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Burger Wars: Is Fatburger Better than In N' Out?

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While most Angelenos will urge their visitors to try a meal at In N' Out (the best to capture that classic sunshiney L.A. drive-through burger experience), they often forget about the other local fast-food burger phenomenon: Fatburger. Both establishments boast excellent burgers and a fool-proof menu, but there are some major (and delicious) differences that make it almost impossible to decide which is better (kind of like the Pink's versus Skooby's debate -- but that, dear reader, must wait for another time).

Fatburger just as much the juicy slice of L.A. history that In N' Out is: the first of the spreading chain was opened in 1952 by Lovey Yancey and Charles Simpson at 31st Street and Western Avenue (In N' Out got its start in Baldwin Park in 1948); the decor and free-wheeling spirit were inspired by Yancey's home-cooking style and love of r&b, soul, and rock n' roll music. They've franchised out much further than In N' Out, and you can now enjoy Fatburgers in New Jersey, Florida, and Texas - but I'll bet that nothing comes close to a Kingburger with Skinny fries, topped with an egg and chili, enjoyed at your closest SoCal location. You can't franchise freshness, my friends.

Everyone knows about In N' Out's "secret" menu (you probably had a friend in college who ordered 6x6's and 8x8's, I did, and his name was Josh Brooks and he had been an undergrad at UCLA for nine years, but that is also another story), but Fatburger really brings is with the add-ons: chili, fried eggs, bacon (cheaters), pickles, and a lavish helping of pickle relish, which bring a tangy crispness to each bite of burger.

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But how strange is it that one particular geographical area led to such different interpretations of the burger? In N' Out chooses to garnish its burgers with grilled onion, cheese, and that inimitable special sauce -- pink, speckled with their own relish, and absolutely luscious once it mixes with the juices of an well-grilled all-beef patty. We are surrounded by an embarassment of hamburger riches, people. Don't even breathe the word Tommy's. Just don't. Not now.


Both chains aspire to an ideal of "freshness" and hand-grilled goodness that are meant to contrast against the frozen, warmed-over artificial yuckiness of your corner McDonald's. This doesn't mean the food's that much healthier than ol Mickey D's, but it does taste a heck of a lot better.

Wanna take a look at Fatburger's nutrional stats? Oh, come on, it'll be fun! The Kingburger definitely should be avoided if you're worried about calories: one of the fun things about Fatburger is that you can pile on a ton of extras, so you don't need a giant 800-calorie burger on top of that. The In N' Out Double-Double, on the other hand, packs in only 690 calories, but 90% of your daily fat intake. (Blame cheese: the food that giveth the taste but taketh away the slim waist.)


The Baby Fat is a great option for those of us less interested in pigging out -- all the phat flavor in a 300-calorie package (so you can go a little crazy with the egg & bacon toppings if you want). An In N' Out hamburger (no cheese), with mustard & ketchup substituted for the pink spread, comes in at a tidy 310 calories - score on both counts, honestly. Although - that pink mayo-relish secret sauce is pretty phenomenal.

Like I said, Fatburger's fries win for crispiness and seasoning, but In N' Out does have that great super-secret menu option: fries doused in grilled onions, special sauce, and cheese. Ask for it next time, I think it's just called "fries animal style".These are the things that unite us as Americans: melty cheese and special sauce over grilled onions and fries.

The burgers themselves are about equal quality: although I have to say, I prefer Fatburger fries, and you can get them skinny or fat. I've never really understood In N' Out's fries. They're almost never crispy (except for those little ones), and they get cold and soggy almost immediately out of the fryer. Fatburger fries stay crispy and warm - unless you choose to dump chili all over them, which is a totally understandable impulse. One advantage In N' Out does hold is that it's a lot cheaper: two burgers, two drinks, and one order of fries came to $15.00 at Fatburger, while the same could be gotten for under $10 at In N' Out.

What's that you're saying? You want to know about the shakes? Erm. Uh. Well, see, the thing is -- you've just discovered the chink in my foodie armor. I am not into shakes. I am not into soda pop. When I go to a burger stand, I want nothing but burger -- perhaps a cool iced tea on the side, but I have no time for these sweet, thick, mucus-making "shakes" you speak of. I could not tell you who does it better if you paid me twenty bucks (I'll take your money though). But I am absolutely sure that somebody out there has an informed opinion. Do share. Do.

I do not see an end in sight to these burger wars: and like I said, I haven't even begun to explore the many-lettered world of Tommy's (Tomy's? Tommi's? Tomi's? the mind is boggled!). All I know is that thanks to the many In N' Outs and Fatburgers scattered around the Southland, I could conceivably go the rest of my life without ever venturing into a McDonald's. And that, my fellow foodies, is a very, very, very good thing.