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Burger Face-Off

  • m

I just returned from a trip to California where I sampled a single cheeseburger at two different In-N-Out shops, a burger which is often wistfully compared, particularly by west coast transplants, to Five Guys burgers. For me, it was no contest. Five Guys wins hands down.

The In-N-Out patty was more regular and more compact, like it came out of a press. Five Guys is irregular, looks, and feels hand molded. The Five Guys bun tasted better and held the sandwich better than In-N-Out. The In-N-Out burger came wrapped in paper and needed it to stay together while eating. I didn't care for the In-N-Out sauce (I don't like mayo on a burger and that's the base) so I ordered the second one without sauce. I got a fully look, but they complied.

For me, it was no contest. This one goes to Five Guys, though I think that if I was taking a west coast visitor on a burger tour here, I'd have to take him to both Five Guys and Ray's.

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  1. I was also unimpressed with In-N-Out. The burger was dry and the bun was smeared with grease. I took a couple bites and threw the rest away.

    Five Guys - they seem to vary a great deal. (Maybe it's the same with In-N-Out and Ijust picked a bad one?) The one on Security Blvd. is pretty good while the one in Laurel is not so good, in my experience.

    Is the new Fatburger in Columbia supposed to be like In-N-Out? If it is, then thanks for saving me the trip and the calories!

    3 Replies
    1. re: little audrey

      Fatburger is big, compared to In-N-Out. They're not similar but I wasn't all that impressed with what I ate. My big complaint about In-N-Out is that its burger is tiny (not even 1/4 lb). The menu lacked options and I had to wait 15 minutes (I was in Carlsbad over Thanksgiving week) after ordering to get my burger. I was just so disappointed...

      1. re: Ericandblueboy

        On the limited menu thing, that's one of the cachets for In-N-Out - the "secret" menu.

        Google the following:
        in n out secret menu

        Disclaimer: I've never been and can't comment on the quality of the food.

      2. re: little audrey

        Five Guys in Dobbin area of Columbia was good the time I went.

      3. I think In N Out is a good burger for the price. Fatburger is good but vastly overpriced when you add cheese and or chili. In N Out's single burger is overwhelmed by the other ingredients, lettuce, bun etc, to really appreciate an In N Out burger you need to get a double double(double meat and double cheese) it is still under 3 bucks. If you get is animal style it has even more flavor, they add pickles, grill the onions, extra sauce, and fry the patties with a smear of mustard - same price.

        1. There is no freezer in any In-N-Out. All ingredients are fresh. even the potatoes, which then turn into fries.

          The limited amount of ingredients make various combinations possible:
          -Burger patty (one size), fresh buns, lettuce (torn in store), tomatoes (sliced in store), onions (raw or grilled) sauce, catsup, mustard, pickles, yellow peppers. (Mustard, pickles and the yellow pepper are not listed as ingredients on the menu and are part of the "secret" menu)
          -fries (one size)
          -shakes (one size, three flavors)

          It is good. It is inexpensive. It is what we have out here. Always a line inside and at the drive through.

          The meat absolutely should not have been dry. There is a wait because nothing is started to cook ahead of time, only once orders have been placed.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Cathy

            Shakes come in two sizes. Large isn't on the menu but is available. You can also get combinations on all the drinks including shakes. A neopolitan can be had if you ask for it.

          2. I've been fascinated by comparisons of Five Guys to In-N-Out. In fact, I've started a thread somewhere on this site asking people who have been to both which they prefer. I live in N.J. where we have a lot of good burger joints. White Rose is outstanding. About 2 years ago Five Guys came into Jersey. I've read on sites like this that quality may vary from location to location, but the three I've been to are consistently excellent. A Five Guys opened in my hometown so that is the one I go to now about once a month.

            I happen to love their burgers and fries. The burgers, while well done, are nice and juicy. I get mine with ketchup, mayo, pickles, and lettuce. Many people call Five Guys the East Coast's answer to In-N-Out. I've never been to In-N-Out so I can't make a comparison. It seems that most opinions I've read seem to favor In-N-Out. Most people that I know personally and some whose opinions I respect seem to favor Five Guys.

            Interesting topic. I hope that In-N-Out opens here in N.J. so that I can finally compare the 2 for myself. Fatburger has opened a location here and so has Sonic. Maybe In-N-Out will be next.

            4 Replies
            1. re: hotdoglover

              Just swing by In-'N-Out on your next trip to the west coast.

