Summer, more than any other season, engenders a craving for fried food. And what better way to satisfy that craving than with crunchy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside sticks of deep-fried potato?
This installment of our "Best of Summer" series focuses on French fries. About 750 readers voted on their favorite place to get them, and here -- drum roll, please -- is the winner.
The place: Five Guys Burgers and Fries, with locations at 534 Post Road E., Westport; 1221 High Ridge Road, Stamford; 121 Federal Road, Brookfield; 340 Grasmere Ave., Fairfield; 420 Westport Ave., Norwalk; 823 Bridgeport Ave., Shelton.
The history: Founded in 1986 by husband-and-wife team Jerry and Janie Murrell, Five Guys (named for the couple's five sons) has grown from a modest, carry-out burger joint into one of America's fastest-growing restaurant chains. So far, 20 Five Guys locations have opened in Connecticut (six of them in Fairfield County) and more are on the way. Five Guys owes its success to its simplicity: They only make a few things, but they make those things exceptionally well.
The vibe: It's a chain, yes, but Five Guys eschews the fast-food stereotype. It has the look and feel of a classic burger joint: The walls are adorned with white-and-red tiles, the kitchen is open for everyone to see and the employees actually go out of their way to ask you about your day. Bags of potatoes are stacked up in the middle of the floor, waiting to be cut into Five Guys' outrageously delicious French fries (more on that soon).
The crowd: What self-respecting carnivore doesn't eat at a Five Guys?
The fries: The burgers -- fresh, made-to-order and piled high with your choice of 15 toppings -- have always been the star of the Five Guys menu. But the hand-cut fries are ... oh man, the fries are so freakin' good. After years of eating them, I'm still trying to figure out which addictive substance has been sprinkled in with the salt. Cooked in 100 percent peanut oil, Five Guys' massive fries are salt-studded and greasy, with a delicate, crispy crust that gives way to a soft, creamy potato inside. (I order them with cajun seasoning.) Thankfully, Five Guys doesn't skimp on servings. The fries are loaded into disposable cups, and then, even more fries are dumped into your to-go bag. The result is the most satisfying bottom-of-the-bag French fry experience you'll ever have.
You should also try: Duh, the burgers.
Bonus: Self-serve bulk peanuts scooped from large buckets to tide you over.
Second place: Super Duper Weenie, 306 Black Rock Turnpike, Fairfield
Third place: The Sycamore Drive-In Restaurant, 282 Greenwood Ave., Bethel
Other top vote-getters: Danny's Drive-In, 940 Ferry Blvd., Stratford; Rawley's Drive-In, 1886 Post Road, Fairfield; Shake Shack, 1849 Post Road E., Westport; Plan B Burger Bar, 230 Tresser Blvd., Stamford, and 1638 Boston Post Road, Milford; Barnum Publick House, 1020 Broad St., Bridgeport.
Up next: Vote on your favorite place to get Italian ice in southwestern Connecticut. Visit blog.ctnews.com/culturecache.
Scott.email@example.com; Twitter: @scottgarg