Gimme five! Five Guys and a table for two

Riddle me this: Where can you get a hamburger and hand-cut fries made to order in under seven minutes– and eat peanuts and throw the shells on the floor while you wait?

It's Five Guys burgers and fries in the Barracks Road Shopping Center. Although the new franchise operation has been in business in Charlottesville for only a year, plans are afoot for two simultaneous new openings: one on the Downtown Mall in the old SNL building and another one at Hollymead Town Center.

 Five Guys' sixth man in Charlottesville, Bill McKechnie, says things are on schedule for both places. "We're certainly not going to open before we're ready," says McKechnie, "but we're shooting for early spring."

In case you didn't know, the Five Guys are franchise owner Jerry Murrell and his four sons, who started the business 20 years ago in Northern Virginia. "They're still very much involved in day-to-day operations," says McKechnie, who jumped at the chance to own a store when the Murrells decided to franchise.

"It's a simple business model, really," he says, "though not always easy to execute."

McKechnie is modest about his success in Charlottesville: "Just use the best ingredients you can find, and prepare people a fresh meal in seven or eight minutes. It's not rocket science."

No, it's not rocket science, but some say it's good burger science!

But what about those peanuts? McKechnie thinks it reinforces the idea that it's about the food, not about the ambience. It's also a guilty pleasure.

"At first, people are always a little bit shy about throwing the shells on the floor," he says. "But they get comfortable with it pretty fast."


Standardsville shuffle

 On the upper end of the culinary scale, Dish wants to give a shout out to the Lafayette Inn in Stanardsville. Dish has had a soft spot for Stanardsville ever since our car broke down there in the middle of a dark winter night. A family took us in, warmed us by the fire, and gave us cookies and coffee while we waited for the wrecker.

Of course, an entirely different experience awaits diners who visit the Lafayette. The historic inn has been around since 1840, and new owners Alan and Kaye Pyles are maintaining the gracious traditions of the old place.

Besides southern favorites like shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, and homemade bread pudding with hot whiskey sauce (yeeehaw!), offerings include fancier stuff like Tournedos of beef in bleu cheese sauce.

However, one of the most interesting features of the Lafayette is a private dining special. For $85 a person, diners are seated in their own private candlelit area with all the attention focused on them. Talk about romantic!

There's only one private seating per night, and before ordering, the pair get to sample wines, appetizers, entrees, and desserts to help them make their choice. Apparently, there's a waiting list for this special experience, especially on weekends, so anyone planning to go should be sure to give the Lafayette a call and get on the list.


Crying in my soup

 Finally, Dish wants to apologize to new Revolutionary Soup owners Will Richey and Josh Zanoff. In a previous column ["Soup d'etat," November 17], Dish mistakenly claimed that Richey had been the wine guy at Etoile and that Zanoff graduated from the New England Culinary Institute. In fact, Richey worked at L'etoile, and Zanoff is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America.


Gimme five: Look for Five Guys burgers and fries on the Downtown Mall early next spring.< br>