Sandwich of the Week: Which is Better, Shake Shack or In-N-Out?

When you stack up the Double ShackBurger against the famed Double-Double Animal-style who wins? No question: Shake Shack


Living on the East Coast means that ever since I first tasted In-N-Out's glorious Double-Double Animal-Style, for the past decade, anytime I'm remotely near In-N-Out I make it my mission to get my fix. In San Francisco on vacation? In-N-Out. Vegas bachelor party? In-N-Out. Wedding in Los Angeles? In-N-Out. L.A. eating tour? In-N-Out (twice, once on the way to LAX). But the last few Double-Doubles have been followed or preceded by eating Shake Shack's Double ShackBurger, and after all these years, I'm in a strange predicament: trying to remind myself what the fuss was all about. 

Fact is, it's not even a close call. Quality-wise, taste-wise, Shake Shack is better. The burger is better. The fries are better (stop with this talk about In-N-Out's "well-done" fries animal-style or not beating out Shake Shack's — it's patently ridiculous — they're woody duds). And the shakes are better. The only thing In-N-Out has that Shake Shack doesn't is the reach (259 locations to the Shack's 13), the history (est. 1948 vs. 2004), and of course, the "secret menu." (Though, funny enough, you could argue Shake Shack kind of has its own versions of a secret menu: special items, those available at different locations, and the rotating custard calendar.)

This will be sacrilege to some. In-N-Out acolytes and West Coast denizens will declare it insanity. Call it uninformed, incomprehensible — East Coast bias. They'll cite the simplicity of In-N-Out's menu, the freshness of the meat. and the crunch of the hand-picked iceberg lettuce. They will note the vibrant red tomatoes, the crisp, vinegary pickles, the toasted bun, and the inexpensive price. (At right, In-N-Out's Animal-Style fries well done.)

In-N-Out's advocates will remind you that the chain     doesn't even need to advertise. "I can't explain why it's so good," they'll say, "It just is." They'll note the creativity of how you can order In-N-Out burgers, earnestly recreate them at home, regale each other by writing about, reviewing, and breaking down the "secret menu" and the fabled 100x100 no matter how many times these things have been written about (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2011...). They'll proudly document ordering the entire thing in one go (even though that's been done too).They'll also wax poetic about and sing paeans to that Holy Grail of this hallowed chain: Animal-style.

That's cool. Like I said, I dig In-N-Out — participated in furthering its reputation by recommending it for years. And like I said, for 10 years anytime I was close, anytime there was a remote chance, even if it meant almost missing a plane, I found a way to get my In-N-Out fix. I've watched their eastward expansion patiently as they've opened locations in Utah, Arizona, and now, Texas.



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15 Comments

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Try The Original Tommy's in southern California. So much better than In-n-Out

James's picture

Five Guys holds up against Burger Shack, but, neither bests In n Out.

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Oh and I almost forgot the In N Out burger for less than half the price is a fresher, less greasy better tasting burger. It just doesn't have a PR agency pitching ideas to a guy who refers to his readers as "Dude"

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Dude, really cost has nothing to do with it? What sort of restaurant critic are you? What about customer service? Shake Shack employee's hate your guts by the time you get to the window. In N Out make it seem like your an old friend. This has to be part of the Danny Meyers PR machine and your bought and sold, "Dude". Next Arthur will be comparing San Loco to Zarelo.

Oh and I almost forgot the In N Out burger for less than half the price is a fresher, less greasy better tasting burger. It just doesn't have a PR agency pitching ideas to a guy who refers to his readers as "Dude"

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Dude?

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Frankly, living in NYC and eating plenty of Shake Shack burgers, I don't even remotely agree with you. Shake Shack burgers are greasier, often soaking into the bun. And while I'm on the buns, they're not as tasty.

I love me some Shake Shack, but In-n-Out is better.

BurgerLover's picture

Good Read...I definitely must head out to the West to try the infamous In-and-out burger. But I have to share with you both, there is a place in Manhattan called Milk Burger and although its not a big chain or a corporate monster burger establishment, they make incredible burgers. They have this Guacamole burger that is just out of this world. I love Shake Shack but I find myself more compelled to visit Milk Burger because of the choices and they also cook the burger to your liking. Thanks for the interesting read.

BurgerLover's picture

Hello there...I live for burgers! Quite often travel far distances to try good burgers.

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Shake Shack is a fantastic burger. But you're missing the major difference between the two franchises. Shake Shack is not a fast-food burger at the cost of $7. In that case, you might as well compare it to restaurant burgers which are the same cost. You're paying for quality.

In-N-Out's almost legendary status is all about the steal of getting an amazing burger at a ridiculous $3. There's simply no comparison.

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Distribution method is a factor. The lines at Shake Shack severly detract from the overall experience. In-and-out lends itself to a more enjoyable experience for the person on the go, especially if your headed down the coast highway to the next In-and-out. On a road trip, I once stopped in three different In-and-outs on the same day. (If I lived on the west coast I would almost certainly gain 20 pounds.) I can't say that about Shake Shack. Maybe the length of the wait skewed my objectivity, but I was not impressed. For the amount of time it takes to get a Shackburger, I'd rather head out to the island and track down a double-bacon-buford-burger at Checkers. That may make me seem insane to some, but at least I won't be hungry.

Arthur Bovino's picturetdm-35-icon.png

1) While that road trip sounds fun, this is purely flavor and taste, not about the experience of driving with a burger.

2) With all due respect, the moment you mention Checkers in the same breath as In-N-Out OR Shake Shack you lose all credibility. First of all, the length of the wait is what got you angry at Shake Shack in the first place, and now you're talking about either driving in traffic to Long Island, or having to brave the LIRR. That's going to be a quick jaunt? Second of all, from a culinary standpoint, Checkers doesn't belong in this conversation. And third of all, if you want Checkers, you don't have to head out to Long Island. Just go to Brooklyn, bud. There's one at 111 Court Street.

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I'm from California and recently had Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. It was pretty good but I don't think it's a fair comparison with In N Out because In N Out is truly a fast food restaurant. Even at lunch time you never wait more then 5 minutes to order and another 5 - 10 until your food comes out. I waited in line at Shake Shack for 35 minutes. Crazy. No burger is worth waiting 35 min.

Arthur Bovino's picturetdm-35-icon.png

I hear your argument, but the Madison Square Park location is an infamous line. I can't speak for the Battery Park City, or downtown Brooklyn locations, but the Shake Shacks on the Upper West Side, Upper East Side, and Theater District aren't 35-minute waits. Neither is the Miami Shack.

And I've waited on line for In-N-Out for 15 minutes before in San Francisco, Vegas, and Arizona. They're both fast food burgers. Sorry.

As for no burger being worth waiting 35 minutes for, well, 1) it can take that long for one to arrive when you order it at a restaurant, and 2) I'd wait that long for both In-N-Out OR Shake Shack if I was craving one.

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how about the COST ... a double-double animal style is about $3.00 ... how much is that double shackburger ... $7.25 ...

so your meat thickness comparison is woefully inadequate ... especially considering you can get 2 more cheese patties from in-n-out for your burger for $2 ($1 for each cheese patty) ... making it $5.00 still

i will have to try shake shack when i'm in the city ... but your comparison is invalid without the cost info AT LEAST ...

so i can buy 2 double-doubles for LESS than the price of a double shackburger ... AND ... personally ... i don't like animal style ... but that's just me ...

Arthur Bovino's picturetdm-35-icon.png

Dude, cost has nothing to do with the taste and quality of the burgers. In-N-Out is great, I get one every time I can, but Shake Shack is better, and nothing about the price has any bearing on this conversation.

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