California, Nevada, Arizona
Review by MaceVindaloo, Diana
Unlike other burger chains which have increased their offerings to include breakfast and ethnic specialties, In-n-Out offers only a handful of things: Burger, Cheeseburger, "double" versions of each, Fries, Shakes and Sodas. That's it. The burgers they create are the quintessential burger one thinks of when describing the "California" or "American" burger -- a thin patty in a soft white bun with tomato, lettuce, onion, pickle, mayonnaise, ketchup.
Many people believe that when they say they want a hamburger, they are describing the meat patty. But think about it -- in truth, when you say "burger" you are describing something in a bun! A fishburger is a fish thing between a bun; gardenburger, bocaburger, etc. are all in a bun. And a professional French chef told us that to enjoy an American hamburger, one has to appreciate the "whole sandwich" and the "whole experience." It's not about the meat, or the bun ... it's the zen-like wholeness that makes for the burger experience.
Plus we are so into "having it our way" that we tend to say, "no pickles, no onions, extra ketchup" etc. But given this new mind-set to see the whole burger for what it is, we ordered the hamburger, cheeseburger, and double burger versions of the same "standard," i.e. no special orders, and fries. And it was as if a new light went on in our heads, new portals of heaven opened and we saw the holy light of the American hamburger!
Seriously, it was a great experience. The burger was not too wet, and the best description of it was "crisp." The vegetables were fresh and crunchy, the tomato tasted like a tomato. The fries were double-fried and rather unlike the ubiquitous McD's and seemed really dry and greaseless. They were delicious and we nearly ate all four orders of fries in our converted zeal!
Alas, you can only get the In-n-Out Burger primarily in the Los Angeles area, but new franchises are under construction in other places, as far out as Nevada and Arizona. It means we have to have a heck of a road trip to sate our craving for these perfect gastronomic gems. Now we understand why travelers arriving home in California head straight for an In-n-Out as their "welcome home" meal!
The two or three In-n-Outs we visited were clean and sparkling, service was prompt. You get a numbered receipt and get your drink from a college cafeteria style drink dispenser and grab a seat while you wait. Coming from the east coast, the lack of grime was surprising and wonderful. We'd like to whine because rumors that there was one in New Jersey (only one state away!) proved to be untrue. We viscerally want to demand the In-n-Out come eastward, but we suspect that it would lose its greatness if it did. So for the time being, it has to be us who travel to it!
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