By Jesse | August 24, 2009
The burger has made a come back over the last few years, and some fast food chains are getting back to the basics. Two acclaimed chains that had been isolating themselves to the coast are leaders in the burger and fry revival, In-N-Out Burger and Five Guys Burger and Fries. Both focus their menus’ almost exclusively on burgers and homemade fresh fries.
Fast food reviewed had the chance to do a direct comparison of the two coastal titans with back-to-back visits to both chains, first at Five Guys, which has recently expanded to Chicago, then the next day at In-N-Out Burger in Reno, NV.
While Five Guys has expanded nationally, it began outside of Washington DC in Arlington VA, and only expanded out of the East in 2003. We got our first Five Guys in Chicago just last year. IN-N-Out Burger is still privately held and has not yet expanded beyond the West coast and is not likely to go much further in the near future.
Enough with the history, let’s get down to the food.
Round 1 – Presentation
High quality presentation by In-N-Out Burger. Nice little individual red tray/bowl thing, a perfectly wrapped burger, and fries in their own cardboard boat. Nice. Five Guys – a brown paper bag full of fries in a Styrofoam cup with an aluminum foil wrapped burger. Now if they just added a 40, we’d have our own homeless guy survival kit. I’m going to have to go with the one that at least makes me feel like a respectable human being. +1 In-N-Out Burger
Round 2 – Toppings
In-N-Out Burger has its “secret” menu, and I got my burger “animal style”, which just means it had onions, thousand island sauce, and a burger cooked in mustard. Five Guys has a full variety of extras you can get on your burger like bacon, jalapenos, BBQ sauce, onions, etc, without any pretentious West-coast secret password. +1 Five Guys
Round 3 – Nutrition
Who am I kidding? Both meals are horrible for you. I don’t even want to know how many calories I consumed on back-to-back burger runs. Draw
Round 4 – Fries
Both feature fresh, non-frozen French fries. Five Guys even has a sign letting customers know exactly where the potatoes you are eating come from. In-N-Out Burger’ss fries are soft, small, and golden in color. Five Guys‘ are large and brown with the peel still on. I would guess Five Guys give you four to five times as many fries. Taste: Five Guys wins in a landslide, crisper, meatier, and better seasoned. +1 Five Guys
Round 5 – Burgers
On to the final and most important round. In-N-Out Burger’s “animal style” Double Double was a meaty, tasty treat. My only complaint is that it was a bit on sloppy side, and started to fall apart like a poorly wrapped Chipotle burrito about half way through. There was an inch of lettuce on the burger, making it almost impossible to eat. The meat tasted like standard fast food beef, very similar to one of my long time favorites, the Culver’s Butter Burger. I could not taste the “mustard” flavoring in the burger.
As mentioned earlier, Five Guys‘ double burger came wrapped in aluminum foil, perfect for keeping it warm while on the go. Like In-N-Out Burger, this was a compact, tall burger, topped with a sesame seed bun. It came with build your own topping functionality, and mine was topped with bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, grilled onions and jalapenos. The meat was high quality and definitely a step above your usually fast food fare. Due to its height, it was still difficult to eat, but not nearly as sloppy as the Double Double from In-N-Out Burger.
While both burgers were excellent for fast food, I’ve got to give the edge to Five Guys. It just tasted like a higher quality product in spite of its initial shoddy appearance. +1 Five Guys
There you have it; East coast trounces West coast in a surprise route of the legendary fast food burger paradise. In spite of an almost mythical reputation, In-N-Out Burger just couldn’t “stack up” to Five Guys in terms of overall burger and fry taste and quality.