Comments & Curiosities: Burger warfare

April 30, 2011|By Peter Buffa

This is war. It won't be pretty, but it will be tasty, especially for carnivores.

There are things in life that lead to strong feelings, arguments and hurtful words that should never be said — things like religion, politics, and burgers.

Just months after the launch of the super-sized In-N-Out at Harbor and Gisler in Costa Mesa, there's a new burger in town — Five Guys Burgers and Fries. The Virginia-based company, which has more than 700 stores in the U.S. and Canada and 27 in California, was founded in 1986 by five brothers, which is a lot of brothers but also explains the name.


Five Guys will replace the newly vanished Baja Fresh in the Target center at Harbor Boulevard and Baker Street, which means that, ironically, and perhaps quite deliberately, the new patty pushers will be setting up shop just a few hundred yards from In-N-Out.

According to industry experts, Five Guys and In-N-Out are comparable and highly competitive. Five Guys is a little pricier, but both chains are built on simple but top-tier burgers that are exceedingly chubby, decadent and delectable. The two patty palaces look the same, all white and red and beige wood, and while the menus may not be twins, they are cousins.

At In-N-Out, it's hamburger, cheeseburger, Double-Double, fries. At Five Guys, it's hamburger, cheeseburger, bacon burger, bacon cheeseburger, fries.

Do you see a theme emerging here? I'm thinking burgers and fries. Five Guys is a little more expansive, with hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, and the most mystifying choice on the menu — a veggie sandwich.

I'm not sure why someone who leans toward veggie sandwiches is in Five Guys to begin with, but that is not for me to say. Maybe they snuck in to use the restroom then decided they were a little hungry. In both places, the presentation is simple — they present you the burgers, you present them the cash.

In other words, whether you're in Five Guys or In-N-Out, if you're looking for a Kobe burger topped with melted gruyere, arugula and portobello mushrooms, you need to leave. This is America, people, not La Jolla.

But anytime the topic is hamburgers, two things come to mind — who invented them, and what makes a great burger truly great?

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