In-N-Out Burger set up its first shop in 1948: Fresh, never-frozen, cooked-to-order double-patty burgers on house-made buns. French fries cut in the stores and cooked in vegetable oil. Shakes made from real ice cream. In other words, a quality fast-food burger chain (with about 280 branches, all out West).
Some 40 years later, Five Guys Burgers and Fries opened with the same fresh, double-patty principle -- plus hot dogs but minus the shakes. It has more than 1,000 locations now, including one on the corner of Washington Avenue and 15th Street in South Beach.
Fresh, never frozen Black Angus beef is used in the double patties at OMG! Burgers, which recently debuted its second branch on Washington Avenue, five and a half blocks south of Five Guys. (The original OMG! Burgers is at 5748 Sunset Dr. in South Miami.)
Time for a Plato Royale between the South Beach burger neighbors: Five Guys vs. OMG! Which has the better burger? Which has the better fries?
Keep reading to find out. I'll say only that the comparisons weren't close at all.
Décor: Five Guys has that shiny white/red tile design. This branch stretches back a long way, with window counter seating and tables/chairs in back.
OMG! is located in the old Fatburger spot. It looks as though Fatburger was stripped and OMG! never got around to adding anything to replace the old stuff. It's stark to a grim degree, and the music is played at a decibel loud enough to make it seem like you're in a club. Might be the overall worst dining ambiance in town.
Edge: Totally to Five Guys.
Fries: OMG!'s skinny fries ($2.19) are of the frozen sort but were cleanly cooked and served crisp and hot. Five Guys' fries, made of spuds from Ward Brothers in Lewisville, Idaho ($3.49), are better mainly because they taste like real potatoes.
Edge: Five Guys, for keeping it real.
Hamburger: Burgers at both chains serve only patties that are cooked well-done, and both places also use a griddle rather than a grill. That's two reasons why neither will ever make my personal list of best burgers. Five Guys' regular house burger ($5.59) came crisply seared outside and juicy enough within. The burger tasted blander than I remember it being, but was hot, fresh, and with all the garnishes that make for a pleasurable sandwich.
My reaction to OMG!'s house "American Classic" burger was "Oh my gosh! How awful!" The patties had a disconcertingly soft texture, with no sear on the outside; it's as though a not-quite-bound burger was placed in a steamer. The seasoning is weird -- no idea what it is, but it gives the beef an artificial flavor. Red onion slices on top tasted old; lettuce, tomato, American cheese, pickle slices, ketchup, and mustard are also slathered on.
Edge: Five Guys puts out a much tastier hamburger -- and for less money (although you can order a "Jr." burger at OMG! for $4.99, or 50 cents less than Five Guys' regular.
Intangibles: I was all set to give this category to OMG! for its advantage in offering shakes -- not a small consideration on a very hot afternoon. Unfortunately, the store was out of every flavor ice cream and wasn't getting any more in for a couple of days. So, no shakes.
On the other hand, there are always free peanuts at Five Guys.
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Edge: Free peanuts versus no shakes? Five Guys wins again.
No real need to sum up, is there? It's obvious that Five Guys performs well at what its does, and OMG! does not.