              1. re: hotdoglover

                where in nj is fatburger? the only one i know of is in the boratas.
                i think fuddruckers is the best burger in nj. i used to like ruby tuesday triple prime .

                  1. re: hotdoglover

                    I believe the Jersey City Fatburger has closed shop.....there's one in Rockaway though.

              2. I'm right there with you, MikeR. I think Five Guys wins over In-N-Out, and I detest that mayo sauce they slather over the burger at In-N-Out. Interesting observation: I am from the west coast and I prefer Five Guys, as does my brother (also from the WC). However, my fiance and several other people I know who are from the East Coast prefer In-N-Out. Perhaps it's more of a 'grass is greener' phenomenon?

                1. I live in both NY and LA so I get the opportunity to eat at both chains ( plus fatburger!) equally. I have been underwhelmed by 5 Guys on most accounts except for the toppings. I don't like well done burgers and while In and out is not exactly rare, it doesn't taste as "overdone" to me. I do like messy burgers and animal style is just about perfect. I can't eat the bun so I can't comment ( but the meat can't hide behind it). And since I consider fries one of the food of the gods, they matter to me. I don't waste the calories at In and Out and while 5 Guys are tastier, they are simply not that flavorful.
                  So, my nirvana- a double double protein style, animal style, no mustard.

                  1. Five Guys sells their regular cheeseburger (2 patties) for $5.19 at most locations. This is absurd, I think. Their product has become increasingly "franchised" as the years have gone by, and thus, quality is slowly dying out at each of their locations.

                    In-N-Out maintains their locations as a whole and thus, the quality maintains with it. Yes, In-N-Out is more a "fast food style" burger than Five Guys, but what they do offer is a damn good burger at $2.60 - half of what Five Guys wants.

                    Yes, Five Guys has the toppings exhibition, but In-N-Out wins for me, hands down. It's consistent, delicious and an incredible value.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: kkachurak

                      How can you compare a double-patty burger to a single-patty burger and call one a "better value"? The "little" burgers at Five Guys are plenty for most people with one patty and unlimited toppings.

                      I've not eaten at In-N-Out, so I can't comment on taste, but your price argument is invalid.

                      1. re: Suzy Q

                        Deception comes to mind.

                        It's been a while, but as I recall when I researched the specifics of Five Guys Burgers....their small hamburger is 3.0 ounces pre-cooked weight. They do not disclose on the menu that their regular bur consists of two small hamburger patties to make up one regular burger. Also, on the menu board, they show two sizes of styrofoam cups for fries, one regular size and large. Assuming you are only getting the cup size full of fries, most first time customers opt for the larger size on both burgers and fries. when the bag the fries, they fill up the cup , place the cup in a brown paper bag, then top off the bag. a regular size order of fries is plenty for two...and for 3-4 even. The double burger is also very messy to eat, as the bun does not hold the two burgers well. Also for me the bun is too gummy.

                        Using (kkachurak's) number of $5.19 for the six ounce burger....that extends to nearly $14.00 per pound for a fast food type burger....without the fries . I know of many places where I can get a better burger and fries, usually 10-12 ounces in weight......for less than $10.00 including the fries....so yes there is better value.....and I also have the advantage of getting an adult beverage if desired.

                        Both will cost out to approximately (.85), but at Five Guys, the fries are additional at a minimum of $3.00 charged...the fries are included at the type of places I mentioned. the difference..... More burger at the pub...more fries at Five Guys

                        BTW....I give the nod to In-N -Out......and Hotdoglover...White Rose burger is similar in style to In-N-Out....I cannot say which is better, as I have not had the White Rose burger.

                        1. re: Suzy Q

                          The double-double (double meat, double cheese) is $2.60 at In-N-Out.

                          kkachurack was making an equivalent comparison but didn't state it that way.

                          1. re: Cathy

                            Thanks for the clarification, everyone. Yes, I was directly comparing a double burger at In-n-Out to what Five Guys calls their regular cheeseburger (with two beef patties and only one slice of cheese... unless you request, and likely pay for, extra.)

                            1. re: kkachurak

                              I'm a little late on this reply, but for comparison, each patty at In-N-Out is 2 ounces, so their double is 1/4 pound (4 oz.) vs. Five Guys' 6.6 to 7 ounce regular (each patty is 3.3 to 3.5 oz).

                              It would take more than three I-N-O burger patties to equal one FG's regular.

