Five Guys vs In N Out: Is the Grass Always Greener?
I still remember when the first Five Guys opened in NYC. As an avid In N Out fan I was pretty excited, because as different as the two places are Five Guys was the closest thing that we were going to get to having an In N Out. Fresh cut fries, free grilled onions, and most importantly fast food that tasted like real food- not some kind of lab experiment (I’m looking at you Mcwendysking.) But In N Out replacement it was not. I still pined for a double double, and anytime I found myself far enough west I actively sought out the closest In N Out, not just for my own enjoyment but to induce jealousy in all the other east coast In N Out disciples I was friends with. Then something happened… I moved back to L.A. All of sudden In N Out was available all the time, and while I still love it, it obviously doesn’t stir up that same excitement. And when I hear old friends from back east get excited for In N Out it makes me laugh. “Oh, that old place?”
Of course it’s still my go to fast food burger place, and a road trip essential. So on my way down to Coachella two weeks ago it was my lunch stop off the 10. What could be better than that? I’ll tell you what. Spotting a Five Guys at Midnight between Indio and my hotel in Palm Springs. I actually surprised myself with how excited I got.
A regular burger at Five Guys is actually two patties, so I went with the “Little Cheeseburger” which is far from small. (It was also after a long day of corn dog and crab fry eating so back off!) Grilled onions? Yes please. Grilled mushrooms? Of course! They also have free jalapenos as a topping, which I love. I don’t know if the location is new, or they were trying to impress because they are new to California and know that you only get one chance per customer to be a viable In N Out replacement, but it was even better than I remember. The crust they got on my smashed burger was pretty impressive, and at that moment I felt like it was actually better than the burger I had had for lunch from… what’s that place called again? Couldn’t remember.
All kidding aside, even if you think In N Out makes a better burger than Five Guys, there’s one thing that is indisputable. Five Guys fries are ridiculously good and head and shoulders above what’s being served at In N Out these days. I always remember loving In N Out’s fries so much, and can’t decide if they’ve gotten worse or if that old love was just the unique joy of getting fast food style shoestring french fries made with real potatoes. I don’t know… but if I came across a Five Guys and an In N Out side by side tomorrow, I’d probably go to Five Guys (and the fries are a big part of that.)
But is Five Guys *really* better than In N Out? I didn’t think so when I lived in NYC, which leads me to wonder whether or not the grass is always greener. Five Guys is more expensive, but you get more food. And their fries are way better, and they have a lot more topping options. But In N Out is… well… In N Out.
And will Five Guys do a mustard fried double double with a whole grilled onion? (Thanks to Serious Eats for clueing me into that one.)
I guess we’ll find out the answer soon enough. Five Guys is opening in the Westfield Mall in Culver City tomorrow, minutes away from my house. And they have plans to open hundreds more stores on the west coast in the coming years. Am I excited? Now that I’ll be able to have it every day… not so much.