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Five Guys vs. In-N-Out

I live in New Jersey and recently Five Guys started opening franchises here. In my opinion they make the best fast food burger in the area. White Rose is very good as well, but really a different type of burger. Five Guys uses fresh beef, and although well done, the burgers are juicy, fresh, and delicious. The fries are excellent as well, fresh cut and fried twice in peanut oil.

Many people have said that Five Guys is to the East Coast what In-N-Out is to the West Coast. I've never been to an In-N-Out, so I can't make a comparison. I have read a lot of comments on various food forums comparing the 2, and as you can imagine, opinions vary greatly. It seems that slightly more people who've had both prefer In-N-Out though a lot of people prefer Five Guys and say there is no comparison. Jason Perlow of Off The Broiler, whose opinions I respect, prefers Five Guys.

Those of you who have been to both places, which do you like better?

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  1. I prefer In N Out to Five Guys. I like my burgers with lettuce, tomato and onion and the produce out here in CA is markedly better than what I've had in the Five Guys I've eaten in. That helps. I also think the buns at In N Out are better. I'm not sure I think there's a lot of difference in the meat itself though I've found Five Guys to be a bit dryer, comparatively speaking, which I don't prefer. I can see how the Five Guys toppings list would be attractive for those who like more variety on their burgers. I don't have a lot of love for the fries at either place.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ccbweb

      I'm still waiting to try Five Guys since it's not really conveniently located to me, but IMHO In-N-Out is great for what it is; a fast food burger. The burger is high quality, "pretty," tastes fresh, and be customized within reason. I don't think it deserves the accolades it receives as THE ONLY PLACE you can eat a (fast food) burger. Honestly I'd do just fine at Tommy's or Fatburger.

      But if your wandering the streets in a hungry haze and you spot that yellow arrow go ahead and stop on in. You'll be happy and leave with a grin.

      Now the fries...well that's a whole nother thread...

      1. re: ReelMike84

        What's unique about the In-N-Out burgers is that they aren't pre-made frozen patties. They start with freshly-ground beef every day. My only real objection to the place is the perpetually looooooong lines.

        1. re: Will Owen

          At 5 guys, we don't use frozen patties. (i'm an employee at 5 guys). Every morning, we show up at 7am and prep. we prep our patties from ground beef, we break apart heads of lettuce, we cut tomatoes, we do everything you could imagine! our food is only the freshest.

    2. I think In-n-Out is a tad overrated, but it's far superior to Five Guys. I'd really love to like the latter, given that I can't take five steps in any direction without hitting a franchise here in D.C., but it just isn't very good. (Bring in Culver's!)

      4 Replies
      1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

        I agree that I-n-O is superior to 5 Guys. But I'm not sure Culver's burgers per se are much better if any than 5 Guys. However Culvers has many other items on the menu that are good, and overall if I had to choose to have one or the other nearby I'd go with Culvers (interesting these are three chains we're comparing here that have absolutely no geographical overlap whatsoever, not yet anyway AFAIK).

        I would say, tho, that Culvers cheese curds are, surprisingly, much inferior to A&W's. Their chili cheese fries are better however.

        Admittedly my basis of comparison for 5 Guys is the original location on King St. in Alexandria Va. While the franchise locations may not be as good, my limited experience with them has not been as bad as others have reported on CH.

        1. re: johnb

          5 Guys has now made out to the West Coast. There are two in the Los Angeles area now. Can't wait to try it to do the full comparison! I do like In-n-Out better than Culver's though.

          1. re: chris1621

            My most recent stop at Culvers, a new location in Kentucky, was somewhat disappointing. Hardly any butter on the bun and not much flavor in general. I will admit, however, that was just a few days after I had a butterburger in the inner sanctum of butterburgers, Solly's in Milwaukee, so it's a tough comparison.

        2. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

          five guys is pretty good, but cannot compare to in n out. it's an impossibility.

        3. Five Guys is far and away the better of the two. I still don't understand the hype surrounding In-n-Out, the burger wasn't much better than what you could get at Wendy's. Maybe the location I visited out there wasn't up to snuff, but I was really disappointed after hearing people rave about it. Five Guys always serves up a massive, hot, juicy sandwich with anything I want on it and I couldn't ask for much more than that.

