In-N-Out vs. Whataburger: Toeing the Political Line


It’s an election year. Things are about to get rough, guys. If you think the country is divided now, give it another five months. The political and social issues we’re being faced with are too pressing for any of us to ignore, and shouting and sarcasm are a lot easier than discourse.

No one is completely right in just about any situation, hence, you know, democracy. The scary part about politics is that certain things are definitely wrong, in a moral sense. The fight against such wrongful things are worth the effort, frustration, and perhaps persecution you might face from strangers or friends.

But there are two kinds of fights. The fight to eliminate what you consider to be morally corrupt is one of them. The other is the fight to be right about something because of a growing distaste for those you consider to be wrong about that same thing. The latter shouldn’t be as common as the former, but it probably is. Even worse, it might be just as exhausting, infuriating, and derisive. When someone disagrees with you passionately about something you truly feel to be true, anger is the most immediate and overwhelming emotional reaction.

And so, hamburgers. 

Whataburger vs. In-N-Out

Friendships have likely been pushed near the brink of destruction. Over what? Two establishments that serve food so delicious that maintaining the optimistic nature required to accept that we live in a world where they both exist goes against the cynicism so deeply entrenched in our very beings. Instead of living in that world, we pose the question: Which is better?

There are only two. Some people might throw Five Guys into the conversation. Personally, I would disagree with those people, but for the sake of argument let’s say we’re exclusively dealing with restaurants where you can get a burger, fries, and a drink for less than $10. Perhaps Steak and Shake deserves an honorable mention, but I mean come on, we’re all adults here; they’re fighting in a different weight class. You’ll get a lot of McDonalds defenders, and I don’t have much to say to those people besides a brief plea that they find some self-respect. You’re better than that. That’s the kind of blatant disregard for values and general safety analogous to thinking a hateful reality star should be the most powerful man in the world. 

There’s Whataburger, there’s In-N-Out, and there are a bunch of other chains fighting for third place. The anger towards one of these two is always rooted solely in a deep love for the other. 

As with most national debates, region bias is a big part of starting the conversation. In-N-Out might have the advantage in this regard. For centuries Americans have traveled West in hopes of treasures they’ve never before experienced. In-N-Out is a product of California and we associate it with palm trees, beach vacations, and generally relaxed vibes. If you live there, it’s a sense of pride. If you’re visiting it is required destination to mythologize about with less-traveled peers back home.

Whataburger exists only in the Southern regions of the United States, primarily Texas. Historically, the reputation of things that exist only in the South haven’t had the best track record. Southern Pride– towards anything– is generally off-putting to outsiders. For myself, growing up in Texas, I took for granted what Whataburger meant to me until I went to the midwest for four years of college. It was like giving up on a girlfriend before realizing how hard it would be to live without her. Luckily, she took me back.   

The reason I jumped back into her arms so graciously is because of the versatility. While In-N-Out’s menu has about six words on it, Whataburger has a nearly overwhelming abundance of quality options from a regular Whataburger with cheese to an A1 Thick and Hearty Burger to a Patty Melt to a Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich on Texas Toast. And that’s to say nothing of the breakfast. The beautiful, fresh, served from 11:00 pm until 11:00am breakfast. Fluffy eggs generously layered in taquitos with bacon and cheese. Flakey biscuits sandwiching honey butter chicken strips. Whataburger breakfast might not cure your worst hangover, but it will make you wonder why you ever turned to alcohol to drown your sorrows or celebrate your accomplishments in the first place when this was available as the alternative.

Such a selection isn’t available at In-N-Out, and I don’t want to hear about a secret menu. If you think ordering your fries “animal style” makes you unique then you need to develop a more interesting facet to your personality.

But this is about the burgers. It always was. And that’s where it gets tricky, because they are both delicious. I’ll admit that in terms of consistent excellence, In-N-Out might have the edge. I’ve probably had a burger from Whataburger that was 10 percent worse than its typical standard. In-N-Out has never wavered from burger to burger. It also has a signature sauce, but Whataburger typically has better cheese. Both have buns that begin the mouth-watering process pre-bite.

In recent years, In-N-Out has expanded to other regions including the Dallas-Fort Worth area. As a current Dallas resident I live where both restaurants are available to me. In other words, paradise. If you’re looking for a conclusion, this is the best I can do you: Burger to burger, it is a matter of taste, and location aside, will differ from person to person. HOWEVER, if I could only eat one for the rest of my life it would be Whataburger because of the variety of high standard selections. 

I believe that determination, while perhaps slightly biased by sentimentality, is totally reasonable and thought out to the point that you probably think I’m an insane person. Past verbal attempts at this discussion have ended in shouting. The above is proof that they didn’t have to. 

The emotions of being right usually come from proving someone else wrong, and all this does is entrench both sides in their beliefs for reasons that have little to do with logic. The topic never really matters when you hate the idea of disagreement. Look down your Chipotle Burrito towards a card carrying Qdoba fan and the rage will actually be visible. A round of fisticuffs will surely be penciled in directly following both participants’ food comas.  

If the other side of your argument leads to legitimate suffering or wrong-doing towards a person or people then the collateral emotions that come out of the debate are necessary. If not, maybe what you mean to be having is a conversation. 

-Jonny Auping





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