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Off-Season Analysis: In-n-Out v. Shake Shack

How I learned to stop counting calories and eat Animal Style Fries

Piotr’s last In-N-Out
Piotr T Le

As some of you may know, I have been residing on the East Coast for the last 2 years. During that time I have craved many of California’s finest foods: burritos with guacamole that is fresh and creamy and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, homemade Vietnamese food, Thai food that is as good at noon as it is at midnight. However, one thing I miss most is the In-N-Out Burger. Not because there is a scarcity of burgers, but actually because of the ton of burger places here, and one of them is often touted as a possible challenger to In-N-Out. That place is Shake Shack.

Some people, like my favorite YouTubers (Wong Fu Productions), believe that Shake Shack is a superior burger.

As someone who lives on the East Coast I have to say that these people are sadly misguided and are deceived by the glitz of the Shack. Taking price and quality into consideration as well as the ratio between the two, there is no competition: Shake Shack is overrated and cannot compare to In-N-Out.

Double Shake Shack Burger
Double Double Animal Style
Kenji Alt-Lopez @ Serious Eats

This article was prompted by living on the East Coast for roughly 2 years. During that time I gave Shake Shack a statistically significant amount of attempts to impress me, but all I was left with is a $18.67 bill for a Double Shack Burger, fries, and a shake. This is compared with In-N-Out where a Double Double Animal Style, with Animal Style fries, and a shake cost me only $10.85. This is a difference of $7.82!

This discrepancy between prices would be justifiable even if the quality of the Shake Shack was roughly 1.5 that of In-N-Out (since we have to assume diminish marginal returns for each dollar spend on goods). Yet, line-by-line, only in the milkshake category did the Shack prove itself to be superior to the In-N-Out burger.

And in order to maintain the veneer of sports blogging I will give scores in terms of Cal football games.


The Shack Burger is to the Double-Double is what Stanfurd students are to Cal students. They have the same base ingredients: good grades, good test scores, yet the former is more expensive and unsatisfying to deal with. Sure the Double-Double is messier to deal with since the Shack Burger’s bun isn’t cut the whole way through preventing the juices and sauce from flowing out. But if I wanted to eat something that isn’t messy I wouldn’t be getting a burger, I’d be getting Chez Panisse.

In terms of Cal football this is like Cal defeating Oregon this year. Sure it was a messy affair, but a win is a win, especially against a flashier opponent whom everyone praises.


Is it even a discussion? On one hand we have crinkle cut fries. Like the ones you can get at Safeway in the frozen food aisle. On the other hand we have fries that are topped with cheese, thousand island sauce, and fried onions, all but guaranteed to give any nutritionist palpitations. Animal Fries win.

Da Winning Fries
Carey Jones @ Serious Eats
Shake Shack

This is a beat down like the beat down Cal football gave Stanfurd in 2004. Utter domination all throughout.


The Shack, down 0-2 will not make a miraculous comeback. This isn’t a 1-3 or a 3-28 deficit that they can overcome because this is the last section. Yet, even this victory is pyrric. It’s not that the Shake Shack’s signature offering is mind-blowing, it is because the In-N-Out equivalent is disappointing as heck. What a milkshake is at In-N-Out is better categorized as half-frozen sweetened, flavored milk and cream.

This is like having to watch 2013 Cal play Fresno State. Sure it is a victory, but it really doesn’t feel like one.