          1 Reply
          1. re: coasterphil

            You prefer 5 Guys. From your handle I take it you're a coaster fan. Interesting if true, since the biggest proponent (hypemeister??) and lover of In-N-Out on these boards is Joe H who is in the roller coaster business. There must be some basic unifying yin-yang factor going on there

          2. I think they're so different in their approach that it's hard to compare the two. They both use fresh beef and cut their own fries from potatoes, but that's where the comparisons end to me.

            One, In-N-Out, has a very bare menu. Five Guys has much more ingredients to work with.

            I definitely prefer the fries at Five Guys, though. I'd take either burger, just depending on my mood.

            12 Replies
            1. re: alliebear

              In-N-Out actually has a very extensive menu, much more than 5 Guys, but it's not posted in the stores. Most I-N-O enthusiasts are familiar with at least some of it, particularly "animal style" which is one of their most popular items even tho it never appears on the menu AFAIK.

              The company's website makes mention of a few of the "secret" items (really variations), but skips most of them. Here is a link to Wikipedia's description. If you do a google you will find dozens more.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-N-Out...

              They have recently officially stopped making burgers larger than 4x4, but it is said it can still be done.

              1. re: johnb

                In-n-Out "Unlisted" ingredients consist of mustard, pickles and yellow peppers, hardly extensive.

                { "Listed" ingredients are bread, meat,cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions: raw and grilled, and sauce}

                Yes, the menu is is a varying combination of said ingredients (as it is everywhere- ever listen to people order at Starbucks?)

                Animal style burgers and animal fries are not listed on the menu.

                The menu is:
                Single, Cheeseburger, Double, Double Double
                Fries (one size)
                Fountain beverages
                Shakes (chocolate,vanilla or strawberry- or a combination thereof)

                The "combinations" listed on the menu are not any cheaper than buying individual items listed.

                1. re: Cathy

                  The point related to the previous poster's assertion that 5 Guys had a more extensive menu than I-N-O. This is wrong when the extra variations available are considered. It seemed to me that the poster had no knowledge of the "secret" menu, so some description of it was warranted. I might add that I am thoroughly familiar with 5G and what they sell, having been a long term resident of the DC area where they originated and even having arranged many forays to the original pre-franchise 5 Guys with my co-workers in the old days. I-N-O has institutionalized a wide variety of variations, and 5G, tho they do have a few more toppings available than I-N-O, does not do so unless things have changed recently.

                  I'm not going to get into the arguments about which is better, nor whether 5G has gone downhill with the franchise program (I-N-O is 100% company owned--no franchises). 5G does make a good burger, and does offer free shell peanuts while you're waiting for your order, which is nice. They are very good quality peanuts.

                  It is not a question of how extensive the ingredients list is--IMO what matters is the variety of ways the ingredients can be put together, not to mention how things can be toasted or not, which does make a big difference IMO. Nobody expects 100 distinct menu items in a burger place after all.

                  Nowhere did I or anyone claim that ordering combinations on or off the menu brought any economies.

                  1. re: johnb

                    What I meant was not the different variations of the same few ingredients. I am aware of all the different ways to order at In-N-Out, but there are things they don't offer that you can find at Five Guys. Five Guys has free peanuts, plus way more toppings and condiments for their burgers. Not saying that makes one better, just that it makes them very different in my opinion.

                  2. re: Cathy

                    You are missing some other things off the menu, I keep it a secret though.

                      1. re: alliebear

                        I think I listed everything in the store. It's just combinations of those items...

                2. re: alliebear

                  THE ESSENTIALS OF A CHEESEBURGER

                  1) THE BUN
                  -FIVE GUYS: soft and soggy bread (maybe because of the foil wrapping?)
                  -In-N-Out: buttered and toasted on one side, soft and fluffy on the other

                  2) THE MEAT
                  -FIVE GUYS: HUGE! Lean, well done and hand pressed. Tasty. It's rather breakable and somewhat dry and over powers. Unbalanced. BUT I'm sure there are people that love that about these burgers.
                  -In-N-Out: SMALLER. Less lean and more juicy. More balanced.

                  3) THE CHEESE
                  -FIVE GUYS: Cheese is nice and melted all over the place. It tastes good. It seems to have a less milky and slightly higher water content though. Like "American Cheese".
                  -In-N-Out: Cheese is nice and melted all over the place. It tastes good. A bit sharper tasting. It seems to have a more milky taste or sharpness. I can't explain it but it can stand alone and on it's own.

