Shake Shack vs. Five Guys (vs. In-N-Out and Culver’s)

Shake Shack vs. Five Guys (vs. In-N-Out and Culver’s)

In New York, we dined at Shake Shack, and when I say ‘dined,’ I mean we fought bitterly for a table to balance our drinks on while we shoved our food into our faces as fast as possible to escape the too-crowded restaurant. But some people love it.

And then there’s Five Guys, another East Coast favorite. Could these guys compete with the Culver’s and In-N-Out? It’s time to find out. Keep reading.

ShackBurger. Note the crinkle-cut Culver's-esque French fries.
ShackBurger. Note the crinkle-cut Culver’s-esque French fries.

Burger: ShackBurger vs. “Little” Burger

Single-patty burgers from Shake Shack and Five Guys both cost less than $5. I thought the Shake Shack burger was very good, but the ambiance did kill some of the flavor (more on that below). Honestly, Five Guys does a better job giving the meat a little crispiness … and then there are the free toppings. Toppings — including jalapeños — are included in the price of a Five Guys burger. We have a winner. Five Guys.

Ambiance: Shake Shack vs. Five Guys

Five Guys trounces Shake Shack when it comes to ambiance. There just are not enough seats at the Shake Shacks I’ve experienced. The Upper West Side location, in the biggest city in the US, has about 15 chairs. We had to fight to get one. It was ugly. I’m sure some are fine, but every Five Guys I’ve come across has plenty of seating. That matters. Five Guys wins again.

Peanuts? Yes, please.
Peanuts? Yes, please.

Extras: Booze vs. Peanuts

Last time, when comparing In-N-Out and Culver’s, I mentioned I like a beer with my burger. That’s still true and Shake Shack provides. They even have half bottles of nice wine (which is probably a better way to go than full bottles of half-nice wine). It’s certainly a great addition if you’re the type that likes a $30 split of Ridge with your $5 burger. But the peanuts. The peanuts are something. The peanuts are free. I love places that serve peanuts. Sure, the peanuts at Five Guys aren’t as good as the ones at Joe Jost’s, but they’re something. And … did I mention they’re free? Free peanuts, free toppings. This one is close. Let’s call it a draw.

Others: Fried Portobello ‘Shroom Burger vs. Cajun Fries

Lisa had the ‘Shroom Burger at Shake Shack. It tasted vomit-inducingly bad. Honestly. Heaves. Cajun fries, on the other hand, are gifts from the gods. Heaven. Zeus must have created these. I’m willing to bet Moses lost two commandments when strolling back down Mount Sinai: Though shalt leave the potato skins on; Thou shalt cook fries to a deep amber brown.  They’re amazing French fries — spicy and salty and deeply-browned. Just like I like my women. Five Guys wins again.

Champion: Five Guys

Your new false idol. This one is a double.
Your new false idol. This one is a double.
Fries done right at Five Guys.
Fries done right at Five Guys.

But what about the other two?

Lisa still prefers the Monster-Style burger option from In-N-Out, but I’m a full-on Five Guys convert because of the jalapeños. It’s the fries that end all arguments IMO. Both Culver’s and In-N-Out have TERRIBLE fries. They’re embarrassingly bad. Even the Monster Style fries from In-N-Out can’t compete with Five Guys Cajun fries. Then Five Guys takes it over the top with the peanuts.

Ladies and gentlemen, bow down to the true burger king-of-kings, Five Guys. They know how to do it.

Not game for a chain? Check out these middle-of-nowhere burger options.

2 thoughts on “Shake Shack vs. Five Guys (vs. In-N-Out and Culver’s)”

  • Shake Shack was always about the Madison Park location – perhaps a major milestone in private/public spaces involving food for the city. They have penned off areas, and lines out of the park. Just the sheer ability to walk to a park, get GOOD food from the vendor and trendy food made it a one-of-a-kind experience. That’s the history. Go there on rainy days – no line.

    Not sure on UWS location. The burger was always good and fresh, but other locations just mean the brand is big enough to draw customers. Shake Shack isn’t near as big as 5 guys. So when in NYC, you should really evaluate on the local scene – Shake shack is pioneering and home-grown, while 5 guys is a chain coming in. A welcome one, but still.

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