Welcome to Sounding Off, where writers have the chance to express their, ahem, unique thoughts on the food and drink world. These opinions belong to the writer, not Tasting Table.
If you hail from California, you abide by two cardinal rules: number one) flip-flops are to be worn four out of four seasons of the year, and number two) you must pledge undying allegiance to a Double-Double. It doesn't matter if you've never wandered past the Golden State's boundaries or not—like the blind devotion you have for your favorite sports team, Californians have a sacred spot in their hearts for In-N-Out. It's the loving spouse to whom you've vowed a long-term commitment over late-night encounters with Animal-style fries, pink lemonade and free paper hats. That is, until you pack your bags for New York.
Look, no one ever said long-distance relationships were easy, but things happen, including meeting someone new named Shake Shack. Alas, you can give your greasy fast-food rose to only one burger chain, and as much as it pains me to say this, I'm giving mine to Shake Shack. Because its burgers are simply better.
A ShackBurger is what every other burger aspires to be, mastering that golden ratio of beef to bun. The star of a burger, after all, is the meat, and this is where Shake Shack wins over my cholesterol-filled heart. Unlike the wimpy two-ounce Frisbee lost among a salad of bland iceberg and pickles at In-N-Out, a ShackBurger's expertly seared patty is adorned by the bare necessities: American cheese, a single lettuce leaf, tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes and toppings that complement but never overwhelm. All of this is cradled in a squidgy, buttery potato roll that doesn't need a secret menu variant to make it better, because as it is, a ShackBurger is already perfect.
And you can roll your eyes as I drag Shake Shack's admittedly frozen fries through swaths of ketchup—even the most die-hard In-N-Out fan can admit that those pallid, limp spuds are sad excuses for fries. The added surface area of Shake Shack's crinkle-cut potatoes means they get extra crispy in the fryer, allowing them to hold up to even the most aggressive dunk in a hand-spun milkshake or Concrete—one that doesn't splash out premade from a dispenser, I might add.
True, one could vouch that In-N-Out is a better bang for your buck, but make something too cheap and it just doesn't feel as special. Forking over an Andrew Jackson for one of the best burgers, an order of fries and a milkshake is a special experience, one best enjoyed under the trees and string lights of Madison Square Park. So brand me a traitor if you must. I'll just be sitting here eating my ShackBurger, hiding the paper In-N-Out hat I brought over from California under my mattress.
Are you Team In-N-Out or Team Shake Shack? Give us a shout in the comments.
Please check your inbox to verify your email address.