                  4) PRODUCE
                  -FIVE GUYS: A bunch of different options. You can even get "everything" (Mayo, Lettuce, Pickles, Tomatoes, Grilled Onions, Grilled Mushrooms, Ketchup and Mustard) or "all the way" (Relish, Onions, Jalapeno peppers, Green peppers, A.1. Sauce, Bar-B-Q Sauce and hot Sauce)
                  I had the "everything". Tomato was bland, Pickles packed a sour punch, I didn't notice the Onions, grilled Mushrooms took over the produce section. It seems that there were a bunch of items that didn't really add to the burger.
                  -In-N-Out: The basics, Lettuce Tomato and Onions (fresh or grilled). It seems to me that each one of these items are really good quality in that they can stand on their own. You actually taste each item in your mouth.

                  5) CONDIMENTS
                  -FIVE GUYS: You can get an array of sauces from the basics of Ketchup and Mustard to A.1. Sauce Bar-B-Q Sauce and Hot Sauce. I only had the Ketchup and Mustard on my burger and it tasted good.
                  -In-N-Out: They do that "thousand island" type sauce or is it called "russian dressing"? I don't know what they actually call it at In-N-Out. It's amazingly good. Sounds nasty but tastes good. That's another item that stands on it's own. It's tangy yet it doesn't over power the rest of the items. I've had that sauce in other sandwiches and burgers and many times it can overpower everything. I guess some people like it that way though. If that's what you like, you won't find it at In-N-Out.

                  THE DECISION:
                  These places are servicing two totally different appetites, taste buds and ideas. They can not be compared to each other at all.

                  On one hand you have certain people that go crazy for HUGE burgers with mounds of toppings. FIVE GUYS kills when it comes to that. They honestly do. But it's not unique. The meat patties burgers from the commercial chain FATBURGER are also HUGE and cooked well done as well.
                  The only difference there is that FIVE GUYS offers an array of toppings where FATBURGER doesn't. I'm totally down with HUGE burgers too...sometimes. Other times they can be rather annoying trying to get a good bit in so that I can taste all aspects of the buger at once. In-N-Out seems to fit my mouth just right. I can actually get everything item in the burger in my mouth at once.

                  As far as the produce goes, it was a no brainer to me. In-N-Out has better tasting produce. Each item can truly stand alone. For example, I could use that crispy iceberg lettuce in a salad. I would use their juicy tomatoes in the salad too. The FIVE GUYS stuff was cool but not as flavorful. Or some of the items i.e. the Pickles and Grilled Mushrooms just over powered every other produce item. The tomato didn't have much taste which is one of the main items I think in a hamburger.

                  The Cheeses at both places are good. Though because of all the toppings I had on my FIVE GUYS, the cheese was not a stand out but was like a tag-along item hanging out in the background which was hardly noticed unless I made an effort to look for it. I think they should use a sharper more rich tasting cheese if they are going to add so much toppings onto the burgers. That would be freaking awesome! The cheese at In-N-Out is nice and rich but is not so sharp that it overpowers anything. It's just and stands on it's own. I would use their cheese for a grilled cheese or even mac 'n cheese. Seriously.

                  As for the condiments sauces, In-N-Out puts a basic relish type russian dressing style thousand island thing on theirs. It really adds a certain tang to the burger that is unmatched. FIVE GUYS adds ketchup mustard and gives you other options (BBQ, hot sauce and A.1.) which IMHO, are really strong additions that once again add to overpowering the rest of the condiments, produce etc. The only thing that isn't overpowered is the hamburger meat itself. That things stands alone and pretty much all by itself.

                  The bun. Here is the final blow. I'm not sure why but I'm guessing it's the foil wrapping that FIVE GUYS burgers all come in. I think the moisture from the hot burger being wrapped up makes the bread-bun soggy. Or it could also be because of all the mounds of produce they put on the burgers or a combination of both. Well, once it's soggy, it pretty much melds into the rest of the burger. It literally become part of the burger. It gets lost in the crowd. It doesn't have a flavor of it's own. The texture is gone. The characteristics of the hamburger gets thrown into a melting pot.
                  On the other hand, In-N-Out burger buns are have a hint of butter to the top toasted side. You can still feel and taste the toasted buttery bottom portion of the bun when you bite into it. The bottoms buns are even toasty too. While toasty from being grilled, the bready insides are still very soft. Those buns hold their own.

