For all the talk of market indicators and the rebounding Dow and yada yada yada, you and I know there’s still a recession going on. And so, apparently, do a lot of Louisville’s restaurateurs.
I’ve reported recently on the ways some of the city’s top-tier eateries are responding to tightened consumer spending with menu-price reductions. Small-plates restaurants, always popular, are on the rise.
And, in a time when the economy and other things that go bump in the night look scary, many of us crave cheap, hearty and, yes, fatty comfort food. New spots that specialize in economical edibles such as hamburgers and hot dogs are springing up all over.
Five Guys come to town
The buzz about the arrival of this northern Virginia-based outfit at Springhurst was too loud to ignore. I’m inclined to favor local indies over chain operations when I’m dining out, but fairness demands applause: This place is good. It’s also jammed, particularly at the noon hour.
A media clip on Five Guys’ website declared the chain’s burgers “juicy, greasy and delicious,” and I’ll concur on all three points. We moseyed down a corridor walled with oversize boxes of Idaho potatoes, put in our order, and when our brown bag came up, it was heavily saturated with the dark stains that signify, um, grease. But it’s good grease.
Burgers are $4.39, $4.99 with cheese, $5.19 with bacon and $5.79 for bacon with cheese. I got the “Little Cheeseburger” for a mere $3.59 so I’d have room for a kosher-style dog ($2.99), too, and fries ($2.59 regular, $4.19 large). My wife got her own burger and more fries, and lunch came out in a container almost the size of a grocery bag (paper, not plastic), with a lot of extra fries strewn over it all to impress us with their generosity.
You can dress your burger or your dog from a long list of free toppings. I went with mayo, onions, lettuce, pickles and tomatoes on my burger, and relish, onions and mustard on my dog. Mary chose lettuce, tomato and grilled onions — and looked happy.
The burgers were cooked well-done, with no option offered, but remained juicy and, yes, greasy nonetheless. They were served on decent white sesame-seed buns. The dog was split lengthwise, with a good, beefy flavor. The fries were hand-cut, skin left on — crisp, hot and not overly greasy.
Five Guys also has two Southern Indiana properties, both in New Albany at 2221 State St., (812) 944-9958, and 4320 Charlestown Road, (812) 944-7370.
Five Guys Burgers and Fries
4116 Summit Plaza Drive
Robin Garr’s rating: 85 points
It looks a lot like a franchise operation with its players-and-pennants baseball theme, and it acts a bit like one, too, as management is moving on a fast track to open up branches in St. Matthews and Middletown.
The burgers at Home Run are splendid, though, hand-formed patties on an oversize bun. Burgers are from $3.29 (for a single patty burger) to $5.79 (for a double burger wrapped in bacon). Also available are veggie burgers ($4.39), a fried-chicken sandwich or all-beef hot dog ($2.99 each).
The burger beef, as at Five Guys, was grilled well-done without asking, but it remained juicy and flavorful despite its gray-brown color. I went with the basics: American cheese, brown mustard, pickles, lettuce and tomato. A lunch cod sandwich came in “fingers” with thick, crisp and crunchy breading, grease-free, golden-brown and tasty.
Home Run Burgers & Fries
2060 S. Hurstbourne Pkwy.
Rating: 86 points
Whoze idea waz that name?
This tiny shop in the former location of Café Glacé (between Heine Bros. Coffee and Carmichael’s Bookstore on Frankfort Avenue) offers a limited menu with a smile.
About a dozen hot dogs bear fanciful names and range from $2.75 to $3.25. The Junk Yard Dog is a tasty treat with sauerkraut and Swiss; the Chicago dog ($3.25) was fairly authentic but could have used a poppy-seed bun. Hot dogs are top quality, your choice of classic “snap” dogs, kosher beef or Polish kielbasa.
Creamy, hand-dipped ice cream comes in about 20 flavors, in sugar cones, waffle cones or cups.
Conez & Coneyz
2716 1/2 Frankfort Ave.
Rating: 83 points