I tried In-N-Out and Whataburger side by side — and it’s clear who makes a better meal

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Sarah Jacobs

Whataburger is to Texas what In-N-Out is to California. Both companies are still family-owned, regional chains – an anomaly in a market that’s dominated by national multimillion-dollar fast-food companies.

In-N-Outs are scattered throughout the Southwest, while Whataburger locations line the South from New Mexico to Florida. They meet in the middle, in Dallas, Texas, where I ate both side by side in a taste test last fall.

While Texans swear by Whataburger’s more Southern menu items – Texas toast, patty melts, biscuits – Californians rave about In-N-Out’s fresh ingredients and “animal-style” burgers. I ordered a burger, large fries, and a chocolate milkshake.


My first stop was Whataburger. The building is outlined in a classic orange trimming, making it hard to miss when you’re cruising down a Texas highway at 80 mph.

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Sarah Jacobs

Part of Whataburger’s Southern charm is displayed right on their windows. There’s an American flag and posters repping the neighborhood sports teams.

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Sarah Jacobs

They take pride in their history — found in most Whataburger restaurants is a framed portrait of the chain’s founder, Harmon Dobson, and the original location, which opened in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1950 (right).

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Sarah Jacobs

Aside from the historical memorabilia, the inside of a Whataburger is like most fast-food chains. It has relatively dim lighting, tiled floors, and a mostly hidden kitchen.

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Sarah Jacobs

Southern hospitality is alive and well inside a Whataburger. Even when ordering to go, you get a table number so that a friendly staff member can hand-deliver your food to you. There’s no confusing name- or number-calling here.

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Sarah Jacobs

They have a variety of sauces, including spicy ketchup, picante sauce, and salsa verde.

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Sarah Jacobs

I ordered the basics: a double-meat-and-cheese Whataburger, large fries, and a chocolate shake. There’s no way to forget that Whataburger is originally Texan — even their to-go bags say “y’all.”

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Sarah Jacobs

Before my Whataburger got cold, I rushed to the closest In-N-Out, conveniently located 0.3 miles away. Texas is a great state.

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Sarah Jacobs

In-N-Out’s menu is known for its simplicity. When the first location opened near Los Angeles in 1948, founder Harry Snyder wanted to keep the focus on burgers, fries, and shakes.

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Sarah Jacobs

Fans of In-N-Out love to rep the brand, and merchandise is ready to purchase at any store and online.

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Sarah Jacobs

The atmosphere inside is different from most fast-food chains — the light is bright, the kitchen is open, and the bright red tiles add color.

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Sarah Jacobs

But enough about the ambience — it was time to awkwardly unpack my Whataburger order in the middle of a busy In-N-Out. As you can see, it’s a classic fast-food order.

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Sarah Jacobs

My number was called, and I picked up my In-N-Out order: a classic double-double with grilled onions, fries, and a chocolate shake. Unlike at Whataburger, the ketchup is a self-service situation at In-N-Out.

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Sarah Jacobs

First up was the Whataburger shake: super-thick and notably grainy from the ice cream that was used. While the chocolate flavor was there, the texture took away from the overall experience.

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Sarah Jacobs

The In-N-Out shake packed as much chocolate flavor, but it had a much smoother, thicker texture. It was the better shake of the two.

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Sarah Jacobs

Next up: the fries. Here, Whataburger’s fries are on the bottom. The Whataburger fries had a saltier flavor, and they had the mushy consistency you would expect from a fast-food french fry. The In-N-Out fries, although firmer, tasted bland in comparison. Whataburger wins in the fries department.

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Sarah Jacobs

And, most important, the burgers. On my first bite of the Whataburger, the yellow mustard spread on the bun along with the raw chopped onions and pickles, overpowered any other flavor. It was hard to get a taste of the rest of the burger’s flavors with these three strong ingredients, which come on every classic Whataburger.

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Sarah Jacobs

Right off the bat, you can see the fresher ingredients used in the In-N-Out burger — thicker tomato slices, greener lettuce, and its famed “secret sauce.” Significantly smaller, this burger has a sweeter taste, no pickles, and no mustard. Packed with ingredients, it took two bites to get to the actual burger patty.

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Sarah Jacobs

The meats of the two burgers had a different consistency. The Whataburger had a slightly tougher patty, while the In-N-Out version had a softer, more homemade patty taste.

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Sarah Jacobs

Overall, the In-N-Out burger wins for its secret sauce, fresher ingredients, and unbeatable price ($3.60, compared to $6.94 at Whataburger). However, if what you’re looking for is solid costumer service and a simple order of fries, you can’t beat Whataburger’s friendly staff and classic french fry.

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Sarah Jacobs