                  While FIVE GUYS has a "WOW" factor from it being visually appealing and having the ability to essentially build your burger even bigger than it already comes. Yes, it is pretty dang amazing when you open up that foil and see this big huge mess of a burger before your eyes. It also has one of those non-pretentious feels to it which I think attracts a certain crowd which is the same "WOW" crowd as well.

                  In-N-Out looks plain. It looks like it doesn't really have too much going for it actually. You take one look at it and think, "Dude, that's all? I need to order two!" or "I should have gone to that place that serves burgers and gyros!" BUT once you sink your teeth into it and allow the burger to dance on your tongue...you go into shock realizing that you're actually tasting each item intensely. It's a one of those, don't judge a book by it's cover burgers.

                  If you just want to be satisfied and you're into a balanced taste and quality of each item, truly In-N-Out wins. But if you want to get full and you're into the "WOW" factor and don't really mind an unbalanced collage of flavors, FIVE GUYS is it! They are BOTH good burgers but are unable to be placed side by side. INHO, they are doing two different burgers altogether. Just because they got some meat and veggies and cheese pressed between two pieces of bread doesn't mean they are actually trying to do the exact same thing. I don't think they are. I think one can enjoy both burgers depending on one's mood.

                  1. re: Frexitarian

                    FWIW, In N Out calls their condiment "spread." I think it is Thousand Island, but many purists will tell you it is different. I think it is a california thing. Lots of restaurants use it on their burgers out there, but I haven't found places using it anywhere else in the country except for on the Big Mac (which also uses a different variation of 1k island).

                    1. re: Frexitarian

                      great review.

                      You are right about In-N-Out having very fresh toppings and their buns are incredible. I hate those pasty fast food buns that are so common.

                      I can't stand their fries though. But that is ok, I'm not a huge fries fan anyway. I like them when they are perfect but anything else and I don't bother.

                      1. re: Frexitarian

                        I had occasion to try INO on a recent trip out west. It was, well, underwhelming.

                        You are right that comparing the two isn't really right. It's like comparing delicious with macintosh apples. Ya they're both apples but saying one is better than the other is not a good comparison.

                        Now, I disagree with your bun and cheese analysis. I found neither to be anything more than what 5G has to offer.

                        As for balance of flavours I tend to go for beef taste with the rest of the stuff accenting it.

                        I much better like 5G.

                        DT

                        1. re: Frexitarian

                          I read you review, very nicely done btw, but in 'almost' every instance I kept scratching my head and wondering if you got the two mixed up.

                          1) The Bun
                          FG: Bun is almost perfect, nice, a little dense due to the egg and slightly sweet but good flavor
                          INO: wonder bread like, flavorless and too light, seems like the cheapest bun you can buy

                          2) Meat
                          FG: Thick, fresh, lean, very strong beef flavor - mmmmmm good
                          INO: Thin, very salty, fatty, bland tasting except for saltiness

                          3) Cheese
                          FG: Melted, nice quality with good flavor, one of the better Swiss cheeses and of course different choices
                          INO: Yuck, pasty, coats your mouth, cross between Velveeta and cheddar flavor, not something I would want to eat again. No choices except pasty yellow cheese or nothing.

                          4) Produce
                          FG - Lots of choices all about average quality
                          INO - Basics but very good quality and fresh.

                          5) Condiments
                          FG - Again lots of choices all of them good.
                          INO - 1000 island with extra pickle relish - the extra relish seems to overpower what little taste the meat has but it does compliment the produce rather well.

                          6)Fries
                          FG - Larger, cooked crisp in peanut oil, and you can get them Cajun style but eat them while they are warm and
                          INO - Smaller, usually limp and greasy, even cooking them extra crispy doesn't help much, plus you have a bout a 2 minute window to consume them after that they seem disgusting.

                          The Decision:
                          The meat, bun, toppings, cheese, fries and condiments are all better at 5G while INO wins in produce and price. If you want a good burger that highlights the meat and you can choose to top how you want and don't mind spending some $$ than FG wins hands down. If you want a burger that tastes mostly of sauce and produce with not much meat flavor, except salt and you don't have much money INO is the place to go.

