It’s pretty difficult to walk in to the recently opened Boardwalk Fresh Burgers & Fries franchise on Colonial Drive and not think of Five Guys Burgers and Fries. I mean, besides that they both sell burgers and fries. It seems clear, at least to me, that Boardwalk is emulating the Five Guys style, even though a comparison of the two companies’ timelines would suggest Boardwalk has been around longer.
Boardwalk had burger franchises “coast to coast” in 1987, according to its website; Five Guys opened five locations (one for each guy?) between 1986 and 2001, all in the Washington, D.C., area. A closer look at Boardwalk’s story shows that after those “coast to coast” franchises opened in ’87, customers started asking for more than just burgers, so they added the fries. Sort of makes you wonder if the customers who asked for more said, “You know, like Five Guys.” Something else that makes me curious: Five Guys is out of D.C.; Boardwalk started in White Marsh, Maryland.
But never mind trying to figure out the chicken or the egg conundrum — or in this case, the burger or the fries — Boardwalk’s claim of coast to coast is accurate, but includes only a baker’s dozen of states, most with one or two locations. Five Guys has over 1,000 franchises in 47 states and six Canadian provinces. So someone is doing something right.
After tasting Boardwalk’s burger, I’d have to say it’s Five Guys.
Boardwalk’s burger is certainly impressive looking, at least at first glance. Just look at the picture here. The grilled onions, jalopeno slices, mushrooms, pickles, tomatoes and lettuce all look pretty good. My mouth is watering just looking at it again myself.
But take a closer look and see if you can spot the patty. Do you see it — just under the tomato, partially hidden by a hanging piece of lettuce? I’ve always felt that if you’re going to call something a burger, meat should be a major part of its makeup.
And that meat should be more flavorful than the burger I tasted. Ultimately, it was much less exciting than the sum of its parts.
The fries, on the other hand, were pretty darned good. In fact, if it came down to a fries-off between the two franchises, I’m not sure who would win. Boardwalk makes a claim the fries are hand-cut daily and never fried, a contention I am not going to dispute. They’re cooked in 100 percent peanut oil multiple times at different temperatures, the hottest being the final one upon ordering. Surprisingly nongreasy but with a very nice texture, soft but with the slightest crunch on the crust. I’m glad the chili and cheese I ordered to dump all over them came on the side, because the fries didn’t need much other than salt.
If I frequently had a craving for fries, I might stop in at Boardwalk often. I don’t. I do, however, crave a good burger more than infrequently. But I’m afraid Boardwalk’s burger will have to get better before I make that my go-to for burgers and fries.
Boardwalk Fresh Burgers & Fries is at 3162 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando (in what was formerly a Denny’s, if I remember properly). It’s open for lunch and dinner daily. Here’s a link to that website I was talking about. The phone number is 407-578-8608.