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Burgers and fries fresh from the grill at Five Guys fast-food restaurant in Medford. Photo by Jordan Marie McCaw

Five Guys: fast food made fresh

Rogue Valley burger lovers’ wait for a Five Guys restaurant is over.

Five Guys opened a few weeks ago on Center Drive in Medford, where MOD Pizza and Chipotle will soon open. It’s one of 1,500 Five Guys locations worldwide.

The first Five Guys opened in 1986 in Arlington, Virginia, and has since become a fast-food favorite for many. The menu specializes in burgers, hot dogs and milkshakes, but the dining experience doesn’t stop there.

An open kitchen lets diners watch as their food is prepared on large grills. Along one wall are boxes of shelled peanuts customers are encouraged to scoop into paper bowls and snack on while waiting for their orders, though they won’t wait long. Between seven and 10 people were at work at Five Guys on the early Monday evening I visited, so the service was quick. Each order is presented in a brown paper bag, regardless whether you’re dining in or taking it to go.

The slightly higher prices compared to other fast-food chains reflect the restaurant’s focus on fresh ingredients and quality meat. Five Guys’ emphasis is never to freeze any ingredients and prepare each meal when it’s ordered.

The restaurant’s decor is simple and reminiscent of burger joints from decades past. An open layout reveals everything Five Guys is about and what it has to offer, which is a clean establishment quickly serving its customers.

The menu touts a plethora of toppings that customers can add to burgers or hot dogs at no extra charge. From tomatoes to pickles to bell peppers to cheese, the list goes on.

The milkshake ($4.50) seems too expensive for what you’re getting, but one glance at the flavor options makes sense why someone would pay a little extra for it. Flavors range from peanut butter, salted caramel, malted milk — or combinations of flavors — at no extra charge. I went with a standard vanilla shake and found it to be sweet and smooth.

Bacon burgers ($7.70) consist of two thin beef patties, two slices of crispy bacon and whatever other toppings are desired. I opted for ketchup, onions, green bell peppers and grilled mushrooms. The sesame bun was soft, untoasted, and absorbed much of the grease from the meat, leaving the last few bites of the bun somewhat soggy. Nonetheless, the crispy bacon satisfied each bite.

Veggie sandwiches ($4) use the same sesame-seed bun and are stacked with tomatoes, grilled onions, green peppers, grilled mushrooms, and lettuce. Without any cheese or sauce to bind the vegetables together, the sandwich tasted like it seriously lacked a patty in between the buns. Vegetarian options have never been the better choice at a fast-food joint, but at least the vegetables on this sandwich were fresh. Other vegetarian options include a grilled cheese sandwich ($4).

The fries ($4), however, were the best part of the meal. Thick cut, crunchy, with a touch of salt, and fried in pure peanut oil, each bite opened up the soft inside and went down nicely with a swig of the vanilla milkshake. For those who like things on the spicier side, the Cajun fries carry a little bit of a kick.

With a menu of varying ingredients, it really comes down to whether you’re in the mood for a hot dog or a burger. Like any popular chain, Five Guys has its own secret menu offering of a patty melt, its Presidential Burger, and a hot dog called Artery Annihilator.

Items like a little cheeseburger or little bacon burger ($5.30 to $6.20) simply means one patty instead of two, and for anyone not wanting a burger or hot dog, there’s also a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich ($5.90). Hot dogs can take on any of the toppings a burger can, and there’s also a kosher-style hot dog option ($4.30 to $5.90).

Five Guys will no doubt face competition with Chipotle, MOD Pizza and Cracker Barrel, but its fries and milkshakes will have people pulling off the freeway in no time.

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