Like any other California native, I’ve always been fiercely loyal to In-N-Out. But now that I go to school in Washington, D.C. I'm 2,700 miles away from my friends, family, and beloved burgers. The cravings are real, so I went exploring to find the closest thing to In-N-Out that I could.

What I found was Shake Shack. Honestly, I never thought another burger place could ever come close to replacing In-N-Out in my heart, but then I tried Shake Shack’s fries. So this got me thinking: Which is truly better, the East Coast’s Shake Shack or the West Coast’s In-N-Out?

Round One: The Spread

A photo posted by SHAKE SHACK (@shakeshack) on

One thing that the two restaurants have in common is their spread. Both Shake Shack and In-N-Out use a Thousand Island-like sauce on their burgers. Shake Shack’s spread is thick and stays on your burger the whole time you’re eating it, whereas, In-N-Out’s sauce is much runnier and ends up dripping everywhere.

Having a thicker sauce really adds flavor to your burger because you’re not losing half of it in the process of eating. Therefore, Shake Shack wins this round.

Round Two: The Meat

bun, cheese, hot dog, beef, tomato, lettuce, ketchup, meat, sandwich, bread, mustard, hamburger, sausage
Chase Masters

The most important part of a burger is, of course, the patty. Both In-N-Out and Shake Shack hold their own in this category. Both patties are about the same size with a relatively thin. But the biggest difference and deciding factor of who boasts the better burger is that Shake Shack’s meat is just a little bit too salty, giving In-N-Out the win

Round Three: The Bun

cheese, french fries
Chase Masters

In my opinion, this is the biggest difference between the two burger chains. Shake Shack’s bun is softer and sweeter, almost like the bread rolls you would eat with your dinner. In-N-Out’s buns are soft, but they lack that element of sweetness.

Don’t get me wrong, Shake Shack’s buns definitely work and you’re not overwhelmed by the flavors. But for me personally, I want the bun to compliment the other ingredients when I bite into a burger, not be the standout star. Therefore, I have to give this round to In-N-Out.

Round Four: The Fries

A photo posted by SHAKE SHACK (@shakeshack) on

I feel like the Benedict Arnold of West Coast cuisine for saying this, but Shake Shack’s fries win hands down. In-N-Out does good work with their fries, but oftentimes you can get stuck with a bunch of fries that are limp and kind of stringy.

A French fry should be able to stand up on its own, not flop around in your fingers. Shake Shack’s crinkle fries are basically works of art. They’re consistent—always well salted, never limp, and continuously tasty. Thus, Shake Shack is the clear winner.

Round Five: The Shakes

A photo posted by SHAKE SHACK (@shakeshack) on

I think that Shake Shack does have a bit of an advantage in this category because they have more variety of shakes. At In-N-Out, you can only get the classics—strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate. If you’re feeling really creative, then you can do a Neapolitan, but there are still only three flavors to choose from. 

Shake Shack wins this round because they boast a bigger variety. Not only do they have the OG flavors, but they also have caramel, black & white, peanut butter, and coffee on their menu as well. Everybody likes options, which Shake Shack provides and In-N-Out does not, giving Shake Shack that win.

#SpoonTip: Dip your fries in your shakes, it'll blow your mind.

Round Six: The Coolness Factor

cheese, hot dog, sauce, chili
Chase Masters

If you’re going to go out to get a burger, you want the place to be cool and feel less like you’re eating fast food and more like you’re just hanging out with your friends.

Both restaurants have pretty fun décor. Shake Shack definitely has aesthetically appealing packaging and the combination of whites and greens leave it looking fresh and new. In-N-Out’s old school red and palm trees definitely give off West Coast vibes, keeping it relevant and fun.

But the tie breaker for this category is the fact that In-N-Out has a secret menu. There’s some added local pride when you walk into a place and order something like “animal fries,” which can’t be found on the menu. In-N-Out also has a cult following. Locals are loyal to it and come time and time again.

Shake Shack definitely has its fair share of a local following, but it isn’t the same. In-N-Out is the place to go after every high school football game, beach day, or trip away from home. The first thing my friends and I do when we come home from school is get In-N-Out, but I don’t think I could say the same for people with Shake Shack. In-N-Out comes with its own culture, so in this regard it wins the coolness factor.

The Results

A photo posted by SHAKE SHACK (@shakeshack) on

When you add up all the factors, it looks like we have a tie. However, the last category is based more on the experience and less on the food. So if we’re focusing only on the food content-based categories, then Shake Shack wins the battle of the coasts and boasts the better burger. I will always love In-n-Out, but a win is a win.