Over the last few years, I have noticed a bit of a rivalry between Northern Virginia based Five Guys and Southern California based In-N-Out Burger or at least from their partisans. I was reminded of it yet again when the latest Zagat survey came out (Fast Food Maven, OC Register)
I disagree with the premise of the rivalry though as I don’t think of Five Guys as fast food. I have heard it called “fast casual” rather than fast food. I think of it more like a place like Ben’s Chili Bowl or a cheesesteak joint rather than In-N-Out or say, McDonald’s which are true fast food joints. Here is some background on the two establishments:
FIVE GUYS BURGERS AND FRIES
The hometown favorite, Five Guys was founded in the mid-1980s in Arlington. I think the original location later relocated to a spot near King Street and Beauregard St. in Alexandria. That is the one I first went to in 1999. My brother had been singing their praises even longer. They started franchising around the turn of the millennium and are now all over the country. I enjoy eat at Five Guys 2 to 4 times a year. I went just the other day so I could take this photo:
Considering it took me 20 minutes from the time I got in line at the Tysons Corner Center food court to get my burger and fries, I simply can’t call that fast food. It doesn’t feel like a fast food place either.
I have only eaten at In-N-Out once — on the way to the airport after a trip to San Francisco. The Daly City In-N-Out we stopped may not be quite like the Southern California ones, but I am sure the food was the same. Unlike Five Guys, this In-N-Out was a true fast food place. Being almost exclusively in California has helped In-N-Out achieve some of its legendary status. I really enjoyed my double-double (sans sauce and vegetables) and the fries. In fact, the photo below is currently the second most viewed photograph I have on flickr (fast food photos make up 5 of the top 20)
So, to me the Five Guys and In-N-Out are two different things and creating a rivalry between them is silly. If you go to either one of them, you get a good burger, you just can’t go to In-N-Out unless you are out west. The last time East Coast and West Coast got into it like this it ended badly. Let’s stop this before it gets out of hand before we start seeing drive-bys ad milkshakes getting poured out on the curb in remembrance.