO.   

And the third category, are the bigger restaurants like the RED Robin, Chillies,Applebees, and the newest in Florida CULVER’S with higher end sit down establishments, varied menus,  but thats another day.

Nationally, the gurus of ground beef pitted INO against Five Guys because these are specifically burger barns and don't drift far from the front or rear of the cow.  Five guys does offer hotdogs. The INO burger is two 1/8 pre-cooked in weight patties.

Both are done in bright red and white trim, good convenient locations and usually busy. At lunch and dinner very busy. Here is what I do like and why they are better for you and offer more than the low end "fast food places".

•   The food is cooked to order quickly
•   The food was fresh tasting not dried out
•   The fries and burgers were hot
•   And you get what you ordered, the way you ordered it…

NOTE:  I am a critic, but I do not complain at burger counter staff if I feel they are not at fault and it’s a managerial problem.  Then it goes in writing, to the corporation and I can tell you 60 % of the fast food I ordered in my area (Tampa Bay) was not hot, or nuked to destruction, dried out, and disappointing.   

Thats a management process problem.  Fire the manager for not training right, fire the DM for pushing numbers from the manager, fire the corporate geeks of never tasting the crap they serve.

IN-N-OUT WAS DIFFERENT—  We liked the place and would go back again when they open in Tampa Bay. I had my chance to compare INO and FIVE GUYS and realistically have to declare it a tie based on food. INO was quieter, more noise at FG, both were simply designed or dressed out in white and red tiles and paint, clean and production efficient, and definitely ahead of the faster food places in quality and no kids playgrounds.  I came here to eat not watch a bunch of spoiled parents feeding their kids junk.

Everything was daily out in the open and clean.  The burgers were simply more appetizing and weight wise.  I think Five Guys was on a par with the edge simply because they are local and I only had INO once. Either is better than the Clown, the King and the Girlie whose quality and message is rapidly going down faster than the Titanic.  Bottom line:  Good Food, Clean Location, Excellent Staff, Just watch the hot peppers...

PEPPER WARS AT IN-N-OUT BURGER  —   am a pepper aficionado, and since I cook in food from around the world I am quite familiar with the universal ingredients used throughout the world.  Thats simply salt and pepper(S).  I love peppers, all peppers, Jalapeños, Serrano’s to Habanero’s, and a few oddballs not fit for mot humans but work well when keeping some rodents and other infiltrators out of the garden.

I rarely cook anything without some kind of pepper, they are the universal condiment of the world grown in all countries and they come in different flavors and strengths.   Pepper(S) are used served whole, cut, diced, sliced, dried, roasted, dried and ground to a powder, alone and combined with various other ingredients, some to tame and some to provoke. Next to the napkins there were two small trays of peppers, 

And maybe these served at the store in Vegas may be localized to Vegas or California or one specific vendor, because of TEX- MEX influence and demographics and hotter peppers are more popular in the SouthWest.   

I like to cook internationally, favoring the unique flavors and spices  of Thai, Indian, Middle east and Japanese dishes and fairly familiar with most peppers on this planet from those places.   I thought those guys were Indian.  But...

The guy next to us was munching on them like peanuts, so I thought they were just like Italian Finger peppers, or Chicago Hot Dog peppers, they must be OK.   I bit into one and an hour later I was still on fire.  It took a Pepto Bismol and a Tums tablet dissolving on my tongue to put the fire out.  

Holy Sh.t!  These were most volatile anything I ever tasted. The company named them “Hot Chili Peppers”.  They were not joking.  They are offered as takeouts (see photo) at some stores. The I-N-O net referred to them as Banana Peppers.   

The web contains a whole page on searches by customers to find them, what and where to find these peppers including some statements from I-N-O.  And they are not like Banana Peppers. But the Pepper industry is unique, mainly because of demand and the fact they are hardy and mutate easily.   

Pepper Breeding Business — And a Challenge  —  A unique part of home bred cooking is the extent some Pepper purist will go to reach the ultimate top of the game.  Breeding and developing peppers might one day become an Olympic sport.  Which is not unusual in the Pepper Cross Breeding business where the ultimate thrill is to eat a pepper and watch your  (or your friends)  stomach explode sprouting fire as you head for the head100 yards away.  

Ghost peppers, the Carolina Reaper and the Trinidad Moruga Scorpions were bred to be hot and they are forcing the Scoville charts to rethink the top end. 
Read my chili section as a new Monster twice as bad as the Scorpion has been born.  Called Pepper X

Now the company when asked explained that California is experiencing a shortage in yellow banana pepper crops, citing that this year's demand exceeded the supply. She also said that it’s affecting multiple locations, however, the next harvest is expected to come in early summer.  

The company would not disclose the supplier of these peppers.  To me that is a flag.   Also they may change brands and types to meet regional needs but I am an investigative reporter and I smell stories when it comes to food.  

Calls to In-N-Out’s Southern California-based corporate headquarters to inquire about the shortage. It’s referred to the current situation as, “An industry-wide pepper shortage.” The "shortage" is not yet affecting the chopped chilies that can be added to fries or burgers, but if you want a side-order of whole yellow banana peppers, that's when the pepper rationing gets real.

A memo from In-N-Out, dated for May 9 and addressed to its California stores, was posted on Twitter May 15. The memo directs In-N-Out employees to keep, “ Chilies away from ketchup stations,” and to serve guests only two chilies in a "Soufflé cup per request."

As explained in a report by Munchies, a shortage of the small, yellow pickled peppers -- Cascabella peppers -- due to a combination of factors that have affected crops, like bad weather and soil conditions.  These are the Casabella which translates as.  And you can buy seeds now, plants are unavailable as of July but with seeds grow your own.   see

Substitute  —  
This is a hot topic (un) and I think those Peppers could be substituted and are very are close to the Udupi Indian peppers in size and color and have nothing to do with Banana Peppers.   I think they may consider importing from India so they won’t run out.  They are also called Canthari Chili’s,  also known as “ White Bird Pepper” and this variety is popular in Kerala and in Sri Lanka.  

Small yellow white variety of chili grown in Udupi district, India, often used in chutneys and pickles” just like the Casabella’s and recently planted in the US, seeds are available for do it yourself on eBay.  India is the world's biggest producer, consumer and exporter of chili peppers. Guntur in the South Indian State of Andhra Pradesh produces 30% of all the chilies produced in India. Andhra Pradesh as a whole contributes 75% of India's chili exports.

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