North America

World’s best burger: Shake Shack or In-N-Out Burger?


Shake Shack: a box of burger perfection

For several years, I considered the world’s best burger to be a closed case. I have tried a burger on every continent except Antarctica and I would argue that In-N-Out Burger serves up the best hamburgers of any franchise chain in the world, and perhaps even the best fast food.

Lately I have heard a couple of New Yorker and European friends say the best burgers in the world come from Shake Shack. So when the first Shake Shack in Michigan recently opened at Campus Martius in Downtown Detroit, I had to go for a taste test.

Shake Shack, from New York City, has grown quickly from a single burger stand at Madison Square to a worldwide wonder and one of the world’s quickest growing food franchises. They are now located not just in New York and several U.S. cities, but also in Japan, Russia, Turkey, England, Wales, South Korea, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Oman. I was a huge skeptic that a New York burger could even be delicious. First of all, New Yorkers usually are all mouth and claim to be the world’s best [fill in the blank] of everything. Secondly, New York is known for hot dogs, not burgers.


In-N-Out Burger’s famous burger and fries

I won’t deny that I had a burger prejudice. In-N-Out Burger is so delicious, I always make a couple of trips each time I visit California, the birthplace of the chain. I have no doubt that even eating the paper wrapper around their burgers, soaked in their burgers’ sumptuous juices, would taste better than the cardboard taste of McDonald’s hamburgers. But when I arrived at Shake Shack in Detroit, I noticed there was quite a line inside. That’s usually a good sign with fast food.

Once in the queue, I looked up at the wall and noticed a pretty sophisticated menu for a burger shop. The menu included their famous burgers, the Chick’n Shack (with buttermilk herb mayo) and their new barbecue sandwich.

Also, I saw an extensive dessert menu which included their famous frozen custard — created fresh each day and made from sugar, not corn syrup. A combination called “Pie Of My” consists of a vanilla custard and slice of Sister Pie seasonal pie. Concretes, almost like a Blizzard from Dairy Queen, feature frozen custard blended with mix-ins.

Like many Shake Shack locations, the Detroit restaurant features their own unique desserts. Here they offer the Motor City Mix concrete. This Motown creation is made with vanilla custard, peanut butter sauce, Bon Bon Bon dark chocolate with Rocky’s honey roasted peanuts and chocolate toffee.

Want an alcoholic drink? They’ve got that covered too. The ShackMeister Ale, brewed exclusively for Shake Shack by Brooklyn Brewery, is on tap. I watched one manager coach a new employee on how to draw the ale properly. If you want something more sophisticated, there are two wines — the Shack Red and Shack White — made exclusively for Shake Shack by Frog’s Leap of Napa Valley, Calif.

However, I came for one thing: the original ShackBurger, made from fresh ground beef and never frozen, just like In-N-Out Burger. This is 100-percent natural Angus, and features no hormones or antibiotics. You will be asked during your order how you want your burger cooked, medium or well. After a short wait, your made-to-order burger is a little slice of burger heaven as the juices run through your mouth. The buns are made from potato flour which add a unique texture to the two layers of bread encasing your Angus. But the secret to this perfection is their Shack Sauce, a type of special mustard/mayo mix that tastes absolutely incredible. And I don’t even like mayo!

I also had to try one of their famous shakes since this is the “Shake” Shack. I opted for a small chocolate shake which was both rich and thick. The chocolate flavor was strong but not overpowering, while the shake was the right mix between stiff and not too creamy.

The verdict?
I never thought I would say this, but Shake Shack has created a better burger than In-N-Out. However, the freshly cut fries at In-N-Out are better (I would say the same for Five Guys). I would opt for Chick-fil-A’s shakes, which are incidentally, almost half the cost. But as for the best burgers in the world claim, Shake Shack has a strong argument.

If you have a burger that you consider to be the world’s best, please recommend it in the comments below.

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