I had the opportunity to visit San Diego recently and immediately knew my goals for the week would include a trip to IN-N-OUT burger a West coast institution since 1948 (and now in Texas). Enjoying my Double Double Animal Style the inevitable comparisons to an East Coast chain which is quickly expanding West began to take shape. Five Guys has expanded to over 750 locations since opening their first location in Virginia in 1986 and has taken a lesson from the In-N-Out business model to focus on doing more with less. With only a handful of menu items each focuses on serving up hand crafted burgers made from choice ingredients.
East Coast Vs. West Coast which has the superior burger? Let’s start with the beef since all great burgers start with the patty.
|In-N-Out Vs Five Guys|
In-N-Out: burger is smaller and made from ground chuck produced in their own facilities and shipped fresh never frozen which limits their ability to expand. The patty is small so I suggest the getting the double and being small the patties cook quick so you miss that griddled flavor from the flat top.
Five Guys: the patties are larger around 3oz each pattied in store and blended for Five Guys from ground beef, chuck, and sirloin. The basic burger here comes with 2 patties so order the little burger if your opposed to all that meaty goodness. You get a lot of beef flavor from these burgers but they are under seasoned for my taste but nothing a little S&P can’t fix. Five Guys takes the smash burger approach to cooking which creates a good sear on the beef.
The verdict: Five Guys takes the top spot here with larger portions and great flavor.
Hard to get excited about a bun but with all of these toppings a good bun is important to keep the integrity of the burger.
In-N-Out: Typical soft white bun but the kicker here is how well the bun is toasted. Both sides of the bun are toasted face down but still maintain a soft chewy texture while holding in all that burger goodness.
Five Guys: The bun here is a larger sesame seed bun that is lightly toasted. The bun here does hold up to the toppings and steams itself in the foil wrapper.
The verdict: I prefer the soft toasty bun from In-N-Out.
The toppings can make or break a great burger from the basic sauce to the all important cheeses.
In-N-Out: your basic assortment here with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, chilis, special sauce, ketchup, mustard, and basic American cheese. The key here is how you order your burger’s toppings. See there is much talk about their not so secret menu where you can customize your burger. Animal style includes lettuce, tomato, extra special sauce, grilled chopped onions, extra pickles, and mustard grilled!
Five Guys: with 16 toppings you can get pretty customized here from the basics to mushrooms, jalapenos, and A-1 sauce. Cheese is you basic yellow American. “All the way” includes ketchup, mustard, mayo, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions, and mushrooms.
The verdict: Five Guys with a great assortment is my choice here.
The In-N-Out burger consistently delivers on expectations with a great balance of meat, cheese, bun, and toppings. The cheese here envelopes the meat melted to a gooey cheesy overload and given the limited locations and proximity to NWA you always appreciate it that much more. The shoe string fries are cut in house and fried in vegetable oil. You can request your fries to be cooked well for an extra crispy texture if you prefer. You certainly won’t break the bank here with combo meals averaging less than $6.
While Five Guys certainly does not share the same pedigree or loyal fervor as In-N-Out they do produce great burgers and fries. The burgers with your choice of toppings are very satisfying and the fresh cut fries Cajun and original rock the house. Here the burger alone will set you back $5-$6 with a total ticket around $10.
All things considered my vote for best burger……..Five Guys.
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