In my five years in New York, I’ve eaten at Shake Shack quite a number of times not necessarily because I had a craving for these burgers, but rather because it’s something that visiting friends want to do, plus I have a number of native East Coast colleagues who think that there is no greater burger than Shake Shack. So let’s all be honest with ourselves about our preferences – when we grow up knowing particular flavors and smells, over time, we consider them our comforts, stay devoted to them, and every time we have them again, a warming sensation comes over us that is so satisfying. This applies to everything, from the smell of the laundry detergent your mother used, to the Americanized General Tso’s chicken that you grew up eating, and though you know it’s not “authentic,” you love it anyway.
This same thing applies to the In-N-Out vs. Shake Shack burger. If you are used to one and love it, once you have the second one, you probably aren’t going to like it as much because of your (perhaps subconscious) loyalty to the first – this is your own bias. I can’t genuinely say which one I prefer because the last time I had an In-N-Out burger was 15 years ago (a bit shameful since I am a San Francisco native), but what I can say is that the Shake Shack burger, while tasty, is nothing remarkable. It’s not particularly juicy, doesn’t have any real meaty complexity, and will never be what I imagine first when I think of the “ideal burger.”