Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Down-@-In-N-Out

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!

25 comments:

SteamyKitchen said...

OH you just wait!!! Those burgers? They got some delayed reaction addiction mind control drug in 'em....you'll be craving In N Out in about 2 weeks time.

bb said...

One word: Burgerville (http://www.burgerville.com/html/)
our own local chain...pretty rocking. And I have another burger place here that'll bring tears to your eyes it's so good!
But given my food addictive personality, I'll check in with ya in a couple weeks and let ya know if the shakes (no pun intended) have set in.........

Hilda said...

you didn't get it "animal style" did you...? That's a big part of the problem right there.

bb said...

I didn't....our friend told me about going animal style, but since it was my first In-N-Out experience (pun intended!), I went for the unadulterated version.
I saw the animal style go by...it did look pretty good in that over-the-fucking-top-in-a-really-good-way way.

CamiKaos said...

Having spent 10+ years of my life in Cali and now having lived in Portland for 13 years I feel compelled to weigh in on this... There is no big deal about those burgers. They’re nothing special. At all. I’ve never understood where all the hype was coming from. If I want a good burger I'll grill one at home, if I want it fast with a shake, Burgerville for me baby...

We’re heading down to Cali in a few weeks, when I get there I’ll be sure to thumb my nose at In n Out for you...

Mariko said...

I am a native Oregonian who lived in California for 11 years. Yeah, In N Out burgers are pretty tasty, but give me Burgerville any day! I'm very happy to be back in PDX.

Anonymous said...

I think you should've tried it animal style, that is with grilled onions and spread toasted on the bun. They also make animal style fries where they put the spread, onions, and american cheese on top of the fries, delish!

-Cali Girl

bb said...

Cami- I always knew you had good taste and deep insight! Have a great trip!

Mariko- Looks like Burgerville bragging rights to me. If they only knew!

Anon- okay, next time, animal style.....maybe....

Tony R said...

Burgerville makes great shakes and smoothies and even a decent chicken sandwich, but the burgers are NOTHING special at all. I've had better burgers in a dozen diff. fast food places.

Tricia said...

i totally agree with you. actually as i was reading this i commented to my boyfriend that i didn't think the in n out was worth the hype it had received. but like you, before we left cali during our week visit we had to try it. i'll stick with chick-fil-a being my favorite fast food place thank you very much.

michelle said...

i think the spead is the best part. in n out is alright, i prefer it over other fast foods because its fresh. but it is REALLY good when youre craving it, especially around 2am on a saturday, yum!

suzanne said...

BB,
I agree, what's the big? I've had it animal, naked and I still can't recommend it any more than a McD's. My husband and his brother however...
Truly In&Out has become a yearly California torture, -at least I have a great mother-in-law.
Don't even get me started on the fries.
And, no, I am not a burger snob, just because I work...well you know where.
I was practically weaned from the teat with fast food burgers.

Jim said...

Maybe you can blame the Big Lebowski for the In-n-Out obsession.

Me, I prefer Fat Burger.

bb said...

Tony- I'm wih you on the shakes thing, but a DOZEN different places? I don't know if I've even eaten at a dozen different fast food "brands".

tricia- I haven't had chik-fil-a, but like I said in my post, just hearing about the possibility makes me want to have it. I don't imagine they're anywhere close, are they? hm....

michelle- It's like they say, nothing good happens after 2am.

bb said...

Suzanne- I can so picture your hubby chowing a in-n-out burger...and i say that with all due respect. I'm not a burger snob either, I just know it's not that difficult. I guess I'm a mediocre food snob. BTW- your burgers rock!!

Jim- You may have something there. I can't even think of the Big Lebowski wighout wanting a "caucasian"!!

Jenny said...

All my friends love In-N-Out, so I'm the odd one out. The burgers are bland and the fries are blander, and I'm not a big sauce fan, so I don't do animal style. Glad to know I'm not the only one!

melch said...

I don't think In-N-Out burgers come close to what you can get in a sit-down joint or make yourself, but I think they far surpass other fast food burgers (Wendy's, BKing, McDs). The burgers actually taste like meat. The fries depend where and when you go, just like any other place, but it's nice to know that they come from slices of potato, once again better than other fast food places where I presume they come from a frozen fry-shaped potato mash.

