Living here in the great NW, particularly Portland, we sometimes feel like we miss out on things the rest of the country takes for granted. Not that we want them. Tornados ripping through our trailer parks? Nah, Oklahoma seems to have a pretty good handle on that. A billion cicadas emerging from the earth to serenade us? Better Ohio than here. A very "attractive" front lawn whose main design features are gravel and cactus? Have at it, Phoenix. Then there's the legend of the IN-N-OUT burger. Now that is something I've been curious about. Lots of my foodie friends here are expat Cali denizens, and all I hear about is how much they miss the great fast food burgers at IN-N-OUT, they're so good, the fries are awesome, blah, blah, blah. I have to admit, having a soft spot for decent fast food (is that an oxymoron?) on occasion, and being one who if he hears about something good to eat immediately develops a craving for it, I was feeling kind of left out. Well, seeing as how the nearest franchise is about 500 miles south of here, there is somewhat of a logistical problem.
But it just so happened that w and I were in SoCal visiting some friends of hers last weekend, within about a five minute drive of an IN-N-OUT joint. Jackpot! I immediately was talking non-stop about how we have to go. When can we go? Are we there yet? Basically letting my inner five-year-old run free. So, if nothing else but to shut me up, we went. I have to admit on entering, even at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon, the barely controlled chaos inside is amazing to behold. People lined up 15 deep at the register, the teenage slaves on the line hammering out orders, watching the potato dude slamming spuds through the french fry cutter, the expediter shouting out pick up order numbers to overweight, overwrought parents...pretty awesome. So we ordered, me, on the advice of our experienced friend, getting a double-double, fries, and a chocolate shake. We took it outside, where we could be closer to the relaxing sound of cars and semis roaring by on Highway 101 about 50 feet away (which, believe it or not, really was preferable to hearing screaming kids inside), and grabbed a table. The burgers are pretty tempting to look at, the shake decent, the fries a somewhat underdone but well-salted almost golden. But after taking one bite, then another, I can only ask, "What the fuck is the big deal?" Yeah, it was freshly made. The condiments were pretty good, the tomato was actually red, but this is what has my friends pining for their ex-home state? I need some help here. Am I missing something? Or is this some big cult where if you go several times something in the food dulls your tastebuds to the point where average fast food seems like three-star dining? Hey Cali, like humidity on an August afternoon in Manhattan or rednecks in Texas, you can keep 'em!