The PJ Tatler

In-N-Out Burgers Joins Five Guys, Battles Local Favorites in Austin's Rapidly Escalating Burger War

Begun, the Austin burger wars have.

So California-based In-N-Out Burger thinks it can invade Texas and push the indigenous and other national burger chains aside? Is that how it works?

World famous California hamburger chain In-N-Out Burger opened a new location in Round Rock Tuesday.

As the first location in Central Texas, the new In-N-Out will allow customers a much easier way to satisfy their addiction. Larry Sherwood said he’s been hooked on In-N-Out since his first bite in the 90s

”Now I don’t have to fly to L.A. or Dallas to get my In-N-Out fix,” he said.

Karen Brewster-Clanton moved here from California and said she’s been not-so-patiently waiting for In-N-Out ever since.

“I’ve been telling my job, my boss and everybody just, ‘Get ready – you’re going to taste the best burger in town,’” Brewster said.

I don’t know about that. It’s a grandiose claim. Can In-N-Out back it up?

The Austin area is home to some of the best local and national burger chains on the planet. We have everything that everyone else has, and which won’t be discussed here — McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, etc etc. They’re not part of the burger wars and don’t rate an honorable mention here. They exist.

But we also have Mighty Fine, which always lives up to their name. We have P. Terry’s. They’re both local. We have Braum’s with their combination ice creamery-grocery store-burger joint thing. Well, we don’t have them in Austin, but we have them in Texas. We need them in Austin. We have recent entrant Fire Oak Grill. We have Moonie’s Burger House. We have Hat Creeks, though I have to confess that I haven’t visited one of them yet. That situation will be rectified soon. We have Whataburgers everywhere, and Sonics, which are ubiquitous across Texas and stretch out to fortunate states beyond, but they’re not quite national. We have Five Guys with their beautifully messy burgers and their peanut-oil fries. We have the gourment-treated Smash Burger. And now we have In-N-Out. Let burger lovers rejoice!

I’m a burger veteran. I started enjoying Five Guys back when I lived in Baltimore. I sampled In-N-Out on a trip to PJ Media World Headquarters in Los Angeles a couple of years ago. It was the In-N-Out close to LAX, so no one can claim that I didn’t get the authentic In-N-Out experience. I did. Mighty Fine, P. Terry’s, I’ve had ’em all. I have my opinions on all of them. I have opinions on really obscure local joints like Burger Bros in Towson, MD. Burger Bros flat out rocks, by the way. I’ve had burgers in Tokyo, on the Champs Elysee in Paris, on Guam, in Alaska, too many places to name. I might have had a burger in Baghdad.

This conflagration in Austin is going to be a major war. In-N-Out is coming into one of the most contested theaters of burger battle in the world. Austin is weird, but it’s not stupid. We have it all here. We know what we like. We know what passes muster and what doesn’t. You can’t sell a weak burger here on brand name alone. We won’t stand for it.

In-N-Out serves a high quality burger. Make no mistake about that. The bread is fresh, the meat is juicy, the vegetables are crisp, it all works. The fries are solid but, I have to be honest, I’ve had better fries. But I’ve also had worse.

I like the In-N-Out burger. I’m glad they’re here. Competition is healthy, even if what these competitors offer may not be. But are Californians right, that In-N-Out serves the best burger that beats all other burgers? The king of burgers?

Well, those Californians do know how to make a great burger. In-N-Out is worth the hype.

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At this point, I can do one of several things. I could cop out and leave you with a cliffhanger. I could go nativist and declare that the Texas-based chain serves up the best burgers, because, Texas. Or I could just say what I really think.

In-N-Out is great and I’ll probably be there this weekend or soon enough to remind myself how good it is. It’s hard to beat a quality local burger act like Moonie’s or Mighty Fine. P. Terry’s should go national. There are days when you can’t get into the one downtown. They’re expanding out from Austin’s center and hopefully there will be one near you soon enough. But their burgers, while great, are a little small, to be honest. Whataburger is amazing and always freshens things up. Their green chile burger is unbelievable. They’ll add jalapenos to anything. Their spicy ketchup is the greatest invention since regular ketchup. Their habit-forming onion rings…well, now I’m getting hungry.

But the absolute best chain burger I’ve ever had has to be the East Coast entrant, Five Guys.

They’re bigger. They’re messier. They’re juicier. They’re nastier in the right ways. They have to wrap the things in foil to contain all the juices in there. They let you snack on peanuts while you’re waiting for your burger. The fresh cut fries at Five Guys are the best on earth. When you order fries, you get a big cup or paper bag full of them.

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When you bite into a Five Guys burger, the heavy sandwich in your hands just oozes flavor and quality…and other stuff. This is not a drive-thru window burger. You can’t eat one without making a big mess of  things. You can try eating one while you’re driving, but that would be a mistake. You’ll end up missing out on the sheer joy of eating the thing, and you’ll end up wearing quite a bit of it for the rest of the day.

Park the car. Walk in. Order one with fries. Have some peanuts. And then savor the best chain burger there is, with the best fries you can get anywhere.

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Cross-posted at PJ Lifestyle