In N’ Out vs. Shake Shack

Now that I have found myself on the west coast, the left coast, it’s only a matter of time until I get my hands on In N’ Out. The immediate question to follow is one that I anticipate eventually always comes up to those that have been on both coasts: Which chain is better? In N’ Out, or Shake Shack? It’s a debate that has gone on for years, and while I don’t think we have ever really settled the question, I can say that I finally have the opportunity to give my own two cents.

My first experience with In N’ Out, I figured, “go big or go home”. I went with the animal style double-double, animal style fries, and root beer float. I’m a fan of burgers so that wasn’t going to disappoint me, but there’s definitely some difference to be talked about. I will admit that the “animal style” was a good addition; melted cheese with In N’ Out’s “secret spread” (which tasted to me mostly like some sort of sweet mayo or thousand island dressing), and grilled diced onions. FIrst off, In N’ Out keeps it simple with the menu, but as any enthusiasts would know, there’s an entire “secret menu” in the mix, although they like to say that the animal style menus are not really a secret, just the way customers like their food prepared. In a time where there are literally hundreds of things one can choose from on a menu, I really appreciate the fact that In N’ Out keeps it straight to the point: we serve burgers, fries, and drinks.

So onto the meal! I like that In N’ Out toast the insides of their buns, it helps to keep it fresh. The burgers are good, and with the animal style toppings definitely gives it a solid kick. However, I will say that I think Shake Shack does a better job with the patties, but that could also be due to the fact that I waited for a bit before consuming my burger, so it had chilled out already. In general, I think Shake Shack’s patties are juicer, and it feels like a more satisfying first bite. Also, the Shack’s got different variations of burgers, which is a whole different conversation. In N’ Out I feel have thinner patties, but their tomato also doesn’t fall out as easily (or I just suck at keeping the Shake Shack burgers together), so I will say that for ability to keep burger together during consumption, In N’ Out will get points for that. The animal style fries were good apart from the fact that those had also gotten cold as I waited. The fries themselves fell a little short, they’re thinner and not as crisp, so I think Shake Shack’s crinkle fries takes the cake in this category as well. However, I will give them points for the animal style toppings, and I think a good solution to this would be to have the In N’ Out topping over Shake Shack fries (why can’t we just all be friends?) Finally, the root beer float. The jury might still be out on this one cause it has been a while since I had a Shake Shack root beer float, however, there’s really no way to get a root beer float wrong. I do wish I tasted more root beer in the In N’ Out float, but I was also extremely thirsty and trying to quench that with a float was probably not the answer.

All in all, I know this is not an extensive comparison by any means (and I should have had Shake Shack one more time before I came out to LA), but it would appear that as much as I hate to admit it, it’s going to take a lot more to flush the NYC out of me; I think Shake Shack comes out on top in this comparison, but I applaud In N’ Out for having been so successful sticking to what they do, and they do it well.

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Edit 1/14/15
As Jeffrey Tseng pointed out to me today, In N’ Out prices are way lower compared to Shake Shack, I guess one should take that into consideration too.

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