Here we go. The ultimate showdown between the hometown hero, hailing from AUSTIN, TEXAS, and the challenger, just in from CALIFORNIA. Lots of buzz surrounded the invasion of In-N-Out Burger into the home turf of P. Terry’s. The people are split: the West Coast transplants came out in force when the first store opened while the locals dug in their heels defending their local love. As an unbiased outsider* I felt it was my duty to pit them head to head and settle the debate once and for all**. So let’s get into it.
*it’s true I live in Austin, but I have no allegiance to either fast food chain.
**in other words, somehow angering everyone while pleasing no one. God bless the Internet.
I first drove to In-N-Out around 8pm on Thursday night, ordered a single-single (lettuce, tomato, special sauce, no onions please; $2.35) and fries ($1.60) for $4.28, and waited while the army of hatted, apron-ed employees behind the counter buzzed around. I couldn’t believe how many people they had cranking out burgers, fries, and shakes considering how brief the menu is.
With my In-N-Out order in hand I quickly made my way over to P. Terry’s to place the exact same order. They wisely don’t offer onions so I went with a cheeseburger (lettuce, tomato, special sauce; $2.25) and a side of fries ($1.65), for $4.22. While waiting I learned about what “All Fresh” means and watched the much smaller uniformed army assemble my meal.
Finally home, with both bags ready to throw down, the time had come. I snapped a few glamour shots before diving in.
The most striking difference came from burger presentation. In-N-Out looked like a monster, channeling its inner Pacman while P. Terry’s, honestly, looked a little sad. The boat of In-N-Out fries stacked nicely to match its burger’s height. The P. Terry’s bag of fries, like its burger counterpart, seemed a little… comfortable.
In-N-Out drew most of its height from an overly generous portion of lettuce. So much lettuce, in fact, that I almost call it a negative. An easily-correctable problem, but still worth noting. Otherwise it tasted great. The special sauce that sends people into a frenzy –a little heavy-handed– combined with the tomato guaranteed it couldn’t be dry. And the bun held it all in check while also keeping its shape and tasting good on its own.
As for the fries… oh, those polarizing fries. Some people love ‘em. I am not one of those people. I hear you can special order them to be double-fried or something, which makes them “so much better,” but if that’s the case, then why don’t they always just do that? Anyway, they’re below average at best, both in flavor and texture. I will say they’re well seasoned.
As I mentioned, P. Terry’s first impression did not impress. There was some unmelted cheese hanging out of the bun and some places where the top and bottom buns came together without any meat in between. Overall it was just sloppy. But once I got into it, the poor assembly wasn’t too much of an issue. Picking it up I noticed the soft and fluffy bun that hugged everything inside. The lettuce, tomato, and special sauce balanced each other nicely. The whole burger, when properly reassembled, makes it clear why Austin loves this place.
The fries rock. Salty and soft and addictive. You can’t help going back for “just one more
Alright, that’s a lot of talking. But who prevailed? Well, as far as the fries go, it’s no contest: P. Terry’s by a mile.
The burger, on the other hand, was a much tighter race. After taking alternating bites from each burger, without being able to put my finger on any single trait, overall the winner is…
As far as I’m concerned, P. Terry’s gets my money. Don’t feel bad for In-N-Out though. The lines, inside and the drive-thru, were huge. And as much as “presentation” can be considered for fast food, In-N-Out looks much more appealing. But let’s not kid ourselves, we want the one that tastes better, and that’s why I’ll be heading to P. Terry’s the next time I have a craving.
Regarding “what’s next?”, surely you noticed these places serve milkshakes, didn’t you?