Battle of the Burgers
Last month, I visited some friends in Oakland, CA. Driving back to the airport, I spotted an In & Out Burger off the highway. For years, I’ve heard people (mostly Left Coasters) raving about In & Out Burgers with the same conviction and regional pride that East Coast/Midwesterners rave about White Castle and many of us in the South/Southwest rave about Whataburger. So, as I pulled into the In & Out drive-thru, I decided to conduct a one-woman Battle of the Burgers.
Now, before I begin, I should say that I’m really not much of a burger eater. I average only 1-2 burgers a year in sit-down restaurants and even less in fast food joints. It had been more than 3 years since I’d eaten a fast food burger (White Castle). I’m also not a big fan of mayo or pickles, and I scrape off 90% of the ketchup & mustard. So, keep in mind that these elements are omitted from the burger-judging process.
In & Out Burgers: The In & Out menu was pretty simple (though there is, apparently, a “secret menu“). I ordered a cheesburger (hold the mayo/pickles/onions, easy on the ketchup/mustard) with fries and a lemonade. The meat patty, while greasy, was far less oily than a McDonald’s hamburger. The bun, tomato and lettuce were surprisingly fresh for a drive-thru burger.
White Castle: The last (and only) time I’d had a White Castle Burger was while I was living in Brooklyn. The menu has more items than In & Out, but it’s still pretty simple compared to the gluttony at McDonalds. One of the unique things about White Castle Burgers is their size – compared to a typical burger, they’re tiny (59 grams). If you’re really hungry, you can purchase a box of THIRTY burgers . I tried three “slyders” – hamburger, cheeseburger and chicken sandwich during my visit. The burgers were small and very, very greasy. Even the buns tasted like they had been dipped in oil. I could manage only one bite of the chicken sandwich, it was so salty.
Whataburger: Started in Corpus Christi in 1950, Whataburger is the Southern/Southwest regional contender spanning Florida to New Mexico. Compared to In & Out and White Castle, Whataburger’s menu has many more items. I ordered a Whataburger with cheese (hold the mayo/pickles/onions, easy on the ketchup/mustard), fries and a Sprite. Like In & Out, the components of Whataburger’s burger were fresh – the bun was soft, the tomato was fresh and the lettuce wasn’t wilted or brown. In fact, the two burgers tasted almost identical.
And the Battle of the Burgers Winner is…..
Whataburger! Followed closely by In & Out. White Castle burgers are basically 59 disgusting grams of salt and grease. Both Whataburger and In & Out were pretty fresh for fast-food burgers and virtually identical in quality….but in the end, the winning elements were the Texas flavor (jalapenos) and the nostalgia factor (those signature orange/white pointed roofs).