Saturday, December 12, 2009

Way Home

The week went by pretty fast and now it's time to come home! I am typing this Friday night from the Hampton Inn next to the Salt Lake City airport. This is a nice room! Large, with a king bed and a flat screen television. I don't know if it works or not because I haven't tried it yet.

Out this way there is a burger chain that has a fanatical following, much the same as In-N-Out does. It's called Five Guys. There are actually a couple of locations in Southern California, one in Cerritos and one in Carson. And In-N-Outs are popping up all over the place in Utah. Our instructor told us Orem's first one opened just recently and people even camped out overnight to be among its first customers.

People are nuts.

So for lunch today we figured we had to take the taste comparison test and compare Five Guys to our taste bud's memory of In-N-Out.

First of all, the place was crowded. Not as much as a typical In-N-Out plus they don't have a drive-thru with cars backed up down the driveway and up the street, but it was crowded. Service was fast and very friendly - the counter guy patiently explained the menu to us newbies. Basically you order your burger then there are a whole bunch of different toppings you can request at no extra charge - like grilled mushrooms, grilled onions, pickles, etc. The place was also nice and clean. So comparing service and cleanliness, I'd say it's a tie. Menu-wise, Five Guys wins with more variety. The food is ready faster, too, but In-N-Out doesn't cook your food until you order it. I don't know if Five Guys does nor not.

Now price-wise, I have to say Five Guys is downright expensive. A regular hamburger (which is actually a double) is $4.39, and a cheesburger $4.99. A little hamburger (single patty), which is what I had, is $3.39. Fries are $2.59 for a "regular" order which is actually plenty for two very hungry people. A little hamburger combo with fries and a drink will set you back $7.67, a lot more than at In-N-Out. Granted, you get a whole lot more fries in an order at Five Guys, but that's just too much for one normal person to eat, so what's the point?

Now to the taste test: My little hamburger came with grilled onions and grilled mushrooms. It was tasty. The burger was good-sized and tasted home made. No chain flavor here! It came on a good-quality sesame bun with lots of onions and mushrooms. Whereas an In-N-Out patty is sort of masked by the sauce and other toppings, at Five Guys the burger flavor stands out. However, the In-N-Out hamburger is something to be enjoyed because of the synergy of its ingredients; so while Five Guys seems to have a better patty, taste-wise they are both delicious. My two colleagues loved their burgers and had sort of the same opinion as I did - that both places are good but Five Guys has a tastier patty.

Fries: we were unanimous. In-N-Out has better fries. My two colleagues gave the nod to In-N-Out under the condition that the fries be well done. Me, I gave the nod anyway, just regular style. Five Guy's fries look delicious - really delicious - but the texture leaves something to be desired. There is no crunch to them! They look crunchy, but they aren't. The texture is uniform when it shouldn't be. Also, Five Guy's portion is just ridiculous. It is way too big and consequently, you pay $2.59 for it. They should make something smaller because while it is economical to share them with someone, if you are dining alone or taking it out, then there's really way too much to eat.

For overall dining experience, the winner by decision (and not by KO) is In-N-Out. That said, all the major fast food chains could learn a lot from observing either of these two places, because both are miles above your typical McD, Burger King, etc.

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