- In-N-Out and Shake Shack are two of fast food’s most celebrated burger chains.
- I visited an In-N-Out in Los Angeles and a Shake Shack in New York to compare the experiences.
- My conclusion: while Shake Shack undoubtedly has better fries, In-N-Out makes a better-balanced burger.
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In-N-Out and Shake Shack are two of America’s most beloved burger chains.
Both make burgers for which fans will go to the ends of the earth – or at least to the end of a really long line. But which burger is better?
That is the question: whether ’tis nobler to suffer the cross-country flight to Southern California, or to take the subway to the nearest Shake Shack location.
On a recent trip to Los Angeles, I made a beeline for an In-N-Out. When I got back to New York, I went to a Shake Shack near the office. At both restaurants, I ordered similar meals: the most famous burger, a side of fries, and a lemonade. Here’s how the two compared.
As soon as I landed in Los Angeles, I headed for the nearest In-N-Out.
In-N-Out’s vintage vibe and red-and-white tiling have made its aesthetic instantly recognisable.
It’s got laid-back California charm for miles, and it’s so bright and clean that the vintage decor feels cute, not old.
The decor isn’t the only thing that is reminiscent of the past. In-N-Out’s menu is the kind of simple, unfussy menu your grandma might have ordered from in her youth.
The chain famously sources most of its fresh ingredients from farms in California. Absolutely nothing is frozen and reheated.
My meal came out after a short wait: an animal-style Double-Double ($US4.35), animal-style fries ($US3.95), and a medium lemonade ($US1.75).
I started with my animal-style fries because of the universal law of fries.
That is, that the quality of a fry is inversely correlated to the number of seconds it’s spent in cold air, and the decline in taste is exponential.
Somehow, In-N-Out’s fries defy the laws of physics. Even straight from the fryer, they taste like wet cardboard.
Take my advice: Skip the opening act and come for the headliner.
The Double-Double is large and petite at the same time. Even though it’s a hefty burger, it’s neatly contained in a cute wrapper.
Two fresh beef patties with melted American cheese, onions, lettuce, and tomato stacked into two toasted buns are smothered in special sauce and grilled onions.
It’s as close to perfect as a fast-food burger gets. First off, everything tastes unbelievably fresh.
The beef is juicy and melds delightfully with the tangy cheese and sauce.
And the crispy, bountiful stacks of veggies add just the right amount of textural variety and freshness.
It’s so juicy that a mixture of beef grease, tomato water, and special sauce leaked from the wrapper.
Some extra napkinry never hurt anyone, except maybe a few trees here and there.
However, cold fries caused many a metaphorical tear.
Naked or smothered in sauce, these potatoes managed to disgust no matter how I ate them.
After a few more futile forkfuls, I gave up. These were destined for the trash.
The burger, however, was destined for greater things.
Since each bite tasted so well-balanced, I never felt like I was stuffing my face — even though I was.
The Double-Double quickly became a nil-nil, and I left In-N-Out with a deep sense of digestive satisfaction.
Back in New York, some time later, the hankering for a hamburger hit again.
I went to the Shake Shack in Fulton Centre. Like all Shake Shacks, it’s minimal, industrial, and inaccessibly cool.
The menu is large and varied, even though Shake Shack started out as a simple hot dog stand. Chicken, beef, hot dogs, ice cream, mushrooms — Shake Shack has it all.
Danny Meyer, a chef with a fine dining background, founded Shake Shack as part of an effort to revive Madison Square Park.
Source: Shake Shack