In-N-Out vs. Whataburger

By Claire Hansen
Blog Content Contributor

For as long as any of us can remember, Whataburger has dominated the Texas fast food industry. Texans pay homage to this place as if it’s church, and I don’t blame them! Nothing hits the spot like a good, quick burger. Recently, though, San Marcos has had a new player move into town. And it’s not just any Wendy’s or McDonald’s — it’s California’s renowned, beloved In-N-Out — A.K.A. a clear competitor to the joint that has ruled San Marcans’ hearts and stomachs for years. So let’s see how these two masters of the game stack up against each other!

Atmosphere

While neither fast food joint is necessarily known for its restaurant atmosphere, these qualities still come into play when measuring total customer experience. In-N-out’s bright white interior seems to highlight the cleanliness of the place at all times. They do a good job of making it feel sanitary and fresh. Like all fast food restaurants, the mood inside feels fast-paced, but being able to see the workers actually run around so tirelessly back in the kitchen adds a whole other element of fun to the trip. They even have large windows in the drive-thru so those customers can experience it, too!

Whataburger, on the other hand, has become known for their unmistakable orange and white color scheme and triangular building shape, which you can find at almost every location. It makes for a very distinct atmosphere, just like In-N-Out’s red and white. Unlike In-N-Out, however, Whataburger doesn’t possess that transparent vibe. It remains with the more typical fast-food-restaurant feel, but that’s perfectly fine, because who really goes to a quick burger place for the atmosphere anyway?

Burgers

Now we can get down to the real important stuff — the food. When it comes to the burgers themselves, there are a few different things to consider. In-N-Out’s version always comes with an undeniable freshness to it — the crisp lettuce, lightly toasted buns, and never-frozen patties all colliding as they hit your mouth create the perfect impression. This is what they pride themselves in, so if quality and presentation are things that matters to you, In-N-Out would probably win the case. Many people evade In-N-Out for this very reason, though, seeking that traditional, greasy fast-food taste instead. You won’t find ketchup and mustard on In-N-Out burgers, but rather a “special sauce” that resembles Thousand Island. If you order off the secret menu, you can get your burger “animal style”, which means it will have grilled onions instead of raw onions, pickles, and a mustard-grilled patty. If you are vegetarian, you can order a grilled cheese and they’ll simply remove the patty. In-N-Out’s menu may be very small, but the amount of customization you can add to any order is unlimited!

burgers
As you can see, there is a distinct difference in size and appearance between Whataburger and In-N-Out. Photo by Claire Hansen.

The original “Whataburger” is a couple dollars more expensive than an In-N-Out burger but also quite a bit bigger in size. It’s seen more as a juicy, greasy, late-night-stop kind of burger compared to In-N-Out’s strive for a fresher, higher-quality burger. Similar to In-N-Out, Whataburger also includes their version of a secret sauce, as well as pickles and mustard, which don’t come standard on a burger from In-N-Out. With more bang for your buck and a couple extra toppings, it’s easy to see why many people would see the choice between In-N-Out and Whataburger as a no-brainer. Funny enough, though, the most popular items at Whataburger aren’t even burgers. Other delicious items like the Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit and Monterey Melt are staple sandwiches that really make Whataburger stand out to a lot of people, since you can’t find them anywhere else. Plus, they are served on Texas Toast. Who could say no to Texas Toast?

Other menu items

When it comes to the menu as a whole, Whataburger definitely has In-N-Out beat, simply because they have more options. However, while In-N-Out only offers burgers, fries and shakes on their menu, each of these things definitely packs a punch. Plus, you can mix it up by getting a Neopolitan Shake or Animal Fries, which are two things you won’t find at Whataburger.

Whataburger makes a clear effort to sell a variety of items, and delicious ones, at that. The Patty Melt and the Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich are two customer favorites that are unique to this restaurant and part of what gives it its great reputation. With a comprehensive breakfast menu, an array of salads and a dessert menu to go with, it is clear why many Texans would prefer Whataburger over In-N-Out. Oh, and let’s not forget about those yummy fries.

In the end, it really just comes down to what you like to eat when going out for fast food. I like to keep things classic since I don’t eat out a lot, so I choose In-N-Out, but others may prefer the more extravagant options found at Whataburger.

(Let’s be honest, though, we all know the real winner here is P. Terry’s… did someone say veggie burgers?)

Featured photo by Claire Hansen.

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