Five Guys Burgers is by all accounts an East Coast Institution. One could say that they are the In-N-Out of the East Coast. However, recently, they have made their way into Southern California, and are “challenging” In-N-Out to burger supremacy. A quick Google search of “In-N-Out vs. Five Guys” leads to a long list of websites where the topic is debated.
I was headed down to Orange County to meet some friends for happy hour at TAPS, but thought I would see if my dad was free for lunch. He suggested that we meet at the Five Guys Burger located in Orange, CA, just off the 55 FWY at Katella and Tustin.
I was eager to try this burger considering all they hype surrounding their arrival and the accolades that they have received wherever else they have gone.
The reason that Five Guys is compared to In-N-Out so frequently is because of the fact that both places offer a very simple menu (Five Guys’ menu; In-N-Out’s menu). They both strive to serve the tastiest burger and fries by using fresh ingredients. Both places cut their potatoes in store, opting, however, for different potatoes—In-N-Out using Kennebec potatoes, while Five Guys opts for the standard Russet.
Being my first time, I ordered the cheeseburger, which my dad informed me comes with two patties. For one patty you order the little hamburger. Unlike In-N-Out, Five Guys offers a wider variety of toppings from which you can choose, all of them being free. My burger was topped with mayo, ketchup, mustard, pickles, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, lettuce and tomatoes. My dad and I also split an order of their fries.
Opening the burger (I forgot my camera; I apologize for no pictures), the first thing that struck me was that it looked sloppy, which made it a little difficult to eat as toppings were slipping and sliding all over the place. I don’t usually have this much difficulty eating an In-N-Out burger (I will admit that I usually opt for a single cheeseburger Animal-style; it has been a long time since I have had a Double-Double, which could suffer a similar fate).
The burger was good; however, it was no where near the level of an In-N-Out Animal-style. The flavor of the two patties definitely stood out, yet felt slightly under seasoned. Because the burger felt like it was sloppily assembled, I would have bites where I would get three layers of pickles and two layers of tomatoes, whereas other bites completely lacked toppings. The lettuce also lacked the crispness that is so amazing about In-N-Out, although I tend to think that In-N-Out tends to put too much lettuce on their burgers.
Like In-N-Out, Five Guys has their buns made specifically for them at a bakery. Again, it was a good bun, but In-N-Out’s spongy bun wins out. By the time I was nearing completion of the burger, the bun was on its last legs. I want a bun that will be there with me to the end.
Moving on to the fries, I would almost say it is a tie. I would never go to either place solely for fries. Both places make their fries in house, and both fries single fry their fries, which leads to less than crispy results. What also hinders Five Guys is the fact that they use Russet potatoes which are very high in moisture, which will also prevent a beautifully crisp on the outside fluffy on the inside fry.
Finally, our lunch came out to by just over $15.00, I believe, which is slightly more expensive then In-N-Out. The last time I was at In-N-Out, which was maybe a month ago, the cheeseburger meal came out to be just under $6.00.
So there you have it. My take on the In-N-Out Five Guys debate. Five Guys is a very good fast food hamburger, but In-N-Out is still better and will probably always be better. Sorry Five Guys, childhood nostalgia does carry weight in this debate.
I would love to hear what others think.