May 09

In-N-Out Burger, A California Cult Classic

Double Double, a California Cult Classic

In-N-Out Double Double with French Fries

In-N-Out Burger with Palm Trees

In-N-Out Burger Building

For years I have been listening to friends and colleagues rave about In-N-Out Burger.  Despite extensive travel throughout the United States, until last year I had never spent any real time on the west coast. The first time I ate at an In-N-Out Burger was in Carson City, NV. The second time was when a colleague of mine on our way back to San Diego said that we were going to eat at an In-N-Out Burger. Here I am driving west on I-8 ,coming down through the mountains and on his iPhone pulls up the official In-N-Out Burger locator app. This is my second indication that there is an unhealthy cult following. We arrive at the location and the place is jammed packed with customers and the drive through lane is filled with cars around the corner at 8PM at night. I now have my third sign that there is something in the water creating this supernatural appeal.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I was told that I was to go back to California for work and would be flying into San Diego. My first two thoughts were that I would be eating at In-N-Out and Tsuruya Sushi. Last week I had the opportunity to eat at In-N-Out Burger.

What makes In-N-Out so special?

The first thing that you notice is there is not an In-N-Out on every street corner and interstate exit like some of their larger, more inferior competitors. Currently there is less then 300 locations nationwide. The second thing that you notice when you walk in is that no matter what time of day, the place is crowded with customers. The third thing is that the place is clean, I mean really clean and the staff are beyond friendly and courteous. The menu is simple, burger, cheese burger, double cheeseburger, french fries, milk shakes and soft drinks. I ordered the “double double” (double cheeseburger) with french fries. The order is made fresh while you wait and the fries are hand cut and cooked for the current orders.

I was thinking as I ate the “double-double” on what makes this burger so special, so much better then other fast food restaurants? The best way to describe the experience is that you feel like you are eating a burger from the beginning of the fast food industry. Back in the 1950’s when quality, service and value were all equally important. The meat is flavorful, the lettuce, tomatoes and onions (all optional) are generous and taste the way they should. No limp wilted lettuce on this burger. The hamburger bun is fresh and the spread (basically thousand island dressing) is perfectly matched with the other components of the burger. Sometimes I have had the fries at In-N-Out Burger and have felt that they were undercooked. Not this time, they were fried to perfection.

It was not until I tried In-N-Out Burger and began to think of all the reasons why the fast food restaurant is so popular that I truly understood what makes this fast food restaurant chain unique among all of the competition. There are websites and countless reviews that go into much more detail on what makes In-N-Out special, but for me all it took was to eat there once and I became a cult follower of In-N-Out Burger.


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  1. Lyn

    Sadly, as I am on the East Coast, and have not traveled West very often, I have yet to try one of these.

  2. Harry

    What timing! Just had the double -double and fries last night. One thing I like about In-N-Out vs. Five Guys is the milkshakes. Five Guys has no shakes, which is ridiculous for a burger joint.

    1. Bill

      Harry, You are correct, to not serve milk shakes at Five Guys is an issue. Aside from the lack of milk shakes, there appears to be a growing debate on which place; In-N-Out or Five Guys serves a better burger? When I go to Five Guys, I only order the grilled hotdogs with grilled onions and mustard. I have never eaten their hamburgers. For me, what makes In-N-Out unique versus Five Guys, is that In-N-Out is a fast food restaurant whereas Five Guys is sitting on that fence between fast food / diner / restaurant, not to mention they do not have a drive through window.

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