Frankfurt’s new Five Guys may pull in the crowds. But it doesn’t do green sauce

American burger giant Five Guys attracted visitors from across the country when it opened its first German joint in Frankfurt last year. But The Local's Jörg Luyken noticed one gaping hole on its menu.

Frankfurt’s new Five Guys may pull in the crowds. But it doesn’t do green sauce
Photo: Jörg Luyken

When you step out of the Hauptwache station in central Frankfurt into one of the city’s main squares, you get why Five Guys chose it as the location for their first German restaurant.

The US burger giant, which has exploded in popularity in recent years, clearly seems to have selected the most American setting that Germany has to offer.

Customers who tuck into a burger and fries outside the fast food joint are doing so almost literally in the shadow of New York-style skyscrapers. Frankfurt isn’t nicknamed “Main-hatten” for nothing.

Five Guys opened their two German branches in Germany in December, with Essen being picked as the location for the second one.

Coming from Berlin, it was my first experience trying the burger famously compared by Barack Obama to the pyramids of Giza.

Without wanting to sound like a big city bragger, I think it's fair to say that Berlin has a rather impressive array of independent burger joints, where toppings like gorgonzola and serrano ham act as drool-inducing side kicks to a juicy beef patty.

So I was intrigued by Five Guy’s claim that there are 250,000 combination possibilities for their burgers. Surely this hyped American chain was going to blow anything Berlin had to offer out of the water.

Well, no.

Once I'd navigated my way through stacks of peanuts bags, I found a menu that offered almost no choice at all. There wasn’t even a perfunctory avocado slice to let me pretend I was being healthy.

How many people does it take to make a good burger? More than five guys. Photo: Jörg Luyken

I only had the option of a regular burger, a cheeseburger or one of those with bacon. I could then add any or all of salad leaves, gherkins, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and sauces such as ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard, which the menu proudly offered at no extra cost. To get to their figure of 250,000 combinations, Five Guys must employ a mathematician with a skill for conjuring numbers out of nowhere who puts even the dodgiest Frankfurt financier to shame.

I added a soft drink to my burger but no fries and was presented with a bill for €11.20.

The order was then passed on to a veritable army of kitchen staff, one of whom had the job of carrying out the patties, another flattened them, another put sauce on the buns, while a couple more bantered with the customers. 

Ultimately, I don't have any complaints about the burger itself. The two patties were satisfyingly succulent, even if the bun was as flavourless as one would expect from American baking.

SEE ALSO: How Germany's marvellous bread helped me overcome food anxiety

Left uninspired by the options at the newest addition to Frankfurt’s food scene, I decided to later seek refuge in a much more traditional offering – the city’s famous green sauce.

At Apfelwein DAX in the Sachsenhausen district, I was offered shade from the sweltering afternoon heat on a cool Hinterhof, where a table of pensioners were apparently well past their first glass of Apfelwein.

Green sauce and Apfelwein. Photo: Jörg Luyken

The cloudy cider-like drink has been brewed in the Frankfurt region since the 17th century and, with its alcohol content of between 5 and 7 percent, you already feel the benefits after a single glass.

To counteract the damaging impact of all that alcohol, I ordered some of the famous Frankfurt green sauce, which has reputed healing powers due to the seven “Frankfurt herbs” that are found inside it.

Green sauce contains parsley, cress, chives, sorrel, borage, pimpinella and chervil mixed with quark. It is traditionally served with boiled eggs and potatoes, but I ordered it with Tafelspitz – boiled veal. 

It was a little bit like eating the mush at the bottom of a glass of Pimms – the flavours are so mixed up that you can't quite put your finger on what you are eating, but you know it's delicious.

So if I have a piece of advice for Five Guys, it would be this: add a traditional Frankfurt sauce to your menu – it'll beat the 250,000 options you already offer.

READ ALSO: Will the German love affair with the gourmet burger ever end?

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Five of France’s new Michelin foodie hotspots

As Michelin publishes its 2022 guide, here are five of the most exciting new entries into the hallowed 'bible' of French gastronomy.

Five of France's new Michelin foodie hotspots

Here are five must-visit venues of gastronomic delight for food lovers.

READ ALSO New Michelin guide celebrates ‘resilient’ French cuisine

Plénitude – Paris

It’s only been open seven months, but the Paris restaurant – on the first floor of Cheval Blanc Paris – now has three stars, awarded to chef Arnaud Donckele in Cognac on Tuesday. Picking up three stars all at once is almost unheard of – only Yannick Alléno achieved the same feat in 2015 with the Pavillon Ledoyen in the 8th arrondissement.

Broths, vinaigrettes, creams, veloutés, juices are at the heart of the cuisine at Plénitude. A seasonal six-course Symphony Menu costs €395, while the Sail Away Together menu of three savoury dishes and one sweet is €320.

La Villa Madie – Cassis, Bouches-du-Rhône

Another new three-star venue listed in this year’s guide came as something of a surprise, by all accounts. Dimitri and Marielle Droisneau’s restaurant in the south of France overlooks the Mediterranean.

“We took this house nine years ago. We had a baby, we have a second one now. We live in the villa. We work in a paradise,” chef Dimitri said at the ceremony in Cognac.

The cuisine follows the seasons, and uses carefully selected local produce. As such, the menu changes daily according to what’s available. The Menu Anse de Corton – a starter, a fish course, a meat course, and a sweet treat – costs €130, while the six-course Menu Espasado “Cap Canaille” is €180.

Plaza Athénée – Paris

Top Chef series three winner Jean Imbert was one of a number of former contestants on the show to win a star for his restaurant in the palace le Plaza Athénée – with the jury praising his “impressive revival of the greatest classics of French gastronomy”.

Guillaume Pape – a finalist in series 10, also picked up his first star for  L’Ebrum, in Brest; as did series nine finalist Victor Mercier, for FIEF in the ninth arrondissement, honoured for producing “empowering cuisine, made exclusively using French produce”. Mercier was also named Young Chef of the Year.

The self-titled Menu de Jean at Plaza Athénée costs €296

Villa La Coste – Bouches-du-Rhône

Continuing the Top Chef theme, judge Hélène Darroze – who already runs the three-star Hélène Darroze at The Connaught in London – was awarded a star for her restaurant in the south of France, as was fellow-judge Philippe Etchebest for his latest venture in Bordeaux.

Local vegetables and fruit are the stars of the dining show at Villa La Coste, with meat and fish playing an accompanying role. A three-course lunch menu is €75, while a full dinner menu is €155.

Domaine Riberach: La Coopérative – Bélesta, Ariège 

One of six new restaurants to be awarded a Green Star for its seasonal food and it’s determined approach to ‘sustainable gastronomy’. This year’s six Green Star winners join 81 establishments which received the award last year in France.

“Slow food” is the order of the day, with menus created based – as is often the case – on the seasons, the market and chef Julien Montassié’s instinct. The chief rule is that food must be local – “0 km is our motto”, boasts the website.

The six-course Menu Latitude is €85 without wine. A three-course Menu Km0 is €49 – and a children’s two-course menu is €18.