Chain Reviews: Positive or Positively Perposterous?

Susan says…

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While perusing the internet, purely for educational purposes and the betterment of this blog, I ran across an interesting post on Serious Eats’ sister site, A Hamburger Today.

This post was interesting to me on many levels:

  • 1. The headline grabbed my attention like a pair of ho red peep-toe stilettos with a 75% off tag in the window of Macy’s would grab my attention. This headline reads “Five Guys’ Fries Make Me Weep with Happiness” I think there was more, but that was all a fry-lover like me needed to process. I was clicking on that, you can be sure of it!
  • 2. The story was about fries. I love fries. I love pretty much any french fry, but fresh-cut fries are the crème de la crème of potato dishes. Never has a chef created anything tastier, anything more beautiful out of a spud than the fresh-cut french fry. While I have never actually wept after eating a french fry, there is a first time for everything.
  • 3. I know where I can get Five Guys fries! There is a Five Guys at Pullman Square in Huntington. Sure, that’s a bit of a drive, but can you place a geographical barrier on the quest for the most awesome fry ever? I thought not. When I first noticed that joint, I had no idea what it was. If I had only known then what I know now, I would have busted through the doors and ordered a bucket of fries, straight up, extra salt.

Five Guys' fries - photo from A Hamburger Today

Clicking on the headline, which was accompanied by a mouth-watering photo of perfectly browned potato goodness in what appeared to be a white styrofoam cup, I hurriedly read through all the blah, blah, blah about the burgers.

Robyn Lee states in the review of Five Guys:

“I’ve eaten a lot of fries in my life, but I had never know the full potential of these simple deep fried potato sticks until that moment. All previous knowledge of french fries up to that point meant nothing. Nothing. All future, non-Five Guys french fry-eating experiences are destined to be ruined. I don’t know how to describe how perfect that first bite was, through the delicate, salt-studded, crispy crust to the soft innards, but my reaction was probably something like, “Oh my god these fries are made of crack and rainbows and how the hell can fries taste this good oh sweet jesus I’mgonnaeattenmore.

I am thinking to myself, “how long will it take me to drive to Huntington…I’m in Charleston now…oh, about 25 minutes to the Valley and then another 25 from there to get to Pullman…. …”

And then it hit me.

A Hamburger Today, party to the New York-based foodie blog known as Serious Eats, published a review of a chain. Say it ain’t so, Dan.  Ah…..but it is.

But you know what? The review on A Hamburger Today quoted another review of Five Guys from none other than the Chicago Tribune. Kevin Pang, the Tribune’s Cheeseburger Bureau Chief, states:

“But what Five Guys has going for it are the remarkable french fries (regular size, $2.59-and, oh, named “Best ’08 by Capital Region Living Magazine!”). These double-fried fries-a technique foodies know yields, hands down, the perfect texture-have that rustic, imperfect-shaped, skin-on look. The fries tip more crispy than crunchy, and the interior has a creamy consistency with assertive potato-ey notes. They’re dusted with liberal amounts of Cajun spice, giving them kick and complexity. They’re really, really, really delicious.”

Well, I’m convinced. I am definitely going to give Five Guys a try.

And if Serious Eats and the Chicago Tribune feel a chain review is worthy of writing, posting, reading and commenting, then who are we here at Fork You to disagree with them?

Misty, tonight’s the night. Go forth and fork McDonald’s!

13 responses to “Chain Reviews: Positive or Positively Perposterous?

  1. Five Guys not only has great fries, but they have fantastic burgers as well. It ranks up there with In-n-Out on my list. I hope they put one in Charleston becuase that drive to Huntington will get old soon. 😉

  2. So with a review from “A Hamburger Today” and another from the now bankrupt Chicago Tribune does this place need a third review? The corporate standards should insure that a fry in Chicago will taste the same in Huntington. So the link in this post is more than enough detail to let our readers know that WV has a Five Guys and it has good food. See there is this thing called google and it allows people to search for terms such as “Five Guys French Fries” from any computer with internet access in the world.

    Our duty is to review the many great local places that most people won’t try without some insurance that they will not be wasting their “dough”.

    If you had skipped that meal/review at Olive Garden and reviewed Billy’s earlier Fork You… might of saved it. Like Sylar last night on Hero’s the blood is on your hands. 🙂

    I am holding my breath to see what new information you can bring to the internet about this chain…

    (tongue inserted firmly in cheek)

    PS – I been wanting to eat at Five Guys, too. But not write about it.

    PSS- If I had a blog that only wrote about fish sandwiches I would rate a Capt. D’s.

  3. I’m with Dan. I’d much rather read a review about a local place that one may not already have knowledge of the quality of the food, service, etc. or may not even know existed. Chain restaurants are successful because their food obviously satisfies the masses. Most people try chain restaurants for the first time because they’ve seen the commericals for them or they’ve heard from others what the place is like. We don’t have the luxury of commercials for locally-owned restaurants; therefore, we must rely on word-of-mouth. I don’t go to chain restaurants because ,to me, the food is mediocre at best. I prefer to spend my money on the local folks. If the food is good, I’ll go back. If not, sorry for them.

