Saturday, October 09, 2010

Burger Showdown: Five Guys vs. In-N-Out

Ever since I married a DC-native, he and his family have attempted to convince me to move to the East Coast and also, convert me to love all things East Coast. Sometimes, I can see his point, but sometimes, we simply have to agree to disagree.

For instance, he vehemently lauds the merits of burgers from the up and coming chain, Five Guys. He believes they serve the juiciest, meatiest, and the overall best burger in America. So when I went to visit his family, I made huge effort to try these so-called "Best Burgers in America." Unfortunately, as I posted before, I failed to understand the hype. Yes, Five Guys have a huge variety of free toppings (like hot sauce, grilled mushrooms, and grilled onions), but the toppings are not unlimited and bountiful like Fuddruckers. Also, I like that they serve the burger with a sesame seed bun and in foil, but the foil made the burger bun mushy and squished. Finally, the burgers are a little too pricey (for my taste) for a standard hamburger chain.

As a West Coast native myself, I have always adhered to the adage that In-N-Out burgers are superior to all other burgers. First off, they are cheap. Second, they taste pretty darn good and hit the spot when you are hungry.

Top and bottom left pictures courtesy of M.P. and J.P.

My husband and I have talked to our friends and acquaintances, and have discovered that East Coast transplants love the juicy (and, in my mind, "grease-soaked") burgers from Five Guys (and the Cajun seasoned fries, free peanuts, and copious topping options), while West Coast natives love the simplicity of In-N-Out burgers and fries. So my husband and I decided to settle our dispute once and for all, and planned a "taste off" or "throwdown," just like those taste tests in the 1980s between Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

Indeed, as we were planning our "taste off," Zagat published its findings on hamburger chains, and crowned Five Guys to be the victor as the best hamburger chain in America. Given that there are many more Five Guys restaurants in America than In-N-Out restaurants, I was not going down without a fight. I wanted to test for myself which burger reigns supreme--by polling the taste buds of my trusted friends. (However, I agree that In-N-Out's bland-o-rama fries taste like Styrofoam or cardboard, so I conceded the fries category in advance.)

Me, my husband, and a large group of our friends decided to meet in Fremont, California, where they just opened a new Five Guys within walking distance of In-N-Out. My husband and I picked up the In-N-Out burgers (with some "animal style," some regular) and met our friends at the outdoor seating area of Five Guys, where we ordered our custom burgers and toppings.

As a part of the "taste off," we asked the participants to complete written surveys rating the appearance of the burgers, the quality of the meat, the texture of the bun, the freshness of the toppings, and their overall impression. I will be honest, since we asked many D.C. natives to participate, I really thought Five Guys would emerge as the winner. But I was pleasantly surprised when we tallied the votes! The best part, is that some random guy stopped at our table and threw in his vote as well (for In-N-Out) and the owner of Five Guys came out (to check why we brought In-N-Out burgers to his restaurant) and said he was interested in the results.

Memorable comments from the Burger Showdown survey:

Comments for Five Guys
- "Meatylicious"
- "Five Guys all the way!"
- "Best EVER!!"
- "Tastes like a backyard burger, nothing memorable"
In response to survey question regarding "presentation," a participant responded:
- "foil wrap makes it warm but because [it is] soggy, [it] looks like BK Whopper"

Comments for In-N-Out
- "More balanced, suited to a more sophisticated palate."
- "I like the extra sauces [at Five Guys] BUT... I *CRAVE* In-N-Out"
In response to survey question regarding "feeling in stomach afterwards?"
- In-N-Out feels "like butterflies in stomach"
Verbal comment: "In N Out is etched in my memory"


Five Guys = 6 Votes
In-N-Out = 11 Votes (+ 1 vote from a random guy who decided to tell us he liked In-N-Out better while carrying a Five Guys as take-out)
Undecided/Tie = 1 Vote

So there you have it! The results of our little democratic experiment illustrates that In-N-Out really does have the best burger in America! Please comment and let me know your vote!

P.S. To distinguish between which burger is from In-N-Out and which burger is from Five Guys, the burgers with the sesame buns are from Five Guys.


  1. In and Out is amazing. Wish we had them in Tennessee!

  2. i have had both and hands down In-N-Out for me. The fries aren't so bland when they are ordered in animal style ;)
    what i do admire with both is that they are both handcrafted from scratch. no frozen meats.

  3. They both got nothin on Culvers.

    mmmm, butterburgers.....

  4. Oh, PE! That's too funny! I'm no hamburger expert but when I was in D.C., I just couldn't bear to go into a Five Guys because all I saw coming out were people carrying brown paper bags with grease spots! I think that's how they keep their burgers moist. And it's been years since I've had an In-N-Out from its drive through. I just know that when I crave a burger, I'm just happy when it's cooked well and has ketchup and lettuce. I don't care too much about the other toppings and stuff. So I'm thinking I'd probably side for In n Out (although sometimes I feel the burgers at the Castro's Super Duper is pretty darn good).

  5. Never had an In-and-Out burger but I HATE 5 Guys.We have one here and I am sooooo unimpressed. Flavorless and boring.

  6. I've only had burgers 5 Guys so far but I'm eager to try In-N-Out. 5 Guys was a bit overrated for me. We'll see if In-N-Out lives up to the hype.

  7. I love 5 Guys - so does my family. We're Midwesterners so we've got no East/West Coast loyalties. My husband and son have never had In-N-Out but I recently had my first "double double" when in LA for a business trip (I had Pink's for the first time as well!). It was super delicious but I still have to give my vote to 5 Guys.

  8. More comments on the post here:

  9. I love it PE. I've been told for years how great Five Guys is.... and now you set the record straight.... plus why would you need to hide you burger with all that stuff? I still hate the fries at I-n-O tho....

  10. This was fun to read since we actually saw your group doing the "Throw Down". I think both burgers are great however I am always full after a Five Guys Burger and I can not say the same for In & Out. I love the Fries from Five Guys and I have never enjoyed In & Out's fries. Five Guys all the way!! Thanks for sharing.

  11. I have had them both and I have to say I was disappointed with Five Guys. It wasn't great or some homemade burger that cost way more than it should. And so much grease… Ew! In-N-Out is my choice! …fries and all!

  12. Playing catchup with you PE, and although I haven't had In-N-Out's burger yet, I agree that 5 Guys's burgers are a bit overrated for my palate and I've had it twice from two different locations throughout the South.

  13. I just had my first encounter with 5 Guys (the Sunnyvale one) and I'm just going to say it right now, I ain't never payin' no $11 for what would cost me ~$6 at I-n-O, again.

    Cost aside, I don't like sesame seeds, and the bacon is crispy (if you're a bacon chewy person, you will understand what I am saying).

    'Can't wait for my next visit to I-n-O.

  14. I finally got a chance to try Five Guys and wasn’t impressed….at all. Disclaimer: I am a huge In-N-Out addict, but I wanted to give Five Guys a true taste test. It didn’t do anything for me. Here’s my post that summarizes my Five Guys experience:

  15. living on the west coast all my life i have usually preferred burger joints like islands of fuddruckers . now that five guys is here i have found the superior burger around. while in n out burgers are good for their price i say the clear winner is fuve guys. their burgers taste more homemade. patties taste more jucier and "real". toppings are free and to your liking. cajun fries are excellent. one of the few instances where a higher price is well worth it for better quality. will always love five guys over in n out.

  16. You do realize you did your taste test in CALIFORNIA, right?
    Try it here in Florida, your results will be quite different (assuming you found a way to transport those In-N-Out monstrosities and maintain fidelity)!


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