Yesterday I experienced the East Coast mystery that is Five Guys burgers. I have heard the hype, tasted for myself, and now I feel ready to make an informed decision on whether or not it truly dethrones the reigning king of West Coast gourmet fast food.
In order to make the process as objective as possible, I ordered a burger and fries. The burger was topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and grilled onions to recreate my most common choice of burger from In’n’Out (Five Guys does not have a comparable sauce so I just went without, in order to get the best “burger” flavor possible without masking it behind BBQ sauce or something like that). I will judge both the burger and the fries from an objective standpoint and use the results to determine the winner.
There are four criteria by which I will be judging:
3. Quality of ingredients
4. Overall taste
So let’s get into it!
1. Value – This is an easy one. For two people, both ordering a burger, fries, and drinks, Five guys costs nearly twice as much as In’n’Out. I am sure that this has something to do with the quantity of standard ingredients (which I will discuss later). Even if you were to order a Double-Double with cheese from In’n’Out, it would still be significantly cheaper.
2. Options – This is also an easy one. Even with such wonderful additions as grilled onions and the super popular “Animal Style” at In’n’Out, the clear winner in the burger options category is Five Guys. They have all the regular toppings of standard burger places, but there are also several different sauces, mushrooms, jalapenos, and more. If you want to create a personalized burger experience, a cut above the fast food chains, Five Guys is your place.
Winner: Five Guys
3. Quality of ingredients – As far as the produce is concerned, the places are pretty equal. I didn’t find much difference in the quality of the toppings (even though Five Guys does win for quantity and diversity). There are three things in the ingredients department that are worth noting. First, Five Guys has the vastly superior bun; it’s soft and fluffy without getting soggy, even with two patties on the bun and it just sort of melts as you eat it. Very tasty.
In’n’Out, on the other hand wins for the best fries. If you’ve ever watched them make the fries, you’ll understand why. The whole process breathes freshness. They literally take a freshly peeled potato, wash it, chop it, and throw it in the fryer. That’s it. and the fries come out crispy and full of flavor without all the grease. Five Guys fries can’t touch In’n’Out.
Lastly, I have to comment on both burger patties. The Five Guys patty seems more like a homemade patty, thicker and juicier, but fell apart about halfway through the burger (One of their claims to fame is the hand formed patty, but if your going to do that, it’s got to feel like a patty, not ground beef). The In’n’Out patty is fresh as well, and though it does lean more on the side of fast food rather than homemade, it does have an even consistency each and every time.
So taking all things into account, I will make some subjective comments about taste. The fact is that the IN’n’Out burger and fries combo just tastes better. The fries are fresher, less greasy and full of flavor. The Five Guys burger needed a bit more salt for my taste, though the actual flavor was nearly as good as In’n’Out. There is something secret that they do with the In’n’Out patties as they cook them that gives their flavor just a little extra tang (I think it’s mustard). All in all, Five guys is good, but the In’n’Out burger/fries combo just tastes a bit better.
This was much closer than I expected it to be. Five Guys really has a good thing going, and if you add in all the other elements, a more diverse menu and a home-cooked feel, it’s easy to see why so many people like it. When it comes to Hacienda Crossing I will surely eat there and enjoy it, but as far as the simple burger and fries go, In’n’Out has got the goods.