Has there ever been so much hype revolving around one burger? Trust me when I say it affects me and it definitely affects you. 5 Napkin Burger opened with an incredible amount of fanfare. I’ve never been asked by so many random people if I had been and what I thought of it. The bloggers, the media, and general burger lovers everywhere were coming out of the woodwork for this one, and for the vast majority all were signing praises to the Burger Gods. It’s humorous to me me how predictable people are; all I’ve been hearing are great things about 5 Napkin, if I write a favorable review I get nothing but confirmation, if my review is less than generous I’ll hear all about how overrated it is. The average blogger will go immediately when the restaurant opens just so they can say that they went. The problem is they don’t know if it’s any good or not, they just think it’s supposed to be great, hence all the buzz that follows. Here’s what I know: 5 Napkin makes a good burger, but it’s flawed, and something billed as the greatest before most have even been makes it more of a flaw. Phew.
5 Napkin tries its hardest to make the best burger they can, don’t get me wrong, the creativity and the planning does not go unnoticed. But ultimately the individual components are better than the complete package. It’s like when you have different sets of friends who’ve never met. Then you decide it’s time for them to all meet each other and hang out. The problem is one friend (gruyere) has a such a strong personality they just take over everything and don’t give anyone else the chance to get a word in. There was a ton of rosemary aioli on the burger, a substantial amount of caramelized onions, all strong flavors on their own, but they just get completely drawn out by the big bully that is Gruyere Cheese. It was bound to happen, too many competing flavors that don’t make any sense together. One night it was gruyere, another night it was the aioli, but it kept happening. The beef is consistently cooked per requested temperature, but lacks any real personality of its own. They must be under the theory that great toppings and condiments make a great burger. We all know I’m the opposite way, and the beef has to be a major, if not the major flavor profile of a burger. In this case, the meat is almost an afterthought, it’s not bad, it’s just not special, and when there’s this much hype around a burger, I expect the beef to be sublime.
The bun, however, is excellent. It’s a soft and pillowy cushion for a burger that is juicy, but five Napkin worthy? Not a chance. Maybe I’m taking it too literal, but if the implication is that the burger is so juicy you’ll need five napkins to clean up, you may be sorely disappointed. The fries are good enough, maybe needing a little more pop for the $3.25 a la carte price and a very small portion at that. Overall it’s basically a $14 burger and fry combo. Upgrade to Onion Rings or Tater Tots (how that’s an upgrade remains to be seen) and it’ll cost you another dollar. The Tater Tots, another product of unnecessary hype; are pretty awful, more like very pasty mashed potatoes that have been fried but don’t have a trace of seasoning. I long for the days of frozen tater tots you could say. Overall the service was good and very attentive, but I’ve heard stories on the contrary. I have had two very similar experiences food and service-wise, but others have not. Don’t get me wrong; I love gruyere, I just found it too aggressive on this burger. The caramelized onions were tasty, but got lost in the mix. The rosemary aioli is unique and delicious, but can either get lost in the shuffle or be overwhelming on a separate visit. As always, I encourage you to check out 5 Napkin Burger for yourself, just because I’m not in love, or another review says it’s phenomenal, only you can make that decision. Don’t let the influence and the hype affect your taste buds.
Overall Score: 79