                          SIDEBAR: When I lived in California we used to do blind taste tests on a regular basis and one time we did fast food hamburgers. There were many people who were INO aficionados there that claimed it would win hands down. It didn't, in actuality INO placed in the bottom half each time we did a blind taste test. (A interesting comment from one of the tasters hat loved INO, he identified the burger as INO but said we were pulling a fast one on him and had removed the meat, we hadn't.) I also did a sneaky thing on some relatives from Europe, they had heard that INO was the best burgers in the world and wanted to try it so I bought some INO and Carl's Jr. burgers on the way over to meet them but switched the wrappers. Guess which one they loved - the one in the INO wrapper. My conclusion from that is INO is mostly about low price and hype.

                      2. Just to sum up...the toppings differences are:
                        Five Guys has the following that In N Out doesn't:
                        Relish
                        Sauteed Mushrooms
                        A-1 Sauce
                        BBQ Sauce
                        Green Peppers
                        Hot Sauce
                        Jalapeno peppers

                        In N Out has:
                        their "spread" - which is basically a thousand islands sort of thing and
                        "chili peppers"

                        Both have:
                        lettuce
                        tomato
                        onion (cooked and raw)
                        pickles
                        cheese
                        ketchup
                        mustard (you can get it cooked into the bun at In N Out)

                        Five Guys also has bacon and hot dogs.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: ccbweb

                          Five Guys has more selections, even veggie hotdogs and burgers. I prefer In N Out for the food, though. Maybe I'm remembering incorrectly, but the meat for the single at In N Out is bigger and tastier. French fries are thinner cut and Five Guys (this might be a reflection of the franchises) have been thicker w/ skin AND often undercooked so mushy. Five Guys gives you far more fries than one person can eat--our family gets them and still have leftovers. With all the variations on Five Guys, it's easy to overwhelm the burger and it's hard to order. I wish they'd let you input what you want yourself because if you order several burgers, it can take a long time. Oh, and Five Guys doesn't have the shakes which is a big selling point for In N Out.

                          1. re: ccbweb

                            My daughter LOVES 5 Guys hotdogs, FWIW. Someone mentioned that the buns are too bready at 5 Guys - I couldn't disagree more. As someone who hates an imbalance between bread and meat, I think the ratio is right on the money at 5 Guys. As for the fries, anything fried that is immediately contained in an airtight container will go limp. Don't shut the bag! I've never tried I-n-O, so I can't say which is better. I've never had an issue with soggy fries either.

                            1. re: lynnlato

                              I never realized that I didn't follow-up on this post after I had I-n-O in AZ last year. I just returned from CA too, where the I-n-O craze is full throttle.

                              For me, 5 Guys is a superior burger. Better flavor and more meat and the perfect ratio of bun-to-meat. I-n-O's bun is too fluffy, IMHO. And 5 Guys fries win by a landslide.

                              There ya have it folks, the final analysis has been made. Nothing more to see here - 5 Guys reigns supreme. ;-)

                                1. re: hotdoglover

                                  OMG, I've not even heard of those. Good? I did try Whataburger in FLA back in November and it was the worst. The beef patty was the thickness of a pice of Kraft American cheese single and the bun was so thick. The fries were lame too. The service was great and the decor was retro cool, but the food was mediocre. : (

                                  Update: I just checked out Smashburger's website. Looks good. Egg bun and fried pickles too? Yes please! And the veggie frites look interesting. Too bad there isn't one anywhere close to me. But I am going to Chicago in 6 wks so perhaps then I can give it a try.

                                  1. re: lynnlato

                                    My son prefers Smashburger to In-N-Out and Five Guys. I haven't been to In-N-Out yet. But I love Smashburger.

                                    1. re: lynnlato

                                      I also tried a Whataburger in Florida and agree, mediocre burger, lame fries, nice interior.

                                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                                        My experience is that Whataburger's franchises outside of of their home base of Texas are generally absolutely terrible. They're a textbook example of why regional fast-food chains should stay regional. But by that token, I don't think you can dismiss Whataburger entirely until you've actually had one in Texas.

                                        1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                          I've had one in Texas. They're pretty awful there too.

                                          1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                            I've never tried Five Guys outside of DC/MD/VA (their home base), but even here, the quality of their product is wildly inconsistent. The DC board is filled with accounts of which ones are good and which are aweful. YMMV.