Current Weight: 163.6 lbs.
"Once in a great while, we are privileged to experience [an] event so extraordinary, it becomes part of our shared heritage." -- Krusty the Clown, February 9, 1997
When I was a boy, pop culture was my unofficial stepparent. Back then, only two events (title fights in boxing and made-for-TV miniseries) regularly generated the kind of squealing media hype that now precedes even the least attractive Armenian-American celebrity.*
* -- Oh, come on. Khloe Kardashian digs have been done to death. I assumed the universe had moved on to mocking Nicki Minaj, no?
Off the top of my head, I can think of three experiences -- one each in movies, sports and music -- when the hype was truly worth it.
Return of the Jedi -- Time has not been kind to much of the Star Wars franchise, but almost 30 years later, I still remember leaping off the couch when I saw the first Jedi TV spot -- on a Saturday night, in between new episodes of Diff'rent Strokes and Silver Spoons. Yes, the scatological nonsense and intrusive Ewoks have ruined the movie for me today; but in 1983, my brother and I saw Jedi at least 20 times -- back when sneaking into a movie was a cute and acceptable crime, like cocaine or hitchhiking.
1989 Oakland A's -- The '88 A's were the first baseball team I ever loved and the first one to break my heart. (A few years later, I was dumped twice by the same girl in a span of 10 days and it didn't hurt anywhere near as much as Oakland's stunning upset loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.) In 1989, the A's were near-unanimous favorites to win it all. They withstood an array of early injuries, fought off a feisty Angels squad and re-acquired my all-time favorite player on the way to winning the World Series. Thankfully, I'm still on my first marriage and only have one child, so the A's championship still fits into the top five favorite moments of my life.
Doggystyle -- Snoop Dogg's debut album was a big deal. Gangsta rap was at its apex and still popular enough to ward off conservative critics and threats of censorship. Snoop stole the show on Dr. Dre's The Chronic album and his mid-1993 murder charge arguably boosted his profile. I've told the story before, but I waited in line outside V.I.P. Records in Long Beach -- on
Conversely, these are three of my experiences when the hype greatly exceeded the end result.
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace -- After two hours of stilted dialogue about trade disputes and an endless parade of transparent, broadly-drawn aliens-as-ethnic caricatures, I swore off the franchise for good. My personal protest has even extended to the adult-friendly, kid-intended cartoon versions that currently air. Those who really know me know this isn't an insignificant snub.
1990 Oakland A's -- This squad was the first real "rock star" baseball team back in the early days of the "ESPN-ification" of sports. After winning it all the year before, the experts labeled the A's as a budding dynasty. They were swept right out of the World Series and spent most of the decade as one with the walking dead.
Get Rich or Die Tryin' -- For me, the 50 Cent phenomenon got as far as the first single from his debut album. Get Rich… moved almost a million units in its first week of release in 2003 (and more than 15 million copies to date), but despite some decent beats, 50's uncharismatic mumbling lost me almost immediately.
So, which side of the hype will Five Guys fall?
Here in California, In-N-Out Burger is considered the gold standard for fast food hamburgers. Most of y'all know my position: In-N-Out makes a perfectly acceptable double cheeseburger, but it doesn't belong in any "best of" discussion. This opinion is in direct conflict with tourists and locals alike who believe the ubiquitous Double-Double is a sacri-licious religious experience.
Thanks to the magic of social media, I've been able to eat vicariously through friends and strangers. I first heard of Five Guys from either a Facebook post of an acquaintance living in one of the Mid-Atlantic States or perhaps a random tweet from some national baseball beat writer who blissfully ignores four of MLB's six divisions.
It didn't take long for me to realize that the Five Guys hype rivaled In-N-Out's. It did, however, take a long time before I was able try Five Guys. There wasn't a location in San Diego County until about six months ago. And, apparently, I was one of the last San Diegans made aware of this.
So, I brought That Bootleg Family down to Five Guys. After quickly familiarizing myself with the limited menu, I ordered a bacon cheeseburger with lettuce, tomatoes, grilled onions, ketchup and mayo. Mrs. Bootleg -- in keeping with her long-standing tradition -- waited until I'd begun ordering before she took her very first look at the menu. She extended the palms of her hands and slowly shook her head -- pantomiming perfect confusion -- before hurriedly blurting out, "Little Hamburger with...grilled onions and...ketchup?" Yes...in the form of a question. Two regular orders of fries and a plain Little Hamburger for Jalen finished the order.
After my first bite, I was a believer. The loosely-packed meat oozed juices down my chin and into my nattily-groomed goatee. Meanwhile, the texture of the hamburger -- nicely pebbled without any rigidity -- was homemade, hand-made quality. The smoky-sweet grilled onions contrasted nicely with the lettuce and tomatoes AND subtly accented the meat. Two minor nits: (1) the two slices of cheese might be one too many, as the flavors were suffocated by my last few bites and (2) there didn't seem to be much bacon on my burger (or the other toppings overwhelmed what was there). Jalen finished his hamburger in about six seconds, while Mrs. Bootleg -- in between bites that belied her diminutive stature -- was trying to decide if the Five Guys burger was the best or second-best she's ever had.
I've been sitting on a 4.5 score, steadfast in my refusal to go all in with a perfect five. But, I can't remember the last time I've wanted to return to a restaurant as much as I'm jonesing for an encore at Five Guys. I think that's worth an extra half-point. And, I won't even decrement them for their so-so fries.
The NEW gold standard for fast food hamburgers?
The NEW gold standard for fast food hamburgers.
Grade: 5 (out of 5) Calories: 1100 (approx.) Fat: 75g (approx.)