Chick-Fil-A is a bible belt chain and can also be found up the east coast. They're closed on Sundays.

If you get a chance to try Five Guys, those are probably the best I've tasted outside of ones my friends have grilled. The have a bunch around northern Virginia and I've seen one in Orlando so they have probably started branching out a bit.

bb said...

Jenny- Feel free to share with your friends. I've got your back here!

Melch- I'll agree on most of your points. Like I said in the post, at least it's fresh. Unfortunately that doesn't always mean good! I mean my dog does something fresh on the parking strip every morning...oh, wait, maybe bad analogy. Anyway, other than our local Burgerville chain that does pretty decent grub, it looks like until I make the east coast pilgrimage, I'll be burgering at home. Or at my fave local place.

Fiber said...

I don't even eat meat, but I can fully appreciate the "Grilled Cheese" version of the In-N-Out burger. While I agree there's nothing over the top about them, they are pretty friggin' tasty as far as fast food goes.

Hassan said...

I can explain this very easily.

Yes, you should have gotten it animal style. Yes, there are better burger joints out there. Here in DC I can go to Ruth Chris for lunch and they make what some call the Bentley of Burgers.

Still, and I will even say this about my beloved local Five Guys, it is very difficult to consistently get a good fast food burger. Anywhere. Consistency is the key here. You can go at noon, midnight, a year from now or 6 years and the food will be fresh and taste like the first time you tried it.

Additionally, it's a large chain that still insists on quality. Not just a little local chain that does well. A LARGE chain that focuses on the simple burger. Not smoothies or tofuburgers or salads. Just fine burgers and maybe a milkshake for the road.

If you factor in the sheer numbers of Californians (and Nevad-a-ians?) it explains the popularity. Yes, nostalgia can be a factor for us. However, for your individualy experience lets not also discount the inevitable letdown from an overhyped situation.

Personally, I love the Vortex in Atlanta. Its my favorite burger EXPERIENCE. But at the end of the day, is there anything in our country like In & Out in sheer scale (over 200 stores) and consistency? Not even close.

Cracker said...

Fatburger!

p. squiddy said...

I was down in CA a couple weeks ago and had the same exact reaction. I remember them being great the first time I had them, but since then I've seen the Burgerville light and they're pretty dull now.

As for the undercooked fries, they do this intentionally. There's a codeword (which I can't remember now) that you use to get them to properly cook a batch for you.

--Phil

tommy said...

In N Out's not bad, but the food certainly doesn't justify the hype. It's the PBR effect to a degree, I suppose: marketed cache. In N Out, Krispy Kreme, Pinkberry... come on.

Burgerville has it all over any other burger chain I've been to. Even White Castle!

Anonymous said...

Burgerville is okay, a 5 on a scale of 10. In-N-Out is a 12. Not only do they outclass Burgerville and every other burger in the country........ and I've had them pretty much everywhere. They're always fresh, they make their own buns which are buttered then grilled, the lettuce is always crisp and never ever limp, two slices of tomatoes and the cheese is generous but you can also have your onions grilled. The French fries are cut right in front of you and the meat never frozen and they're made to order.

If that isn't impressive enough, they're employees are paid well and have full coverage insurance and dental.

Also they're spotless. My mouth waters from a block away knowing I'm going to have one of their all American burgers. Nothing fancy, just well made and presented hot and perfect.

There is also never the smell of old cooking oil, something that makes me want to puke and leave if I smell it.

The above are the reason why they have such a loyal following. They have about 175 locations in California, Arizona and Nevada....... and do not sell franchises and the chain is still family owned. I've been eating there since I was five and they taste exactly the same today as when I was a child.

Anonymous said...

Try ordering the fries "well done" they generally taste a lot better that way.

I also don't really like the burgers, but I love their "grilled cheese" which is like a cheeseburger without the meat.

Of course I'm a Californian.
I just went to Portland for the weekend, and I only tried a berry shake at Burgerville so I can't really compare, but I missed In-N-Out quite a lot.