The burger, the myth, the legend…

Many burger fans I know swear by the venerable California mini-chain “In-N-Out Burger,” claiming it to be the ultimate in ground meat sandwiches.  Enough, in fact, that I became instantly skeptical – I guess I just don’t believe that a fast food restaurant could be both extraordinarily popular and very good.

Taking this past weekend’s 36-hour trip to California for my sister’s college graduation as an excuse, I managed to take my first-ever meal at an In-N-Out Burger – the one located at 1065 E. Harriman Place in San Bernardino.  My sister, bless her, had convinced the relatives to skip the college’s post-grad brunch, and took all attending members of the clan to this strip-mall hotspot instead.  Runs in the family, I guess…?

The In-N-Out menu, as it appears in the restaurant, is deceptively simple.  It includes basic burgers, fries, and shakes in the three primary ice cream flavors.  There’s more to In-N-Out than first appears, though.  I said “as it appears in the restaurant” because, as I found out from my sister, In-N-Out has a “secret” menu.  Nice of her to tell me after we ate, right?

Well, other than possibly having an extra patty on my burger, I can’t say I’m THAT sorry she didn’t mention it.  The Double Double at In-N-Out is nature’s most perfect fast food creation, or close to it – no alterations necessary.  Beyond the ultra-thin yet juicy and flavorful patties that somehow avoided the grease-laden pratfall that Blue 9 frequently takes, the burger’s accoutrements (lettuce, tomatoes that weren’t crunchy, and onion) and two slices of cheese gave it the perfect ratio of burger-topping-bun.

My sister prefers the “animal-style” burger cooked in mustard, avec sautéed onions, pickles and extra sauce.  While I’m usually a bigger fan of the cooked onion than the raw, freshness counts for a lot – rather than being assaulted by the raw onion’s toxicity, I was seduced by its pungency.  Sautéed didn’t measure up.

The fries were similarly exemplary – made with what the burger wrapper claims were Kennebec potatoes (from Maine?) and cooked in oil that, while cholesterol free, accorded the spuds the perfect grease and flavor.  Once again, my sister was the contrarian, ordering her fries well-done, but I think she was barking up the wrong tree on this one, too.  They tasted…well…well-done.  It may appeal more to those who can’t bear variations on the McDonald’s formula, but I can live without.

Good ingredients, good preparation, and friendly staff (although, coming from New York, I think practically anyone who doesn’t is friendly) have contributed to In-N-Out’s cult status – but also to its financial success.  Indeed, at noon on a Saturday, the joint was ROCKIN’.  Thank goodness for that, and I hope In-N-Out can keep its standards high through its rumored expansion plans.

Sam Jackson once said*, “Mm-hmm.  This IS a tasty burger!”  You will too.

*I’m aware he was saying it with regards to the Big Kahuna Burger, but…

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7 Comments

Filed under California

7 responses to “The burger, the myth, the legend…

  1. Ahhhhhhh… In-N-Out. Welcome to the ranks of the converted, Mike. Damn, I could go for one of those right now.

  2. Abe

    your sister is right on point ordering the fries well done. The problem is that since they do everything fresh with the order they are often tempted to send the fries out early. They aren’t supposed to but it happens enough that it’s worth the well done precaution. That said I’m not in the converted, I like the burgers well enough when I eat them, but I’ve gotten close to craving or missing them. Good for sure, but I never found the greatness…

  3. Droob – you ain’t kidding, pal. Likely to induce cravings. You been to the shack yet?Abe – there was a definite difference between the well done and the regular, and I don’t think it was just the matter of being fully cooked versus not. We had two different orders containing at least three orders of fries apiece, and the regular ones tasted “right” and hers tasted “overdone.” Of course, it could have been the vicious salting she subjected hers to, also. At any rate, it’s like the old joke about the lecherous scientist…”hmmm…needs more research.”

  4. Abe

    yeah, it’s the classic “medium rare” or “rare” problem. If the staff is on point the regular fries are perfect, but there is a pretty good chance that they’ll rush them out. Believe me I’ve had more than my share of underdone In-N-Out fries and they are no good. Ordering well done is a precaution, but there is a real risk they’ll be over done. Come to think of it, ordering one well done and one regular probably is the best way to ensure the “regular” is not underdone, as they will have no reason to rush them out…

  5. did you check out the reference numbers to bible scripture printed really tiny on the wrappers and the cups? My friends and I always wanted to check them out. I heard it’s supposed to be in reference to healthy living.I’m so craving a double-double right now….animal style.

  6. Luna – didn’t see it. That totally would have creeped me out, though. …and my word verification for this post included the letters “WWJD.” Which is also creepy.

  7. My favorite is the Double Double, Animal Style, no sauce, with mustard/ketchup instead of sauce, and both types of onions.I had one in Vegas last month and was so content that I slipped back to my room to take a nap for hours.

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