Ah, In-N-Out Burger. The mere mention of the name elicits hushed reverence from those who have experienced it and utter confusion from those who have not. Part of the problem is that it isn't available in much of the country. In-N-Out Burger locations are limited to a few western states (California, Arizona, Nevada, and one location in the southwest corner of Utah). Why? The rumor I have heard is that they insist that all locations (which are owned by the company rather than being franchises) be within a day's drive of their home location in Southern California in order to be able to ensure the freshness of the food at all locations. A reasonable limitation, to be sure, but it's unfortunate for the rest of us who live anywhere but those states.
Luckily for me, I grew up in California and was able to experience In-N-Out on a regular basis once they came up to the northern (i.e. better) half of the state. On a recent trip back, I decided to take a detailed look for TTCCBB and report back to you whether or not In-N-Out lives up to the hype.
In-N-Out is a fast-food joint that prides itself on quality and freshness (the aforementioned location restriction being one example). They don't use microwaves, they cook the meat when you order it, they cut and fry their fries when you order them, and they make their milkshakes with real ice cream. This means that it's not necessarily "fast" compared to a regular fast-food burger, but it's worth the wait (at most about 10 minutes when it's busy, closer to 5 minutes if it's not).
My standard order is a Double-Double, which is code for a double cheeseburger with two 100% beef patties and two slices of American cheese. I get mine with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and ketchup instead of their pickle-containing spread. Total cost: somewhere around $3, I think -- I forget exactly.
The burger arrived as I had remembered it -- gloriously messy-looking. I cut into it and was a little surprised to see one patty cooked medium-well, as they claim to do on their website, and one cooked well-done. Not a big deal, but I found it interesting as I would have expected them to be cooked simultaneously. Perhaps a hot spot on their flattop griddle?
And the taste? Let me get this out of the way first: In-N-Out is not the best burger you have ever had. It is, however, the best $3 fast food burger you have ever (or never) had. This is what all fast food burgers should taste like -- the bun was fresh and not limp, the beef, though not seasoned, tasted like real meat, the cheese was properly melted and gooey, and the vegetation was clean and crisp. Having the meat and cheese interleaved meant that perfect seasoning of the meat wasn't necessary -- the cheese provided the needed salt so that every bite was well-seasoned overall. Sure, it was a little messy to eat: because I had to cut it in half to get a cross-sectional view -- normally I'd leave it in its paper sleeve until I was about halfway done, then remove to finish the burger -- I ended up getting some cheese on my tie, possibly ruining it forever. The sacrifices I make so that you can read about cheeseburgers!
If only the Twin Cities had In-N-Out, I'd never leave.
2270 San Ramon Valley Blvd.
San Ramon, CA 94583-1210