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Double Trouble

May 31, 2011

A long time ago it used to be Jim’s. Then it was Pat’s. And ultimately it went back to Jim’s again. These oscillations weren’t so much about fickle changes in taste, but had more to do with my changing expectations of what a cheesesteak should be. After all, I wasn’t born and bred in Philadelphia, and sometimes these things take time. I have less of an excuse when it comes to hamburgers.

For the longest time, I have been a hamburger purist. But recent events have made me reconsider that long held stance of the supremacy of a well seasoned and cook ground beef patty, presented simply on a bun with precious little else.

Perhaps that former stance is why I’ve been so hard on In-N-Out burgers. And perhaps it’s the relatively new revelations that have allowed for a significantly improved opinion of this beloved west coast burger chain.

It’s time for me to explain where I was wrong.

Since discovering Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries I have maintained their supremacy over In-N-Out burger. I love their beefy and crusty well-done patties that are so fatty that despite their doneness are indeed still juicy.

But I’ve been comparing hamburgers to hamburgers.

My standard order at Five Guys has been a regular hamburger with ketchup, pickles, tomatoes and raw onion. And up until yesterday my last orders at In-N-Out had been regular hamburgers with a similar build, or animal-style if I was feeling feisty.

The bottom line was that the In-N-Out burger was good for a fast food burger, but nothing really special. The burger itself didn’t have great flavor. And the place had little beyond nostalgia and its former cachet of an LA-only chain going for it.

On the last full day of my west coast vacation, I found myself near an In-N-Out during afternoon snack time, and realized I should try another one of their beloved burgers. Maybe I was missing something. So this time I would not get my former standard order. This time, I would go for the gusto: A double-double animal style.

That would be two beef patties, each topped with a slice of cheese, tomato, leaf lettuce, extra sauce, pickles, grilled onions, and mustard fried onto each beef patty.

Okay. Now I get it.

This is better. Not because it makes the burgers any beefier. But there is this marvelous thing that happens to the slice of cheese that gets sandwiched between the two patties. It really turns into a second sauce on the burger as it melts into the grease from the beef patties above and below.

It’s more than a mouthful, and it is indeed a very tasty treat.

If you are going to go to In-N-Out burger, and you want to understand what all the fuss is about, I urge you to give this build a try.

So the new question is how would a similar Five Guys burger compare. In general I leave off the cheese. But would a double cheeseburger at Five Guys with sautéed onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mustard, and thousand island dressing be comparable?

I’ll need to make another trip soon to see.

But even if that build fails to compare to the one made famous by the off-menu shenanigans of its west coast rival, I think I can enjoy each of the regional chains based on their own merits.

Yes, people want to know which one is the best. Well, in this case, that may depend upon what you are looking for in a burger. And that answer will invariably be different for everyone. I think about this fact as I continue to struggle with the cupcake challenge. But thanks to your input, I assure you we are getting closer all the time.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Stevo permalink
    May 31, 2011 8:03 am

    I just stopped at Five Guys for a double cheeseburger yesterday!.

    I do encourage you to get their burgers with cheese. As you said, the gooey mixture of cheese and grease between the patties is an amazingly delicious combination. It’s important thought that the burger be eaten immediately off the grill. Do not get it to go.

  2. May 31, 2011 12:24 pm

    I tried an In-N-Out burger when I went to Arizona, just to see what all of the fuss was about. I was unimpressed — it was pretty decent for a fast-food burger, but it was no Five Guys, or Shake Shack, or even Friendly’s.

  3. May 31, 2011 5:30 pm

    “Mustard fried into the burger” is a new one. Do you give them that specific instruction? And they don’t mind, it doesn’t do anything harmful to the griddle?

    My In-n-Out standby is “cheeseburger with mustard instead of sauce, pickles, double onions”. This comes close to replicating a burger from the South where they would not touch thousand island “sauce” with a dungfork.

    • July 7, 2011 11:42 pm

      Ok, tonight I did a head to head test. The “animal style” has nothing on the Southern style burger I described above. Which may be why the Southern states are among the most obese, stat-wise, in this great land of ours.

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