A dual review of Five Guys Burgers and Fries and MVP Grill and Patio from the District:
PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES
It’s been more than 50 years, but Southern California’s burger business is as crowded as ever. Those looking to break into the patty-flipping scene would now only be entering hostile territory, home to the fast foods that have morphed from simple midcentury meals to definers of generational gluttony. So, it’s not surprising that in these parts, the burger remains probably the single most-debated American dish, one that doesn’t inspire simple fans but rather devoted cultists who slander the stomachs of anyone unwilling to conform to certain burger beliefs.
Here in Long Beach, the vitriol might not be so focused, but there’s plenty of dedication. Whether your alliances lie with the customizable bites of Bouchees Bistro, the eco-friendly chow of Cisco Burger or the timeless tastes of Bake N Broil, everyone has a favorite. And rightly so—there are enough burger joints within our boundaries to sustain never-ending exploration. Still, it’s not enough to stop Five Guys Burgers and Fries, an East Coast import oddly similar to a coveted classic of our own: MVP Grill & Patio.
Five Guys originated in the mid-Atlantic, a small little chain that franchised out to fame. It struck success with an obvious equation: fresh food, fast service and a straightforward menu. For Californians exiled to the East Coast, it became the closest approximation to the fabled In-N-Out. But now that it’s come west (it dug up its first California soil in Carson, recently adding its second location in Cerritos), it is clear the two don’t share much in common.
There are four basic ways to start: with a hamburger, cheeseburger, bacon burger or bacon cheeseburger. The only complication to the system is that all these entry-level burgers contain two patties (“little” versions are available with a single slab of beef). Toppings are what drive the Five Guys experience though, with everything from grilled onions and sautéed mushrooms to hot sauce and mayo. And that’s the appeal—the burgers are quick, good and infinitely adaptable, made as loaded or as light as you like.
Even so, the fries are the true specialty at Five Guys, thick-cut spears cooked skin-on. They’re normally served sparsely salted, but they’re best Cajun style, coated with a seasoning that can’t help but recall the same spicy spuds at MVP.
Regardless of any additions to the area’s burger world, MVP Grill and Patio seems as though it’ll stay a Fourth Street fixture forever. Yes, there are the lovable sports-themed names, from the sandwiches named after George Forman to the Tiger Woods and Chick Hearn. But the reason for the stand’s long-term success is constant quality. MVP’s burgers face a unique challenge because of their numbers, as a big menu often means sloppy construction. But every option at MVP is great—huge, cooked-to-order burgers that often have a healthy focus. Just look at the Mean Joe Green (a vegetarian sandwich of avocado, cream cheese, walnuts, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts and red onions) for proof of MVP’s adaptability.
Plus, there are the fries. A half-basket is more than enough (barring an unholy appetite), and Cajun style is the way to order, fat steak fries dusted with the same Cajun-style seasoning that spices up Five Guys’ fries.
Although the fries bind the two restaurants together, Five Guys and MVP are in many ways incomparable, staking out two separate sections of the burger universe. But being the new spot in town, the questions fall mainly on Five Guys. Is it a solid fast food stop? Yes. Will it displace your current favorite? Probably not. But this shouldn’t stop you from building a burger with jalapeños, fried onions and a splash of A-1.
FIVE GUYS BURGERS AND FRIES 11461 SOUTH ST | CERRITOS 90703 | 562.809.0055 | FIVEGUYS.COM AND MVP GRILL AND PATIO 3701 E FOURTH ST | LONG BEACH 90803 | 562.439.0809