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Burger Battle: Los Angeles

California is bankrupt. The Dodgers may be going under. Gas has topped $5 in some places.

The President's visit is going to screw up the 405 today.

Dennis Lane Photography | FoodPix | Getty Images

But none of these get Angelenos as worked up as this question: what's better, Five Guys or In-N-Out?

In-N-Out Burgers are a homegrown legend. Five Guys is the newcomer from Virginia. In my house, the girls like Five Guys (especially the fries), the boys like In-N-Out.

But loyalties extend far beyond the state line. As our Darren Rovell has reported,golfer Stewart Cink is an unabashed In-N-Out fan, while Phil Mickelson has a piece of Five Guys' LA franchises.

Technomic has named Five Guys the fastest growing chain in America, and Zagat raised eyebrows when the chain seemingly came out of nowhere last year to dethrone In-N-Out for Best Burger.

To the uninitiated, a Five Guys burger comes with two very large patties and a slew of toppings to choose from, including mushrooms. These burgers are juicy, you need napkins. In-N-Out has less meat, but everything—the bun and veggies included—are renowned for their freshness. An In-N-Out Double Double costs me $2.76. Five Guys costs $5.65, twice as much.

Steve West at Stifel Nicolaus says the so-called fast casual hamburger "is the most explosive growth we're seeing in the industry right now." But he says Five Guys' success isn't really a threat to McDonald's, which he says has such a diverse menu now that it even sells more chicken than KFC.

Instead, the real threat is to sit-down burger joints like Red Robin and Applebee's, which West says serve a comparable burger that takes longer to get and requires you to pay a tip.

But back to the central question: which is better, Five Guys or In-N-Out? We went to California Lutheran University to do an unscientific—but blind—taste test with a dozen students. I'm Lutheran. We know meat. We eat a lot of it, as you would know if you've ever been to a church supper.

We had the students compare a Five Guys burger with the works, an In-N-Out Double Double, and a Big Mac. No contest.

In-N-Out won by a 2-1 margin. Five Guys came in second, though McDonald's got 33 percent of the second placed votes.

What did they say specifically? The first clip is of the Five Guys. The second clip is In-N-Out.

And the third clip is student Vim Iglesia, who knows a lot about hamburgers. A lot. He even started smelling them before savoring, and he was the only tester who insisted on going back for a second bite. Sit back, and watch the expertise of a college male at work. He is exactly the demographic every burger joint covets.

Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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