  4. My objective was to show Daniel that other sites do post chain reviews, because he gave me such a hard time about Olive Garden (and a few others).

    If we can’t have fun provoking our friends, what good are they?

    I think Dan is kidding himself if he thinks we have enough readership to “save” a restaurant. Besides, we wanted to give them some time to work out the opening kinks before we swooped in to criticize.

    I personally feel the internet is big enough to handle local and chain reviews both. Daniel is suppressing my freedom of speech by trying to prohibit chain reviews. ; -) Good thing I have my own posting privileges!

    Sure, chains don’t need to be mentioned for publicity reasons – they have more money to pay for advertising. But I’d still like a heads-up about the food. I would rather read ordinary people’s opinions than simply rely on a commercial to make a determination about going to any restaurant, including a chain.

    Dan points out that the chains have “corporate standards”, but if you have never been to a particular chain, isn’t a review still helpful? You can’t rely on your experience in Florida to mirror what you’ll get at the same chain in WV if you have no experiences with that restaurant to begin with.

    Besides, reviewing chains – in addition to local eateries – makes our blog useful to a larger group of people.

    When Ron really feels the need for a hatchet job, he can always go to one of the sub-par chain places to relieve the pressure.

  5. I have not eaten at FiveGuys since the heart attack, and I plan to never again eat there. Having said that, the food is really interesting. As noted, the fries are really special… and the hamburger, while not (to me) anywhere near as good as a Hardee’s Thickburger… the hamburger tastes like my mom used to make. Several other people have agreed with my take on that. It has some sort of strangely special “homemade” taste that I can’t put my finger on. I don’t know what makes it taste like mom’s, but it does.

  6. Eating at chain restaurants is like a drug addiction. It is a hard cycle to break. If your addicted you just of got to get your fix.

    I knew Susan when she was addicted to chains. Every weekend was a meal at Olive Gardens, Outback, and the generic Mexican Restaurant (which might as well be a chain since they are all the same).

    I applaud her for breaking that addiction albeit it has been replaced with China Buffet methadone.

    Susan is kidding herself if she thinks our snarky blog is a service to anyone. Chains or No chains. 😉

  7. For starters, it would be nice if we lived in a place where there were so many “real” restaurants to review that we’d be hard pressed to find time to review a chain. But that’s not where we live. This is Charleston. Where “boring” goes to get away from it all.

    But regardless of all that, I think it’s fine to review chains as long as the reviewer has some self awareness about what it means to review a chain, and that it comes through in the review. But really — have you had a Chili’s bigmouth bacon smokehouse burger? They’re spectacular (or at least 2 of the 3 I’ve had). I think the fact that a goofy chain with an apostrophe in its name does a burger better than most of our local bars is something worth writing about.

  8. I go to Olive Garden more often than I admit to Daniel.

    I agree with HK – there are a few gems on chain menus.

    • Admitting you have an addiction is the first step on the road to recovery. Just remember me when you get to step 8.. 😮

  9. demosthenes.or.locke

    I don’t have anything against reviewing chains, but thats not why I come to this website. I give this place three hits a week to look for reviews of places I’ve never eaten.

    You could give the Kanawha City Shoney’s seven forks…. I’m not going there. On the other hand, I like to hear about locally owned joints whether the food is good or not.

  10. Demo-

    (may I call you Demo, for short?)

    Are you saying that my Five Fork rating of the China Buffet at the Kanawha Mall (or whatever it is now) may not have persuaded you to begin dining there weekly like I do???

    And only three hits a week? I thought you and Ron were better friends than that.

  11. I read all your reviews for the entertainment purposes – I may never go there, but you never know. If found your site to be especially handy when going out to dinner with the boss when he’s in town. I don’t typically get to go to many of the downtown Charleston areas for dinner, so a nice refresher on what’s going on is appreciated.

    Also, chains should definitely be reviewed. Chains serve a purpose – and are especially useful if you have kids. You know what they’ll have for them. You know it will be relatively quicker. And you know the prices for them will be relatively lower.

    New chains might be more preferentially reviewed. We tried Red Robin in the Pittsburgh area this summer and it was great. Once we found out there was one up there, we made a point to stop – especially since my kids kept singing the “Red Robin, YUM” song from the commercial relentlessly. By the way, you guys would like it – endless fries. Even some gourmet fries on the menu.

    Keep up the good work.

  12. demosthenes.or.locke

    Susan, you can call me whatever you want as long as it ain’t late for lunch.

    I agree somewhat with aces, new chains or odd places would be appreciated, but who hasn’t already developed an opinion on olive garden and their “cheese sauce of the week” marketing schemes? I think when you reviewed it, you did the kids food review thing, which is good since it gives you an idea of what you can get your kids.

    I wouldn’t kill the chain reviews totally, but they do have to be sexed up a little more than a review of some new, obscure locally owned eatery to remain interesting.

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