                      2. Ok, I have had both more than once and I feel that I can accurately compare. The first 5-guys that I had was in baltimore and it was over-cooked and dry with little seasoning. The 5-guy's that I had here in california (Just opened on NASNI) was juicy and perfect.

                        I have lived here in San Diego for 10 years now and have frequented In-N-Out on the regular. I have been to 5 different I&O and all were practically identical in quantity and flavor.

                        It is hard to make a direct comparison between I&O and 5G's unless you compare the 4x4 at I&O to the regular burger at 5G. Both burgers would then be similar in price and size.

                        As I said before I like both chains and fully enjoyed both burgers. Does one blow the others doors off? No. Are they both really excellent? YES! Over all I would say that IN-N-OUT just barely edges out 5 guys because of value not taste. I like going in and getting a double-double meal, animal style for a mere $5.50. I also like getting my fries animal style or just getting extra special sauce for my fries. I also love going in and getting a 1/2 van 1/2 strawberry shake. They is tasty!

                        1. There is no correct answer because it is very subjective. I live in CA for 30 years and was around when In-N-Out was just growing. They have legendary marketing (some of it already parroted here on the board) and a cult like following that 5 guys does not have. In some ways it’s almost sacrilegious to say you don’t like In-N-Out if you live in CA.

                          IMO In-N-Out is not very good, I have never had anything but a well done burger served to me at In-N-Out while I have always gotten a medium/MW (showing a little pink) at 5 guys. In-N-Out’s buns are very plain (think wonder bread style buns) their sauce is thousand island on relish steroids. Their meat tastes greasy and their cheese is very pasty, probably the worst cheese I’ve ever tasted on a burger. Their fries are atrocious, usually under-done and limp and I have never been able to eat more than a couple. And their burgers are small, even a double double leaves you wanting more, most people (guys at least) order two. In-N-Out gives a good perception of value but if you order two burgers, fries and a drink you have spent about the same as would at 5 guys.

                          5 Guys has better quality meat, much better cheese and a good tasting bun plus you get all of the toping options and one of their burgers fills you up.

                          As a side note I have been involved in blind taste tests of fast food burgers and the vaunted In-N-Out has never placed in the top 50%. Burger King and Carl Jr’s have both beaten In-N-Out when the taster didn’t know what they were eating, yet in a written poll In-N-Out was always chosen as the #1 burger.

                          In the end it really doesn’t matter, want to have In-N-Out and 5 guys devotees, do a true blind taste testing and throw in some of the national chains, the actual winner will probably surprise you.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: RetiredChef

                            I agree with Chef - it's a subjective question. I actually like Carl Jrs best of all, but boy when I am hungover, nothing is better than a McDonalds cheeseburger. I've eaten a few Burger King double cheese burgers lately, and they are a great value for .99. It's all about my mood, and my pocketbook.....

                            1. re: RetiredChef

                              It is a subjective issue. I've solved most of these complaints by specifying "rare to medium-rare," no cheese (double meat only), animal style with both grilled and raw onions and mustard instead of their terrible spread. BK and CJ patties have a better flavor for me but only because they're flame broiled and INO are fried on the flattop. I much prefer the condiments at INO.

                            2. I'm very interested to try and In n Out burger but have yet to do so.

                              Of the places I've been, 5 Guys is definitely my favourite. I like a diner style burger and that's what they give you. Except for the double patty.

                              Cheeburger, Cheeburger is a good second option and as much as some people love it, I have to put Red Robin pretty far back. The last time I did have the chili burger and it was good but I'll avoid the place for the most part.

                              Fudruckers is high on my list of places to try next.


                              1. How can a burger joint get a Bacon cheese burger wrong 2 times before getting it right the 3rd try. The bun was flat and soggy. I would rather have one party the same weight as two. Its better to cook the party right then to speed up the process making them thin to cook more fast.

                                Thank god for catsup, I couldn't stomach the fries without it.

                                Well the cheese was good as was the peanuts.

                                1. I think a LOT has changed in the past 4 years to merit a rematch. Five Guys consistency has taken a nosedive since expanding the franchise.

                                  1. I'm a born and raised Californian, and I never understood the In N Out hype. I love 5 guys, although lately since I changed my eating habits, eating one makes me feel not so great later on. I also like 5 guys' fries better.

                                    One place I really like is The Habit, they're a small CA chain. Similar price point to 5 guys, and very tasty.