Battle Fast Food Burger: Five Guys Versus Elevation Burger

Categories: Food Fight
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John Linn
All hail the fat-ass restaurant hamburger. Is anything better than an inch-thick patty of carefully blended, freshly ground beef, char-grilled and bleeding all over the bun? These hulking sandwiches are the star attractions at the lowliest of dive bars and the stateliest of steak houses and everything in between. And when gussied up with melted Brie or braised short rib or foie gras or whatever thoroughly fattening ingredient the chef deems necessary, they're almost impossible to resist.

Unless, of course, you consider the virtue of a simple, griddle-cooked patty, patted into a sweet roll and served with, oh, maybe a slice of tomato and few shreds of lettuce and a squirt of ketchup or two.

Those griddle-style burgers, as I'll call them, can be just as good as their overgrown counterparts. Most often represented in the fast-food world, they don't get the respect they deserve. With thin meat, ground fresh and cooked well-done, these burgers can feature layers of deeply caramelized flavor and an intense meatiness you just can't get in a big-ass patty.

Now, we put two of them to the test. Both chains, Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Elevation Burger, hail from Virginia. And both make thin, well-done, griddle-cooked burgers that rise far above their fast-food origins. But which is better? Read on to find out.

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Five Guys Burgers and Fries: Much has been said about Five Guys, the Virginia-based chain that expanded rapidly over the past few years to nearly 600 locations nationwide (with another 200 planned for 2010). Their fries are hand-cut in house and cooked in peanut oil, and their burgers are cooked to order. They come in either single or double patty variations, with cheese or bacon or both if you like. To me, the best part about those burgers are the ingredients. At Five Guys, you can completely customize your burger with any number of toppings at no additional charge. The toppings are pretty nifty too: Caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, spicy raw jalapeños, green peppers, and even A-1 Sauce are available. A double patty with the works will set you back around $6 at most locations, and it's one fine, messy meal at that price. I've found that the quality of the burgers can vary greatly based on location; they also taste best when eaten in-house, not to go. My biggest gripes: The beef is quite often underseasoned and isn't always as meaty-flavored as it could be. (Locate a Five Guys near you here.)

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John Linn
Elevation Burger: From Arlington, Virginia, Elevation Burger takes a similar approach to burgers as Five Guys does. The menu is simple and straightforward, with burgers, fries, salad, and milk shakes (which 5G's does not have). But the big difference is that Elevation makes its burgers with only 100 percent free-range, grass-fed, organic beef. The result is a truly exceptional flavor to the meat. The beef tastes rich and beefy and is seasoned nicely. The bun is soft and sweet, and the cheese used on its cheeseburgers is a sharp, melty cheddar that pairs perfectly with the earthy beef. Like Five Guys, Elevation Burgers come in single or double patties, priced from $4 to $6 -- but you can also stack their "Vertigo" burger with up to 10 patties. Elevation serves a veggie burger too, and its hand-cut fries are cooked in 100 percent olive oil (they surpass even Five Guys' fries, in my opinion, but that's another post). If Elevation has a drawback, it's that the topping choices are few: Lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, or grilled onions are about all that's available besides a few sauces. And while the quality of ingredients is topnotch, the selection could be better. Also, there is only one Elevation Burger in Florida at the moment, and that's in Coral Springs (2908 University Drive). So if you're craving one, you'll have to drive. Three more Florida locations are planned for 2010.

Winner:

Location Info

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Elevation Burger - CLOSED

2908 N. University Drive, Coral Springs, FL

Category: Restaurant

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