Best Bunless Burger

Authored by: Ryan Alvarez-Cohen
Published on: July 25, 2015

Burgers are a popular restaurant food. However, when eating gluten-free, the burger experience completely changes because the second main ingredient, the bun, is missing. Due to the growth in gluten-free and protein-intensive diets, an increasing number of restaurants are offering bunless burgers. These burgers are typically wrapped in lettuce, and therefore called “lettuce wraps”. This growing trend led Food Test Network to wonder, who has the best lettuce wrap, bunless burger?

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To answer this question, we evaluated lettuce wrap burgers at numerous restaurants – and in particular, at popular chains. When ordering a bunless burger at many quick serve chains (such as McDonald’s), the burger isn’t wrapped in lettuce. So we disqualified those restaurants. 

To-date, the top three contenders are: Five Guys, In-N-Out Burger, and The Habit Burger Grill. We give Fuddruckers an honorable mention because while they don’t provide a lettuce wrapped-burger, this chain has a bar with iceberg lettuce, so you can make your own lettuce wrap (also some Fuddruckers offer G-F buns).

Here’s our analysis of the top three contenders rated on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the best). To keep everything equal, all the burgers that we compared have double patties.

Size vs Price:

All the selections were ample. Five Guys was the most expensive (maybe to cover the overhead of free, all-you-can-eat peanuts). In-N-Out was the least expensive (but the restaurant’s ambiance is the most austere). Habit offers bacon and avocado as add-ons.

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- The Habit Burger, Double Char with Cheese (about $4.50): 5

- In-N-Out Burger, Double Double with Cheese (about $3.50): 4

- Five Guys, Cheeseburger (about $6.50): 3

Structure:


In contrast to burgers on buns, burgers on lettuce are prone to fall apart after a few bites (especially if you put down the lettuce wrap after each bite). So structure is a key attribute of a lettuce wrap. In-N-Out and Habit enable their lettuce wraps to be eaten in a paper sleeve – which helps a lot.

- In-N-Out Burger: 5

- The Habit Burger: 5

- Five Guys: 2

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Taste:

The taste of burgers is based on the quality and cooking of the meat, and equally important, the condiments and accouterments such as tomatoes and onions (raw or cooked). Taste is subjective, but we enjoyed all three contenders.

- Five Guys: 5

- In-N-Out Burger: 5

- The Habit Burger: 5

Other Attributes:

Your enjoyment of a lettuce wrap can be impacted by other attributes of a restaurant. So here are some other attributes to consider.

French Fries:

The menus at In-N-Out and Five Guys don’t include any breaded, fried foods (such as chicken fingers or onion rings). So you don’t have to worry about their french fries getting cooked in oil that was contaminated with gluten. In-N-Out and Five Guys make their fries at the restaurant from fresh potatoes (in contrast to chains such as McDonalds). Five Guys has two french fry styles (both gluten-free). For more details, check-out our tests for gluten in french fries.

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- Five Guys: 5

- In-N-Out Burger: 4.5

- The Habit Burger: 2

Milk Shakes: 

In-N-Out and Habit offer milkshakes, Five Guys doesn’t.

- In-N-Out Burger: 5

- The Habit Burger: 4

- Five Guys: 0

Ambiance:

The ambiance at each of these three chains is not always consistent – especially due to the age of a particular location. Here are some relative generalizations: In-N-Out restaurants have the most fast food ambiance. Habit Burgers have the nicest ambiance.  Five Guys offers free, all you can eat peanuts.

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- The Habit Burger: 4

- Five Guys: 3

- In-N-Out Burger: 2

 

 

 

 

 

Best Bunless Burger: Addition 1 (August 3, 2015)
Umami_Lettuce_Wrap_1508.JPGUmami Burger

Size vs Price: 4 (about $9 not including tip for waiter service)

Structure: 4

Taste: 4

French Fries: 0
The fries tested positive for gluten as shown on this test page .

Ambiance: 5
Umami Burger has waiter service. In contrast all the other reviewed restaurants have counter service.

 

 

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