East Coast vs. West Coast Burger Throw Down. In-N-Out Burger vs. Five Guys Burgers and Fries

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

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

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

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.

Winner: Five Guys Burgers and Fries

21 Responses

  1. Tyrale Says:
    August 25th, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    I would have to agree, but only by a slim margin.

    Neither burger really stands out as the overall leader of all burgers. The both of them are more of a solid, reliable burger, than the best burger around.

  2. jesse Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 4:08 am

    I completely agree. I don’t think either stack up to what you can get at a sit down that specializes in Burgers, somewhere like Kuma’s Corner here in Chicago.

  3. Steve Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    I moved to California and was excited to try In-and-Out, but once I tried it I couldn’t figure out what all the hype was about…small burgers and the fries were just OK. I tried my first Five Guy’s burger in VA and have been hooked ever sense. It’s quality is heads and tails above In-and-Out, besides the fact that you get so much food for the money at Five Guys. The fries are particularly fantastic.

  4. shorepound Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 6:04 am

    Man what a tough call. In N Out was my all time favorite burger for a long time. Five Guys is really good. In fact I might treat myself to one for lunch today. Thanks for the inspiration. Anyhow, the Billy Goat Tavern in downtown Chicago pwns. Best pickles ever!!!!

  5. Jesse Lynch Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 6:46 am

    I work right by the Billy Goat and I’ve never had one of their burgers. I’ll have to check them out soon. Thanks for the comment.

  6. Roger Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    I think Five Guys is far and away better. I think it comes down to the patty size being bigger at FG resulting in a juicier, better tasting burger and I prefer the larger fresh cut fries, and larger quantity by the way, of Five Guys.

  7. Paul Lynch Says:
    August 28th, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Burger vs. Burger-Love ‘em both but Five guys fries are what makes me enjoy the overall “experience” of Five guys better. I grew up on peanut oil french fries in a paper bag and that’s what I prefer now. However, In and Out French Fries are good. I’d like to see a french fry challenge on here!

  8. Cas Ruffin Says:
    October 20th, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Hey Jesse,

    We also reviewed Five Guys on our blog. You can check it out here: http://steelcloset.com/2009/09/03/in-the-shadow-of-mount-doom-steel-closet-five-guys-burger/ .

    While I think presentation and sloppiness is negligible, what your comparison is missing is price. Even if Five Guys did taste better than In-N-Out, the high price is a non-starter for some. It’s a non-starter for most in California. And if it really cost that much for Five Guys, most folks I know would just opt for a local hot spot or a non-chain restaurant.

  9. Jesse Says:
    October 20th, 2009 at 9:06 am

    Hi Cas, I agree with you. I definitely missed the price comparison, and will admit that In-N-Out was almost half the price of Five Guys.

    Truthfully, I was surprised with the out come. I’m an In-N-Out fan, but in the categories I looked at, Five Guys was just better. But neither really compete with some of the high end burger places you can find in most big cities these days. We’ve got a couple of really great ones here in Chicago like The Counter and Kuma’s Korner.

  10. Raiders757 Says:
    October 20th, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Great review! I do have to ask. Wouldn’t it be better to compare burgers head to head with the same exact toppings on them? Not only that, but with a bare minimum as well?

    The real key ingredients of a cheeseburger, are the bun, cheese, and meat. The best way to compare two versions, are with only those ingredients. Still, from the description, it seems like Five Guys would still win.

  11. Cas Ruffin Says:
    October 20th, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Yeah I heard The Counter was really good. We have a couple here in California, but I have yet to try it. We have this place called Barney’s. If you ever make the trek out here again, I highly suggest Barney’s Burgers.

  12. Jesse Says:
    October 21st, 2009 at 6:21 am

    Hey Cas, I’ll actually be in the Bay Area next month for a week. Do they have Barney’s there?

  13. Pete Says:
    February 24th, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    How is it that the aluminum foil keeps the five guys burger warm? Metal is a conductor, not an insulator. The paper wrapping that an In and Out Burger comes in is better able to accomplis that.

  14. Jesse Says:
    February 24th, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    OK Mister Science Guy. Tell me why pizza delivery bags are coated in aluminum foil. Is that to conducted electricity from your pizza? Or to keep them warm?

  15. Bill Says:
    April 5th, 2010 at 7:02 am

    I’ve never had an In and Out burger but having watched Five Guys grow from one location in Arlington Virginia to a national chain I can honestly say that with some of the franchises it is hit or miss on the quality.

  16. Greg Says:
    April 18th, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    I’ve had them both and I still prefer Culver’s over these two. Five Guys is too expensive and gives you way too many fries. Since they don’t keep well, many are thrown out.

  17. jay Says:
    April 22nd, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I’m late to this burger party, but no way is a Five Guys burger better than In-and-Out! I’ve tried three different Five Guys in Virginia and tons of In-and-Outs. In-and-Out fries are lousy and Five Guys fries are heaven, but, for me, the In-and-Out burger smacks Five Guys. You didn’t mention in-shell peanuts, a real plus for Five Guys while you wait. One thing is clear, the people eating at an In-and-Out are generally better looking than the Five Guys crowd…especially in the winter. Even more so when I’m at a Five Guys.

    Being from Chicago, you probably like the Italian Beef from Jay’s or Portillo’s. You should know that, according to west coast legend, the French Dipped (of which Italian Beef is a spicy descendant) was invented at Philippe’s in LA in 1918. You should try it.

  18. How to Live in a Big City on a Small-Town Budget « twitter-1k.com Says:
    November 4th, 2010 at 7:30 am

    [...] East Coast vs. West Coast Burger Throw Down. In-N-Out Burger vs. Five Guys Burgers and Fries [...]

  19. de Says:
    November 5th, 2010 at 7:21 am

    Disagree. 5 Guys fries are undercooked and soggy, and the place is so noisy because of their set up I can’t stand to eat in. In and Out has much faster and more pleasant service, as well.

  20. Joe D. Says:
    March 6th, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Haven’t been to an In and Out as there doesn’t appear to any here in southwest Ohio. Went to 5 Guys once and will never go bqck. Average burger, overpriced, worst fries I’ve ever had, dirty restaurant, extremely noisy. Basically everything I don’t like in one place. Can’t figure out what all the buzz is about this place. Red Robin and Fuddruckers are far superior.

  21. Sarkmonster Says:
    June 2nd, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Try eating In & Out on a semi regular basis for a few months and do the same for 5 Guys. Then starve yourself of hamburgers for a few weeks. The next time a burger craving hits you, you’ll be at In & Out without a second thought. Ask most people who grew up in Southern California what food they ate first after returning to the country from a long trip. In & Out wins by a landslide. I’m talking about what FOOD they miss, not just what burger they’ve missed. I’ve had both burgers and there’s no way the flavor of the 5 guys burger can match an In & Out burger. 5 Guys will win out on the bells and whistles with their toppings and generous amount of fries, but if you’re comparing the TASTE of their 2 burgers, then there is no comparison.

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