Although they say everything is bigger in Texas, we have eight reasons the California-based In-N-Out will win the burger battle. Our list is bigger, just like the economy of California's is bigger than that of Texas. These eight points of In-N-Out excellence are strictly the opinion of ABC 30 Fresno anchor/reporter Corin Hoggard, who worked at ABC13 for six years and dined at the nearby Whataburger many times.
1 - Simplicity
Do you want one patty or two? Add cheese? How about fries? Great! Pick a drink and you're done.
In-N-Out keeps it simple so they can excel at what they do. They don't "try to stuff their menu with breakfast and tacos and dessert just to sell more food," according to renowned burger connoisseur Joy Hoggard. (And I always agree with my wife.)
Whataburger isn't even sure what kind of burger you're going to want and their indecision shows in a complicated menu diluting the burger purity.
The whole Whataburger menu would not fit in one image -- so here is an extensive photo gallery:
2 - Fresh Fries
In-N-Out's french fries are scrumptious potato angels. Minutes before you eat them, they were real live potatoes. The open kitchen allows customers to see how the fries are made, and it's nothing like the sausage on a Whataburger "breakfast on a bun." It's divine. Employees cut fresh potatoes, put them in a fryer, lightly salt them and serve up a basket of tasty tubers wearing halos. Eat them first for a heavenly experience.
3 - Secret MenuIn-N-Out's simplicity is a strength, but don't believe its cooks are always so subdued. Invisible to the amateur, but well-known to disciples is a secret menu with more than two dozen unlisted items and combinations. (Check out a complete guide at http://aht.seriouseats.com/.)
From a four-patty burger to a root beer float, they're open to innovation. In fact, if you can figure out some new way to finagle their ingredients, they'll make it.
4 - Animal Style
One of the worst kept secrets on the secret menu is the animal style order. It's not just a sauce. It's an experience. Your standard single, double, or quadruple is topped with pickles, a little bit extra of the special sauce (a tangy, peppery variation on Thousand Island), grilled onions and mustard -- all fried onto each meat patty. The resulting combination is a bit sloppy, but well worth the embarrassing bib you'll need.
5 - Uniforms
The gear is a throwback to a time when roller skating servers delivered your daily dose of delicious. These white pants are always pressed. The shirts remain white. Employees, who always seem thrilled to be there, have to change if they get some animal-style on their uniforms.
There's nothing outstanding about Whataburger's uniform. It's a "fine" uniform.
6 - HatsReal recognize real. If you like the paper hats, ask for a paper hat. You'll get one. I promise they're nicer than the crowns we gave away when I worked at Burger King.
7 - Pairs Well With ChampagneHouston loves its native daughter Beyoncé and Beyoncé loves her In-N-Out...with champagne. Now that she's pregnant with twins, she'll have to cut out the champagne, but we can't count out a craving for a double-double.
8 - Burger TasteLast on the list, but first in our minds and stomachs. Flavor to savor that doesn't waver. An In-N-Out burger always tastes like the freshest ground beef just got pounded into a patty and thrown on the grill, then served hot. The patty has a homemade texture and hits the tongue's sensory organs like a gentle reminder of how luscious the world can be. The lettuce is always crunchy. Their motto, and we're not making this up, is "Quality You Can Taste." They back it up.
Whataburger has a very nice mustard and pepper combination, or spicy ketchup if you prefer, but the toppings often overpower the burger, and the restaurant delivers a slightly tougher patty that just tastes a bit like "manufactured meat," as my wife describes it.
Verdict: In-N-Out wins in a landslide. I never requested a poll conducted by Survey USA, but the vote is unanimous in my house.
"You're making me want In-N-Out," said Joy Hoggard as she reviewed my first draft.
Whataburger may always rule the Lone Star State because of how deep its roots run, but you can bet In-N-Out will keep forcing the issue in Texas. Houston will be the state's last major market where the chain rolls out its franchises. Its success in Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio has prompted expansions in each of those markets.
But there's still hope for Whataburger to make inroads in the Golden State.
"In-N-Out is my second favorite," said my mother-in-law, Sharon McVay. "Whataburger has more meat. It's a big burger."
She might just move to Texas.
Editor's Note: After some research, we found that Whataburger did have locations in California, but they were shut down in 1987. It is unclear how many locations there were or why they shut down. One ABC30 employee recalls at least two locations in Ventura County in the mid-80s.