George W Bush famously had a preference for grilled cheese sandwiches made with sliced pan and processed singles while Trump eats McDonalds, KFC (with a knife and fork), and added further insult to Mexico by implying that a taco bowl bore a resemblance to actual Mexican food.
The Obamas meanwhile ate often in DC’s best restaurants, Michelle had her organic veg garden and encouraged healthy eating while Barack complained about the price of arugula in Whole Foods, slurped Bun Cha noodles with Anthony Bourdain in Hanoi and once asked for Dijon Mustard on a burger.
But like all of us the Obamas also loved a decent burger and early in his Presidency Obama was filmed visiting Five Guys Burgers to pick up take-out for himself and his staff.
Five Guys was opened recently in Dundrum Shopping Centre (backed by three of Dermot Desmond’s sons), and there are plans to open many more in the coming months, including one in Cork.
Five Guys is brightly lit with the feel of a diner crossed with a school cafeteria — the walls are decorated with quotes and endorsements from magazines and the floor has large sacks of (Lancashire Innovator) potatoes plus a bag of (excellent) monkey nuts to munch on while you figure out which of the 15 toppings you want on your burger or hot dog.
I opted for the little cheeseburger (€6.95) with lettuce, grilled onions, tomato, pickle, ketchup and mustard and the teenager opted for the larger bacon version (€9.95) plus one (enormous) regular fries, a salted caramel chocolate shake and a soda (Heineken and Bulmers are also available).
While we waited for our order I grappled with the Coke Freestyle machine’s 150 choices — my Coke-Orange Zero unsurprisingly tasted of both fanta and coke but my son’s milk-shake was by far the better choice, a kind of liquid caramel ice-cream.
This is not exactly diet food (although you can replace the bun with lettuce) but we were pleased by how easily the burgers slipped down.
Partly this is because they are soft (almost soggy) but at the time we didn’t actually mind as the meat is of decent standard, mid-digestion it felt like I’d eaten a brick.
The fries were crisp but lacked a fluffy character, as the skins were still attached.
Leaving the skin on fries may appear sophisticated but the chips sweat rather than fry so in order to get them crisp they need to be fried for longer, leading to a dry tasteless chip as was the case here.
Wow Burgers opened in 2015 and now has three branches —we visited their new branch beneath a faux traditional pub on Wicklow street.
Wow is closer in style to Five Guys than Bunsen with a similar menu and a large choice of toppings and has a 60’s diner feel but with access to a bar.
Wow’s burger (€5.95) was two beef patties of soft flavourful beef in a sweetish bun, richer in flavour than the Five Guys version and a lighter touch.
I opted for garlic butter fries which tasted good initially but soon the butter overwhelmed. The regular chips were better but also had their skins, so a good number were soggy and the rest were rather dry.
The Murphys was excellent but the strawberry shake was sweet and synthetic.
A quick word about the best burger in the country (I do not say this lightly) — Bunsen Burger. Bunsen’s menu offers craft beers and just burgers, cheeseburgers and three types of fries (go for hand-cut).
Crucially you can order your burger medium-rare, as the meat is freshly minced and comes from just one cow.
The fries are flawless.
The meat tastes sweet and beefy, the cheese oozes and the brioche-style bun is light and delicious and there to enhance the meat, not to compete with it.
So while I’m glad that gourmet burgers are on the wane and that burger-simplicité is back in vogue, Wow and Five Guys should strip it further and take the skin from the chips or we’ll report them to Trump as un-American.