Battle of the Burgers | English Columnist Michelle Lee
This is an age-old battle between people from all around the U.S.A. A burger is arguably one of the most ‘American’ dishes people have been exposed to. A simple yet intricate combination of a patty, slices of cheese, an assortment of vegetables, a ‘special’ sauce all between a lightly toasted bun of choice is what people usually picture when they think of a typical burger.
Here is a picture for reference just in case you have trouble visualizing what it is.
As much as this dish is enjoyed by people from around the world, there are so many different transnational, national and local corporations that produce export burgers as their main menu. Usually when it comes to burgers, the more general population would be reminded of McDonald’s signature Big Mac or their rivalry with Burger King. Some might be appalled of how gourmet and luxurious burgers have become with professional chefs coming up with menus like the ‘Glam burger’ costing as much as $1,768.
This time, however, we are comparing two burger chains that can be easily said to represent the opposite coasts of America. In-N-Out and Shake Shack are undoubtedly what separates the west from the east. In-N-Out is a regional burger chain founded in 1948 by Harry and Esther Snyder in Baldwin Park, California. With whopping 329 stores throughout the nation, In-N-Out dug a special place in Californians’ heart since day one with their Double-Double consisting of two patties and two slices of cheese and animal fries smothered with cheese, sauce and onions.
This may sound unhealthy, but who expects nutrition and a well-balanced diet while ordering at a fast food restaurant?
Shake Shack, a definite representative of the east coast, more specifically New York, burger chain was founded fairly recently in 2004 by Daniel Meyer. They began as a hot dog stand in Madison Square Park to support the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s first art installation, and sprung off from their success into opening a permanent kiosk in the park. Expanding into 162 stores around the world, conquering major cities like London, Istanbul, Seoul, and Dubai, Shake Shack is showing exponential growth.
Before making any hasty conclusions, let’s compare the burger joints using three simple categories: price of the burger + fries, quality of the ingredients and the fries. In order to make a fair judgement, the options within the secret menu will be excluded from comparison and instead, we will be comparing the most frequently ordered burger, fries and milkshakes.
In-N-Out – CheeseBurger
Shake Shack – ShackBurger
$2.40 + $1.60 = $4.00
$9.59 +$2.99 = $12.58
Meat: 2 ounce patty made from beef chuck, ground in their own facilities, never frozen
Cheese: thick sliced bright orange American
Sauce: Proprietary Thousand Island sauce
Bun: Toasted white bun
Toppings: lettuce, sliced tomato, onions raw or grilled, pickled hot green chilies or pickles
Meat: 4 ounce, with a blend of sirloin, brisket, and short rib
Cheese: Melted American Cheese
Sauce: Thousand Island style ‘Shack’ sauce
Bun: Toasted potato bun
Toppings: Lettuce, sliced roma tomatoes, thin-sliced onions, pickles
Thinly sliced, freshly fried not frozen
Crinkle-cut fries, frozen then fried
Having tried both of these franchises from the places they originated from and even after objectively comparing the two burgers,I for one, believe Shack Shack is miles above In N Out. It was so good that I thought it was worth posting on my Instagram page. (My handle is @shellycadabra. Feel free to go check it out.) There are so many reasons why Shake Shack will always be better, but let me name a few to convince all those who have a mistaken belief that In-N-Out is better.
First of all, Shake Shack has everything. Shake Shack, although started out as a hot dog stand, expanded into a fast food restaurant in the hopes of making gourmet food accessible to a broader audience. Ultimately, they made a fast food chain that catered to all. Those who loved meat could double up their patties, those who were vegan could try their mushroom burgers, those who craved something sweet could order a frozen custard filled with the most delightful sweets Shake Shack could offer, and if you didn’t want a burger, you could always go for a hot dog! Shake Shack’s variety of choices cannot be compared to In-N-Out’s limited menu.
Second, the quality of the food is incomparable. Some people look down upon the fact that Shake Shack’s fries are frozen. However, they are still potatoes. The fries from In-N-Out may be fresh, but they are soggy in texture and dry out way too fast. The two factors people seek in fries is the crispy outside and soft, light interior. In-N-Out fries clearly fail to meet those qualifications. On the other hand, Shake Shack’s crinkle fries, are cut in a way so that the potato remains crispy even after a while and although are initially frozen, live up to a fry lover’s expectations. The last thing I would want would be to open my bag of fries, bite into a greasy, soggy shoestring.
Lastly, so many opponents of the In-N-Out franchise emphasize the cost of Shake Shack and how ridiculously expensive it is for a simple burger. First of all, it is not just a simple burger. The founders of Shake Shack knew about the tons of fast food restaurants that existed all around the world, but they wanted to make something different from the cheap experiences you get from ridiculously cheap prices. There is a limit to the quality of food one can make with a $5 budget. Shake Shack consequently made a compromise between flavor and cost by lowering the cost as possible while increasing the taste and quality of their food. You can tell by how chewy, yet soft the potato buns are how juicy and perfectly medium-well the thick patty is, the unique sauce and fresh ingredients, that the chefs put so much effort into making sure the quality of their burgers are top notch.
Some advocates of the In-N-Out franchise argue that ‘It’s a family business where all the chain stores are owned by someone from or close to the family. This makes eating at In-N-Out less like a corporate cop-out of a meal,’ or ‘In-N-Out is only found in the west and southwest of the U.S, there is a lot of pride attached to a franchise that can be found in a place we call home.’ Although these are valid points, in order to objectively compare the quality of their products, family values or home pride should not be a factor.
Ultimately, although people are bound to have different preferences and factors they look for within a burger, but in the most objective manner, and even in my own opinion, Shake Shack hands down rules over In-N-Out.
Shout Out to the English Column for inspiring me to write this article!