THE newest player in Winnipeg's hamburger game has the presidential seal of approval.
Five Guys Burgers and Fries, which is planning to open as many as eight locations in the city, starting with three this spring, has a fan in U.S. President Barack Obama.
Ben Hernandez, managing partner of the Virginia-based chain's eight-month-old Brandon outlet, said he's hoping leases will be completed shortly on Kenaston Boulevard near McGillivray Boulevard, Pembina Highway near the University of Manitoba and in Transcona.
"We'll begin construction within the next couple of months and our target date for opening is mid-to-late May," he said.
Obama made headlines shortly after moving into the White House with an impromptu stop at a Five Guys' location in Washington, where he bought lunch for his staff and some members of the media.
But he isn't the only celebrity who has acquired a taste for the high-end burgers. Professional golfer Phil Mickelson likes them so much he bought the franchise rights for Orange County, Calif.
Hernandez said Five Guys has often been compared to the Fuddruckers chain in Canada and In-N-Out Burger in the United States.
"We make gourmet burgers," he said.
Five Guys believes in keeping its menu simple and doing a few things very well rather than trying to be all things to all people. It sells burgers, veggie sandwiches and grilled cheese sandwiches and is awaiting approval for kosher hotdogs. It does not, for example, sell milk shakes.
A word of caution, however. If you order a regular burger, you better bring your appetite. "A 'little' hamburger is one pattie. If you say you want a bacon cheeseburger, you'll automatically get two patties," Hernandez said.
Scott Jocelyn, executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said it has been many years since a high-profile burger chain moved into the Winnipeg market.
"I can't remember the last time something like this happened in the burger world," he said.
Jocelyn said Five Guys will never be accused of skimping on portions.
"I had a hamburger in Brandon a little while ago and it was pretty tough to go back to work afterwards because I was so stuffed," he said.
Hernandez said the initial reception in Brandon was well beyond expectations and it continues to maintain a "very stable" following.
"It was amazing. For about three or four weeks, we had a lineup out the door," he said. Hernandez is a veteran of Manitoba's restaurant scene, having run Remington's Seafood and Steakhouse in Brandon for seven years. Previously, he worked for five years at Branigan's in Winnipeg.
Want facts with that?
Five Guys Burgers and Fries was started by Jerry Murrell in Arlington, Va., in 1986. He and his wife, Janie, have five sons, all of whom are involved with the business.
With 15 free toppings, there are more than 250,000 ways to order a burger there.
There are no freezers at Five Guys, just coolers.
Customers can enjoy free peanuts while waiting for their food.
Five Guys has more than 720 locations in the U.S. and Canada.