Hal Wastes His Wages Healthy helping of hamburger

By no means do I claim to be a culinary expert. Sure, I’ve gotten buybacks at Biggie’s (318 Madison St., Hoboken) and rumor has it I supposedly hold some sort of record at Taqueria Downtown (236 Grove St., Jersey City), but the fact is, I’m just an everyday fat guy who happens to write for a paper.

Nevertheless, there are people – tired, portly, huddled masses yearning to eat meat -and they look to me for answers. So when Five Guys Burgers and Fries (319 Washington St., Hoboken) came to town hoping to score some share of stomach among Hudson County’s numerous artery-clogging eateries, I saw it as my civic duty to see what it is that they bring to the table.

As a rule, I try to avoid any chain restaurants, most of them being soulless, corporate crap factories that tend to pop up like weeds and churn out the same old watered-down, homogenized tripe wherever they happen to take root.

But when I saw a neighbor walk past with a grease-stained brown paper bag, my curiosity was admittedly piqued (I thought it was a sack of zeppoles, until I consulted my mental “street meat” calendar and realized there were no fairs in town).

A few days later, when a patron wolfed down a rather handsome looking burger while I stood by helplessly tethered to my post, I found myself having to wipe my own drool off the bar for once.

Finally I caved when my buddy Darren, who swore by the joint from his days in the D.C. area, offered to shepherd me through the Five Guys experience.

Let me say right off the bat that this is not your everyday burger. And by that, I mean it is not something you should eat everyday. If that uppity Morgan Spurlock tried to live for a month on Five Guys Burgers and Fries, they’d have to cut open his door jamb with a chainsaw and cart his super-sized *$$ directly to the hospital on a forklift.

This is a serious hamburger for serious people and is not to be trifled with. Foolish and arrogant, I walked in all cocksure – unimpressed by the various writeups on the wall – and ordered a relatively basic cheeseburger with pickles, onions, lettuce, ketchup, and mayo.

There are all sorts of adventitious accessories, such as mushrooms, peppers, A-1, et cetera, but I’ve learned over time, thanks in no small part to one overzealous undertaking at White Mana (470 Tonnelle Ave., Jersey City), that the best way to judge a place is at its most basic.

No matter how passionately you may feel to the contrary, sometimes bacon can be a bad idea.

All burgers are grilled as ordered – none of that pre-cooked microwave/toaster oven rubbish – so patrons snack on complementary peanuts as they wait, and when the order comes, it’s literally over flowing with fries.

But the burger was what we were after here, and I’m happy to report it is well worthy of its praise. Offering two patties, fresh toppings, and a hearty bun, Five Guys can cook up a roller coaster of a burger that takes you for a tumultuous ride.

The first bite was so good I wondered if one burger would be enough, but miraculously just over half way through, it was so filling that I worried I might not be able to finish it. That’s right, ME, the Cool Hand Luke of pork tacos, stymied by a mere cheeseburger?!?! It was humbling to say the least, being Kimbo Sliced by a young upstart. In fairness though, it was me against Five Guys…

When I did finally get the last bit down, the afterglow involved some slight numbness in the right arm, required a few fist pumps to the sternum, and brought on numerous references to George Wendt and Ditka.

Like a boa constrictor that had just swallowed a whole goat, I could feel this thing working its way though the upper part of my G.I. tract. I actually had to abandon the fries and honestly walk it off, to the point where I felt a need to meander around a few extra blocks to get to my destination just a block away.

So there you have it – a burger joint that inspires immediate exercise. Wolf one down, take a few laps around town to work off the resulting meat sweats, and you’ve got yourself a healthy regimen.

Just don’t overdo it, as it might be too strenuous on those core muscles – if you consider the heart to be a “core” muscle…

Christopher M. Halleron, freelance writer/bitter bartender, writes a biweekly humor column for The Hudson Current and websites in the New York Metro area. He spends a lot of his time either in front of or behind the bar in Hoboken, New Jersey where his tolerance for liquor grows stronger as his tolerance for society is eroded on a daily basis. Feel free to drop him a line at c_halleron@yahoo.com.


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