Monday, July 19, 2010

Shake Shack Is Good But It's No IN-N-OUT, Sorry NYC

I know...that must sound like sacrilege coming from a New Yorker like me but it's the truth. A few weeks before 9/11 happened me and the wife moved out to Phoenix, AZ to get a taste of the wild, wild west, but mostly because I had been asked to transfer there by my job. Shortly before we arrived the first IN-N-OUT burger outside of Cali and Vegas was built in Scottdale and soon became the hottest (no pun but it was Arizona afterall) burger destination in the East Valley. Just for reference, Shake Shack wouldn't open it's first location for another 3 years in 2004. Anyway the first time I ever tried an IN-N-OUT burger I wasn't all too impressed and didn't understand what all the fuss was about and basically wrote it off. It wasn't until I was schooled by a native Californian about the secret menu that my interest was peaked again. Animal Style all the way baby! Animal Style for the layman is extra cheese, extra sauce and fried onions added to your burger and if you are extra crazy like me you can also get all of that added to your fries. Sweet! When I moved back home back in 2007 all anyone around here could talk about was Shake Shack, Shake Shack, Shake Shack and from the look of the line in Madison Square Park there must've been something to talk about (not the Bonnie Raitt song). Unfortunately I suffer from IN-N-OUT hangover and compare every burger experience that I have to it, whether that's fair or not I don't know but it's hard to Shake? Let's get down to the nitty gritty. I believe there is one major factor that separates these two burger giants and that is the buns (stop thinking dirty). Most people probably think that it would be the meat that would separate the two. There certainly is some truth to that and in this case Shake Shake has the better piece of meat, no question. However the defining part of any burger, to me, is the bun and how that directly affects the entire experience can be often overlooked. At IN-N-OUT they bake their own buns and lightly toast the inside before the creation of each burger. Shake Shack uses a Potato Bun that they say is grilled (last time I was there the bun was not grilled, but no big deal) and for me that certainly takes away a little bit of the enjoyment. I actually like Potato Buns very much and always use them when I am grilling in the back yard at home. But that's just it, I am going to a place like Shake Shack to eat something special that I can't get at home and the bun is where they fail. To say fail is a bit harsh because overall they are far from that, it's just that I feel more thought should have been put into the type of bun that they chose for this extra special treat.

As experiences go both places offer a great time and both are worth repeated visits even if the wait at either spot can often be a bit too long. Problem for all of us East Coasters is that there isn't an IN-N-OUT farther that Texas for us to compare the two. One can only dream. All hail to the king...see below.

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